Tuesday 11 August 2015

Winston Peters Seizes The Moment.

Eyes On The Prize: Success in the 2017 General Election will go to the politician best equipped to recognize - and exploit - the impending populist moment. There can be little doubt that the politician currently best placed to do both is the NZ First leader, Winston Peters.
THOSE SUFFICIENTLY CAPTIVATED by politics to spend their weekend mornings watching current affairs television were more than repaid for their dedication by Sunday’s Q+A. On display were the talents of Labour’s Andrew Little and NZ First’s Winston Peters. At the end of a week of unrelenting bad news for John Key’s National Government, both politicians were given an opportunity to shine. Only one of them took it.
Peters is on a roll that may yet see NZ First overtake the Greens as this country’s third-largest party. His performance on Q+A showed us how he might do it.
With New Zealand’s dairy farmers reeling from the grim news of “Black Friday” – when the numeral preceding Fonterra’s proposed pay-out per kilogram of milk solids changed from a 5 to a 3 – Peters presented himself as the agricultural sector’s saviour. Blessed with the perfect foil: Federated Farmers President, Dr William Rolleston; the NZ First leader did what he does best. He condemned Dr Rolleston as a Government apologist – hinting darkly that Kiwi farmers’ official representatives were failing in their duty.
For people under acute economic and social stress, the whiff of conspiracy is all-but-irresistible. It is much easier to believe that sudden and catastrophic events are the result of deliberate human agency than it is to accept them as the product of vast and impersonal forces, far beyond the conscious control of any single individual. But, on those not uncommon occasions when both explanations contain a portion of the truth, the scope for political mobilisation is huge. Watching Peters’ performance on Q+A there can be little doubt that New Zealand’s pre-eminent populist politician has seen it, understands it, and intends rousing rural and provincial New Zealand on the strength of it.
He saw it first in Northland: the loss of confidence in the future; the closing of the business person’s chequebook; the pervasive sense of drift – as if there’s no one on the bridge of New Zealand’s ship of state. As if this wasn’t alarming enough, he also picked up something else. It was just a feeling, but, for governments in their third terms, such feelings often prove fatal.
Across the whole of Northland, even among the well-heeled residents of Russell and Kerikeri, there was a feeling that the Government had lost interest in them; that the politicians who had ridden to power on their votes no longer cared about the fate of their farms, orchards or businesses. That, because they lacked the clout of Hollywood movie moguls, Aussie casino owners, huge transnational corporations, or the Prime Minister’s Hawaiian golfing-buddy, their voices were getting lost in the din.
NZ First’s campaign song for the Northland by-election was “Help Is On Its Way” by the Little River Band, and it struck precisely the right note. Chosen months before “Black Friday” dealt its body-blow to the nation’s dairy farmers, the prescient pertinence of the song’s refrain can only grow as the seasons pass and the quantum of farm debt becomes insupportable.
Rolleston accused Peters of panicking, but the tone of urgency in the NZ First leader’s voice was not only entirely appropriate, it was also, astonishingly, unmatched. Neither Rolleston, himself, nor the Prime Minister, nor the Labour leader, Andrew Little, sound even remotely like someone who grasps the seriousness of what is unfolding in rural and provincial New Zealand.
Under attack for being “Angry Andy”, Little has clearly been told to present as calm a fa├žade as possible to the electorate. In a political environment less fraught with dangers, this would be good advice. Little’s problem, however, is that over the past month there has been a coming together of issues far too serious for the sort of phlegmatic responses he has been offering. With the economy teetering on the brink of recession, and the nation’s sovereignty under threat from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the return of “Angry Andy” would be welcomed.
A debut appearance by “Decisive Andy” wouldn’t hurt either. Why Labour is so unwilling to rule out support for the TPP – at least in its present leaked and hinted-at colours – is a tactical mystery. Certainly, Little’s reticence on the subject offers a poor contrast to Peters’ long-standing and unequivocal rejection of TPP’s alleged contents. It’s all of a piece with his party’s foundational promise to put New Zealand first.
At his party’s recent conference in Rotorua, Peters urged delegates to drive up the membership of NZ First with an additional 10,000 new recruits, and to give him a war-chest of at least a million dollars. As New Zealand succumbs to the same political paranoia that has overtaken the democracies of Europe and North America, Peters expects his party to be match fit.
Angry and unequivocal: revelling in the role of prophetic outsiders; Peters and NZ First will meet 2017’s electoral questions with provocatively populist answers.
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 11 August 2015.


David said...

Yes, New Zealand will decide the next government of New Zealand but who will they go with? I predict National.

Chris Trotter said...

Gosh, David, you're a hopeful boy! Plummeting milk prices, rising petrol prices, a seriously faltering Chinese economy, and a government in its third term. Not what most political scientists would regard as an encouraging scenario for John Key and his party.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I can't help thinking that farmers aren't very bright, given that the law of supply and demand pretty much said that dairy prices would eventually fall. Yet many of them went into dairy with huge enthusiasm.Remember when stock market pundits were predicting – before 1987 – that the stock market would never fall again? I think they were doing it before other crashes as well. God common sense should have taught them better.
Now I don't know if you can dip into dairy and out again without too many costs, but it seems to me that they caused their own downfall to some extent. So no wonder Winston can make mincemeat of one of their representatives :-). Mind you Winston can pretty much make mincemeat of almost anyone. I will never forget National radio using him as a prime example of how to not answer a question from a political reporter :-). He's definitely inherited the 'old tusker' mantle from Muldoon. As to who wins the next election, I think it's Labour's to win simply because we are at that place in the political cycle. I guess in theory it's their turn :-). Whether they can do it or not is another matter.

Anonymous said...

I watched the show, Little was pedestrian, Winston was vintage and rude, though once again a element of truth in his opinion that it could easily get worse for dairy farmers (which means our Nation). His argument about Russia is idiotic when you realise who we would be upsetting. The most unsettling part of the show was the information that the Chinese are developing massive / gigantic dairy farms for local and export consumption. Little should realise that Winston is now on a strong push to dislodge Little from "leader of the opposition" permanently. If this show was anything to go by he will succeed.

Jamie said...

Dammit does this townie have to break it down for you cow-cockies???


Don't stick all your eggs in one basket, that's day one sh*t!!!


Now muscle up and diversify or risk losing the lot!!!

pat said...

think you are being a little harsh GS...farmers in the main understand their business/industry and economics 101 pretty well...many in the dairy game converted for the simple economics of it, i.e. no return in sheep or beef or deer (or for that matter crop) and it was dairy (or dairy support) or the highway....the pure law of supply and demand is neither the cause nor was it completely unanticipated...the severity , speed and timing however were......and isnt that always the way?...disasters seldom occur for one reason, anticipated or not..almost invariably it is a combination of events that overwhelm.

peterlepaysan said...

c'mon Chris, When is the election? Why fire before you can see the whites of their eyes?

On TPPA, how can one comment upon an unopened pandoras box?

I would be very surprised if the thing ever got signed with the existing interested parties. US, Japan, Canada, Mexico will cut a deal that suits them (highly unlikely).

Groser is enjoying a tax payer funded booze up.

It is a Key sideshow, like flags.

Anonymous said...

Given the increasingly populist positioning he will have to take (even more so than in previous elections) ,
Which party will be prepared to accept enough of his manifesto for him to go in with them?

And is key really planning on his legacy project to be the new flag? I can't see Winston agreeing to support a government committed to changing the flag, and I can see key wanting to raise a new national flag and then announce his retirement.

The decision may gave been accidentally made already...

Gerrit said...


Yes you are right National is throwing away the vote to win in 2017 in a cycle of incompetence all government seem to get third term.

However the Hobson's choice between the political parties for the voter remains and hence the continued strong polling of National is more a reflection of how bad Labour performs rather how good National is doing.

Winston is doing well because neither of the big political parties is doing anything like doing a half decent job running the government or opposition.

When push comes to shove Winston will go with labour/Greens simply so that his ego can have full reign to laud over the incompetence that would be that government (by the way has anyone, anywhere heard anything from the new Greens leader --whats his name again -- show, Shaw?).

I don't think Winston he will be able to give his ego free reign with a National led coalition government. But imagine the mischief making he could indulge in with a rudderless Labour and moribund Greens parties.

Wonder if the TAB would take bets on how long that coalition would last. I think the Greens will be the first to leave.

JanM said...

Yes, it's going to be interesting to see where all those cranky nats are going to give their votes next election. I don't know many right-leaning people, but those that I do are getting very exercised about Key and his antics. What little I've seen and heard leads me to suspect that Winston will be the grateful recipient.
While not much could be worse than what we have now, there are so many egos involved in what would be a multi-party government that I think we could be in for a very interesting ride!

jh said...

Populist is pejorative.

There are two dominant forces in NZ politics 1. Anti-racist (PC) and 2. self serving against the best economic interests of the country as a whole (the property/construction industry).

The anti-racists refuse to see any problems with an increasing population:

He said he was "deeply disturbed" some saw problems with immigration instead of opportunity.
"But we are not going to stop it - India and China have the two biggest talent pools in the world and we are rightly recruiting from them."
Distinguished Professor Spoonley (How Migrants Build the Bay)

What is interesting here are the muffled voices. We see the cheer leaders of population growth on morning TV (Shamubeel Eauqub) and hear the anti-racist in the evening on Jim Moira's politically correct Panel. But the muffled (academic) voices are validating the "populist" support for NZ First.

In this case I would invoke The Wisdom of Crowds?

Wayne Mapp said...

I can certainly see scenarios where Winston and NZF gain major support in the regions. Imagine an electoral scenario of National at 40% (or slightly less), Labour at 25%, Winston at 20%, Greens on 10%, and 5% or thereabouts going elsewhere. This of course requires provincial disquiet to fundamentally advance NZF at the expense of both the Nats and Labour.

In such a case Winston can go either Left or Right. But going Left might mean he can achieve his goal of being PM, at least for a portion of the term. Or perhaps NZF (Winston) simply says to Labour the price of being in govt is that Winston is the PM for a full term.

Not unreasonable if NZF was within 5% of Labour. Would Labour say "no" and stay in opposition?

Victor said...

If Winston has a free choice, I suspect he'll go with National, as Labour will probably re-abolish knighthoods.

Can't blame the guy. "Arise, Sir Winston!" does have a nice ring to it.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It might have come across as a bit harsh, but I did make this point in a little more detail what I had more time in another thread. What I perhaps should have said was that not only is there supply and demand, but commodity prices tend to be cyclical, AND capitalism tends towards boom and bust. And if there was no money in beef then, there certainly is now which goes some way towards proving my point.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

People keep bringing up this PC bizzo is if they somehow are being persecuted. Strange.

pat said...

is certainly cyclical and those cycles are getting shorter and more extreme, a symptom of the dysfunctional system we are operating?..as to beef (or lamb/wool, venison) one good price season out of five or six is no basis for an industry...the beef price is currently up mainly due to US drought, and while with climate change you may say that effect will increase the wherewithal to pay for it will decrease in tandem....as the chinese say...interesting times.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Charles E.

I have, after some careful consideration, removed your comment.

Your penultimate sentence was potentially defamatory.

Supply me with proof of your assertion, and I will allow you to repeat it.

greywarbler said...

Dairy might be down, but many thoughtful dairy farmers have chosen stock that fit the dairy-beef model. So as dairy goes down, beef is strong, reduce dairy and so stop using supplemental feed, cull the herd, and be more efficient on grass. And don't use those bloody enhanced beets etc.

Only the dairy-istas that have come in late and paid inflated prices would be in trouble. And they deserve what they get, it has been a rush on dairy, just like the occasional blood-to-the-head they used to get on stockmarkets before trigger sharp computer modelling. You don't buy at the top price, any business person knows that. And you don't borrow to buy shares at the top price either, you're bound to get caught so buying farms on leverage is much the same.

As for Andrew Little, I don't know why he doesn't scan The Standard. It is a wonderfully active focus group where gritty subjects are fought to a standstill. People are looking and thinking about today's news and taking their pulses as to how they react to Labour every day. The polls are hung, drawn and quartered. A common reaction has been that Andrew should 'own' Angry Andy. That passion and determination would go a long way in convincing teetering and even slightly receptive voters that Labour has found its mojo. Just angling sensible questions to Key, would be good without revealing every piece of policy.

And some humour, a little poke at National, a here we go again approach to the confabulations. There is some but let's have more. Good humoured (as Winston appears), confident and willing to explain Labour's intentions, and patient but firm with interviewers with perhaps a little personal appreciation to them, would raise his mana.

And yes, someone else might well hear the command and have his mana raised, "Arise Sir Winston". It would be a well earned gong.

Davo Stevens said...

Capitalism relies on greed only. No economy grows to the sky and ours is no different. It rises and falls like the tide and sectors of it do also. Dairy is in decline at present and who knows where that will end. The housing bubble in the major cities is another.

This video on Vimeo explains why we are id the doo-doo we now find ourselves in.


jh said...

Funny but The Standard doesn't seem to be aware of this blog? http://croakingcassandra.com/

Neither does sniffer dog David Farrar? Funny that? Although they (National) will be monitoring it with fuseworks.

In a comments section (now gone) someone asks if lowered immigration (or dropping metropolitan urban limits) could ever happen both being untouchable left-wing policy. Michaell Reddell replies that the Labour movement is traditionally composed of urban liberals and the working class and the working class are most affected by immigration policies.

The Standardista element is a good reason not to trust Labour?

Jamie said...