Weekend Herald

Shaw and Peters: The tale of two cam­paigns

Greens leader chose the light while Win­ston went dark – now one faces de­feat

- Au­drey Young Politics · Elections · Winston Peters · James Shaw · New Zealand First · New Zealand · Arbeidersparty · Auckland Region · Jacinda Ardern · Australian Greens · The Greens · Shane Jones · Colmar

There was only one sen­si­ble way for Win­ston Peters and James Shaw to ap­proach this elec­tion. Shaw got it right, Peters did not. Peters re­alised it too late and it will prob­a­bly cost NZ First its place in Par­lia­ment, or at least be among sev­eral con­tribut­ing fac­tors.

As Deputy Prime Min­is­ter for the past three years – a job he did well – Peters needed to cam­paign as No 2 for the re- elec­tion of a suc­cess­ful gov­ern­ment.

Whether it came to pass or not, it was his strong­est card. He needed to own a stake of it and cam­paign pos­i­tively.

In­stead, he has been more like a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor hav­ing an outof- body ex­pe­ri­ence – cherry pick­ing the few bits he liked in Gov­ern­ment and high­light­ing the bits he didn’t.

Shaw ac­cen­tu­ates the pos­i­tive, Peters ac­cen­tu­ates the neg­a­tive – with not much in be­tween.

Peters, de­spite hav­ing se­cured a coali­tion deal with Labour in 2017 of al­most equal part­ner­ship, has cho­sen to de­tach him­self from the Gov­ern­ment – and so have vot­ers. It was a strate­gic blun­der.

By de­fault he has sided with Labour, but only by say­ing Na­tional and Act don’t have a chance. That is not the same as cam­paign­ing on suc­cess.

The pub­lic has been largely sat­is­fied with the way the Gov­ern­ment has han­dled Covid and yet, of all is­sues, he has spent the past cou­ple of months high­light­ing his­toric and pre­vi­ously un­known dif­fer­ences with Labour.

The story goes that if Labour had lis­tened to him at the time, the sec­ond Covid out­break in Auck­land would not have hap­pened.

Peters needed to cam­paign as No 2 for the re­elec­tion of a suc­cess­ful gov­ern­ment.

It’s just not con­vinc­ing. And any­way, why would you high­light how in­ef­fec­tive you were in Gov­ern­ment?

Peters has been more com­pli­men­tary of Ardern and the Gov­ern­ment’s achieve­ments in the past week, but it is too late. The mixed mes­sages have al­ready had their im­pact on NZ First.

Shane Jones had one fi­nal splurge of cash yes­ter­day – $ 100 mil­lion for marae up­grades from the Pro­vin­cial Growth Fund.

Gov­ern­ment spend­ing dur­ing the cam­paign pe­riod needs an eth­i­cal re­view by the Au­di­tor Gen­eral.

But it is not an in­duce­ment. The prov­inces have al­ready banked the $ 3 bil­lion PGF, with no ex­pec­ta­tion there will be more.

The lat­est Col­mar Brun­ton poll and many pre­vi­ous polls sug­gests the Greens will sur­vive and NZ First will fail to make it back.

James Shaw has run a pos­i­tive cam­paign for the Greens and their role in Gov­ern­ment. The only thing he has been neg­a­tive about is NZ First.

The Greens have an ad­van­tage not only with their pos­i­tive at­tach­ment to a pop­u­lar party and Prime Min­is­ter in Jacinda Ardern; they have a res­cue squad in the Labour left who are ready to shift to the Greens.

There is no equiv­a­lent for NZ First. It is pos­si­ble that a small num­ber of cen­tre- right sup­port­ers are now con­vinced that Na­tional and Act have no chance and shift their votes to NZ First in the hope that the Greens fall be­low 5 per cent. But they are ran­doms.

It is pos­si­ble Peters has a silent army of sup­port­ers out there un­will­ing to ad­mit to poll­sters they sup­port NZ First.

There are other fac­tors of course in the party’s poor show­ing: the Se­ri­ous Fraud Of­fice charges af­ter the New Zealand First Foun­da­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the dread­ful cam­paign the party is run­ning ( ex­cept for its so­cial me­dia videos) and Peters’ patchy en­thu­si­asm.

With just a week to go, Peters does not have much to be pos­i­tive about.

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