Faceless few to decide NZ’s future
Winston Peters loves a good conspiracy. So how’s this for the most explosive conspiracy theory of the election so far: The next Government won’t be decided by voters - but by a faceless and secretive board.
True story. Where are you now Winston Peters?
This is the scenario that Peters is asking the public to accept without question - in fact, Peters has slapped down journalists’ questions about NZ First board members as ‘‘stupid and mindless’’.
So why are they important? Because Peters says any deal to go with National or Labour will have to be signed off by the NZ First board. And it won’t be a rubber stamping exercise either, Peters claims - they will be presented with all the options and asked to debate the merits of both till board members can reach ‘‘a serious consensus’’.
In their hands the fate of Bill English and Jacinda Ardern rests apparently. So who are they? Peters won’t say. He refuses to name anyone on the board, or even reveal when they will meet to decide. Peters has even issued a statement pleading their case for privacy, since they are not public figures.
That may have been true of the board before the election. But they are public figures now. They don’t get to remain in the shadows when a decision as weighty as this rests on their shoulders. So what do we know? A list obtained by RNZ suggests the following people sit on the board. MPs Winston Peters and Ron Mark, along with director general Kristin Campbell Smith. Party president Brent Catchpole (a former NZ First MP), vice president North Island Julian Paul, vice president South Island John Thorn and treasurer Holly Hopkinson.
The directors of the board listed are Claire Ashley, Toa Greening, Robert Monds, Anne Marie Andrews, Kevin Gardener and Sue Sara, according to RNZ.
For someone who has made a career out of delving into the shadows it is staggering that Peters does not understand the implications of asking voters to accept at face value his explanation for keeping their identities secret.
Are they party donors? Lobbyists who installed him in coalition talks to do their bidding and get their pet projects over the line? Are they big business interests, people with a vested interest in which ministerial portfolios are allocated to NZ First so they can line their pockets?
Or are they like the person who phoned me the other day claiming to be a former NZ First office holder, a man filled with dark and ugly theories? Probably none of these things are true, or even likely to be true.
In fact, what little we know of the NZ First board members from other publicly available documents suggests they are probably exactly what Peters says - ordinary Kiwis who have been thrust into a position that most other ordinary New Zealanders could never imagine themselves in. Being asked to decide who should be the next prime minister.It is a huge decision, and one that should - and probably will - weigh heavily on them. Which is why we deserve to know not just who they are, but what drives them.
Does Winston Peters - chief scandal buster, conspiracy theorist and dirt digger - know that? Of course he does.
In reality, it will more likely be Peters and his inner circle who will really decide - that is how it has always been.
Peters is more likely using the excuse of having to call the board together as a way to buy himself time.
But Peters demands that we take him at face value on the importance of the board in his decision and so we will.