Winston in his element
‘‘Hear, hear’’, someone shouts, cutting through the crowd’s raucous cheers.
Standing behind the podium at the front of the hall, NZ First leader Winston Peters grins.
It’s clear he’s in his element.
The rewa Community Centre, north of Auckland, is as packed as possible given physical distancing measures required at alert level 2. Sitting on chairs spaced about 1m apart are more than 100 people, about one in three wearing a mask.
Most of them appear to be members of
Peters’ biggest supporter base –
He’s part-way through a blistering speech on race relations, attacking Labour’s handling of the Ihuma¯tao protest.
Throughout the 40-minute address he reiterates that his party stands for ‘‘one law for all’’, claiming NZ First MPs are ‘‘gender-blind, race-blind and colour-blind’’ and that Treaty of Waitangi claims have become an ‘‘industry’’ profiting lawyers.
‘‘In 2020 too many Ma¯ori, aided by a small minority of wokeish fellow traveller elites, cannot shift their mindset,’’ Peters says.
‘‘They are trapped in the past. They wallow in it.’’
The audience is cheering in response when Peters adds: ‘‘If we are to have a prosperous future together we need to shift gears’’.
He repeats the phrase, louder, for emphasis.
He ends his speech: ‘‘Vote for New Zealand First and we will stop any dangerous settlement with Ihuma¯tao.
Speaking to media later, Peters is scathing in his response to questions about whether he’s ‘‘race-baiting’’.
‘‘If you want to make a statement like that, and you don’t care about your country, you go ahead.’’
After a journalist asks whether it was true his party had blocked moves by Greens and Labour to ban mining on Conservation land, Peters abruptly ends the press conference.
‘‘I’ve had enough,’’ he said. Judging by the polls, this could be Peters’ last hurrah, and it seems he’s determined to go out with a bang.