It’s of­fi­cial be nice to Win­ston month

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS - GOR­DON CAMP­BELL TALK­ING POL­I­TICS

Al­most 40 years af­ter Win­ston Peters en­tered Par­lia­ment, this last re­main­ing link to the Mul­doon era is shap­ing up as the de­ci­sive player in the 2017 elec­tion.

Peters and his party have al­ways been good fin­ish­ers in elec­tion cam­paigns. Cur­rently, they’re al­ready sit­ting at 11 per cent in the most re­cent ma­jor po­lit­i­cal poll and that re­sult has been no flash in the pan, ei­ther. For sev­eral months, New Zealand First’s av­er­aged sup­port has been run­ning at sim­i­lar lev­els.

The same polling also in­di­cates that the govern­ment’s part­ners (Peter Dunne, Act, the Maori Party) would not cur­rently de­liver Na­tional a par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity, post-elec­tion.

Not sur­pris­ingly, there­fore, Peters is be­ing heav­ily wooed. In fact July, Au­gust and Septem­ber might as well be of­fi­cially des­ig­nated as ‘‘Be Nice To Win­ston’’ months by the two ma­jor par­ties. Labour and Na­tional have both been striv­ing might­ily of late to en­sure the New Zealand First leader will feel sym­pa­tico with them, af­ter elec­tion day.

For ex­am­ple, did Labour rail against rank op­por­tunism and den­i­grate for­mer Labour MP Shane Jones when he re­cently hitched his wagon to New Zealand First? Not at all. In­stead, Lit­tle grit­ted his teeth and sug­gested Jones would add ‘‘ in­tel­lec­tual grunt’’ to his new mates.

True, that com­ment could be taken as an oblique crit­i­cism of the IQ lev­els of NZ First’s cur­rent line-up – but it sounded al­most like a com­pli­ment.

Cru­cially, Lit­tle avoided call­ing Peters him­self into ques­tion. So far, only the Green Party has felt mo­ti­vated to rip­ple the pond. The night­mare sce­nario for the Greens would be a re-run of 2005, when He­len Clark chose Peters in­stead of the Greens and formed a cen­trist coali­tion with him, rather than mov­ing fur­ther left­wards.

Clearly, Jones’ po­lit­i­cal come­back has once again put in peril the Greens’ hopes of gov­ern­ing in tan­dem with Labour. Al­ready, Greens MP Barry Coates has threat­ened to trig­ger a fresh elec­tion rather than ac­cept an­other Labour/NZ First govern­ment.

Sim­i­larly, co-leader Me­tiria Turei has cho­sen to tackle New Zealand First, head on. Last week, Turei called out Peters for what she deemed its ‘‘very racist ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion’’ and even at­trib­uted NZ First’s polling suc­cess to its re­ac­tionary stance on the is­sue. Peters coun­ter­at­tacked by at­tribut­ing the leaky homes de­ba­cle to the Greens’ record of ‘‘stu­pid­ity’’ and en­vi­ron­men­tal purism.

While this on­go­ing ex­change of in­sults has some en­ter­tain­ment value, the more salient point would be: does Na­tional agree with Turei about the al­legedly racist na­ture of NZ First’s po­si­tion on im­mi­gra­tion, or is it more on­side with Peters?

When ques­tioned, all thatPM Bill English has said to date is that Peters didn’t strike him per­son­ally as a racist.

Once again, there’s been an over-rid­ing de­sire not to an­tag­o­nise Peters per­son­ally. Since Na­tional is cur­rently polling 20 points ahead of Labour, Peters will al­most cer­tainly be talk­ing to his old party first, when it comes to form­ing the next govern­ment. What com­pro­mises would then be­come nec­es­sary on say, su­per­an­nu­a­tion or im­mi­gra­tion?

Call it sen­ti­men­tal­ity… but there would be a cer­tain apt­ness if a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian Peters should choose to dance his last waltz in govern­ment with the same party with whom it all started for him, way back then.

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