Friday 19 May 2023

Winston’s Last Shot At Redemption.

The Happy Warrior: In the five months remaining before the 2023 General Election, Winston Peters has to amass enough votes to once again seize the hand-brake. Even a quarter of New Zealand’s 980,000 Baby Boomers would be enough.

NZ FIRST is currently hovering around 3-4 percent in the opinion polls – not enough to make it back to Parliament. Looking back over New Zealand’s recent political history, however, a base of 3-4 percent has been enough to see NZ First crest the 5 percent MMP threshold on Election Day. In 2011, for example, few commentators rated NZ First’s chances of re-entering the House, but it made it back with 1.5 percentage points to spare. Winston Peters remains a formidable campaigner. But, even if he and his party once again re-enter Parliament, Peters faces some extremely difficult political choices.

The first and most important of these would be whether NZ First should enter into a formal coalition agreement with the National Party and Act. On the face of it, such an arrangement would constitute a repudiation of everything NZ First has stood for since its founding in 1993.

Act represents those New Zealanders who are not only convinced that Rogernomics and Ruthanasia were correct and necessary, but also that the neoliberal programme of the 1980s and 90s remains unfinished – a state of affairs that Act is determined to put right.

At his very first Cabinet meeting in 1990, Peters realised that the “decent society” National had promised New Zealanders was no longer on the agenda. So trenchant a critic was he of the Jim Bolger Government’s slash-and-burn policies that he was thrown out of Cabinet, eventually resigning his National Party membership altogether.

NZ First was Peters’ attempt to combine the best elements of the political doctrines espoused by National and Labour before both major parties were corrupted by free-market extremism. In the first MMP election, held in 1996, NZ First secured 13 percent of the Party Vote and 17 seats – a position of strength which allowed him to conclude a comprehensive (and remarkably progressive) coalition agreement with his “frenemy” Jim Bolger.

Unfortunately for Peters, the National host rejected NZ First. Though it meant deposing Bolger, and governing with the support of a malodorous collection of traitors and turncoats, National, no longer wedded to the values of New Zealand’s most prosperous years (1949-1984) made it clear that renouncing neoliberalism was not an option.

National Leader, Christopher Luxon, has said nothing which suggests that his party’s allegiance to the neoliberal ideology is wavering. He is not, however, as open in his endorsement of neoliberal principles as Act’s David Seymour. This ideological diffidence does not sit well with the Act Party. Accordingly, Seymour and his party seem determined to drag National kicking and screaming into the radical libertarian Right’s policy hothouse. Where it matters in 2023, moderation is out-of-fashion.

None of this will have escaped Peters’ eagle political eye. In the 30 years since he was a member, there has been not the slightest sign that the moderate, small-c conservative values that allowed National to rule for 29 of the 35 years between 1949 and 1984 are making a come-back. Even without Act, National might smile and smile at NZ First, and be a neoliberal villain, just waiting for the moment when, like Jenny Shipley, it can thrust a dagger deep into his back.

By contrast, Act, with refreshing honesty, is doing its best to stab NZ First in the front. By refusing point-blank to enter into any coalition affording aid and comfort to Peters’ allegedly antiquated and discredited economic and social ideas, it hopes to leave National with no option but to go into coalition with Act, or go back to the country for a second crack at putting things right.

But, if Peters cannot choose National, neither can he choose Labour. (Let alone Labour-Green-Te Pāti Māori!) It did not take him and NZ First very long to grasp that Labour’s values in 2017 were light-years away from Helen Clark’s and Michael Cullen’s. Jacinda Ardern had promised “transformational” change and, when it came to entrenching radical identity politics, she delivered it. Not that when she invited New Zealand to “Let’s do this!”, voters had the faintest idea she’d do that.

What choice, then, does Peters and NZ First have? In the five months remaining before the election, he has to amass enough votes to once again seize the hand-brake. Even a quarter of New Zealand’s 980,000 Baby Boomers would be enough.

Talkin’ bout my generation’s, and Winston’s, last shot at redemption!

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 19 May 2023.


David George said...

NZF are an unashamedly conservative party, obviously distinct from what National have become. It really would be good (from a conservative POV) to have NZF, Democracy NZ and New Conservatives form some sort of alliance and virtually guarantee some genuine conservatism. There is a large pool of kiwis with socially conservative traditional beliefs and loyalties looking for someone to speak up for those values.

Transcript of Melanie Philips address:
"The more vicious the attack, the more they advertise this weakness. As we can see from their hysterical and frankly often disgusting reactions to this [recent UK National Conservative] conference they are terrified, above all, by the reality staring them in the face: that they are utterly out of step with the ordinary people of the country whom they claim so noisily to champion but whom they actually despise and fear.

And there’s the irony. The historically Labour voters of the working-class “Red Wall” are more conservative than the Conservative party. Redwallers are rooted in community, attachments to each other, traditions and in patriotic loyalty to the nation. They value conventional family structure on which they depend for security and emotional well-being. They value social orderliness; they depend on the networks of mutual obligation bound by tradition that make a community of shared interests and values, and form the place they can call home.

In short, there are silent millions waiting impatiently for a political class that will conserve all these things and defend the nation against those who would destroy it.

The political prize is there for the taking. All that’s needed is the courage to win it."

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I studied Winston Peters' Maori policy years ago for an exam or an assignment I forget which. It was actually good – too good for National who dismissed it and booted him out. Before even the words identity politics were coined. And wasn't it Bolger that said that Winston wasn't "Good under a high ball"? – It's all so long ago now. 😁 So it's obvious National didn't trust him at all. Too Maori for some not Maori enough for others.
So Winston actually has talent, or at least knows how to employ talent. But these days I suspect Peters is simply out for the baubles of office. He'll make what hay he can opposing "identity politics" and Maorification, simply because they are scare words thrown around by people who feel threatened by them. But that ground has already been covered by National/ACT. I can't see him making a huge amount of headway – after all we all have our gold cards now. 😁

Michael Johnston said...

Ardern's slogan, "let's do this", was catchy, but utterly vacuous. She never explained what "this" was, beyond aspirational platitudes, and I'm not at all sure she knew herself.

sumsuch said...

The gent is as bright as the sun. Just not connected to the right thing.

I thought he cut the idiot Seymour to pieces on Twitter. How easy he did that. His negativity, I said to him talk about the positive side of the Welfare State, with his powerful rhetoric. He carries on in his vein. Will no longer respond to him.


I have known Winston since the mid-sixties and have always and still do "personally" ... found/find him to be a delightful "personality".

Many voters will continue to be beguiled by politicians who have attractive personalities.

I will not.

However, voters in my view, ARE! entitled to exercise a responsible vote based on their assessment of a politicians "personal values and trustworthiness". Quite a different matter.

I'm saddened to say that I do not trust Winston and never will again.

His 2017:


gob smacking,

deeply deeply cynical and

contemptuous horse-trading ... his hop to Labour-Ardern was quite simply ... unforgivable.

Rather than cataloguing a long chapter of his many breaches of voter trust though, lets just put it this way.

Winston is a very shrewd political operator. He games/plays/manipulates the political landscape principally for his own personal ego and advancement... "personality politics" 101

The NZ First organization that he founded is a perfect reflection of this. Its success at the ballot is demonstrably and firmly tied not to the prevailing winds of political change but is principally dependent upon Winston's personal popularity.

The best thing Winston can now do for us all is ... to go fishin.

DS said...

You are making a key error here.

If Peters still cared about the economic nationalism he once promoted, he'd have seen the 2020 border closure (and associated end of globalisation) as a golden opportunity to enact what he had always dreamed of. Thing Big 2.0, and all that.

But he didn't. Instead, he moved his party away from supporting border closure and lockdowns, and towards trying to water down the anti-Covid measures. And now he's literally courting anti-vaxxers. A different sort of anti-vaxxers from ACT (less posh), but the current incarnation of NZ First is not about addressing the 1980s Revolution any more. It's about feeding off far-right conspiracy theories, in the hope that there's enough of them to get 5%.

I'd also note that it has been a long, long time since David Farrar attacked Winston Peters. National knows if NZ First gets 5%, it will need him. Because, yes, this is a darker and more crazy version of NZ First than even 1996, and as long as ACT promises to leave the elderly alone, Peters and Seymour will be very much pulling Luxon into strange places.

Anonymous said...

Yep I'm voting NZF this time around. Whilst it would be stupid to trust any politician much in NZ, I do actually trust Winstone as I believe he does want all of NZ to prosper and be united. So there's that.

But like you, Chris, I am going to vote NZF because I believe it is a clear vote for Free Speech. I do not believe for a minute that Lab, TPM or the Greens will allow free speech. The most depressing aspect of the 'coalition of chaos' will be the certainty of continued and increasing curbs on Free Speech.

I am hoping all the rest of us who 'Labour left behind' will vote for the conservative middle this time and that we can make it count.

Chris Morris said...

I am very worried that we have so many people on either the left or right having any trust in Winston Peters being truthful. He is a compulsive liar, making Trump looking honest. The only policy the party has is what is best for Winston. Surely there will be other options for the protest vote. Or is NZ First our equivalent of the Monster Raving Loony Party?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The historically Labour voters of the working-class “Red Wall” are more conservative than the Conservative party. Redwallers are rooted in community, attachments to each other, traditions and in patriotic loyalty to the nation. They value conventional family structure on which they depend for security and emotional well-being. They value social orderliness; they depend on the networks of mutual obligation bound by tradition that make a community of shared interests and values, and form the place they can call home."

And you know this how? But even if it's true, and some of it certainly is, much of it as a defence against conservative governments abandoning them, or actively working against their interests. I once met someone like you David who claimed that he'd been to England and found that there was plenty of employment if you wanted to work. Of course he'd been to the south where there is a huge trench of government subsidised defence industries and plenty of work. He'd never been up north where the red Wall exists. A wall which seems to have abandoned conservatism anyway given that it wasn't so long ago that if an election had been held, the Conservatives would have had maybe 1 or 2 seats. And it's not a lot better today from what I can understand.

I don't have a problem with you social conservatives. You can live as socially conservative as you like. You can forego drunkenness, adultery, (except conservatives really forego either of those) and pretty much any sort of sin you can find in the Bible if you wish. You can avoid going to gay marriages or having gay friends. You don't have to change your gender. You can, in private, be as racist as you want.

The problem is of course that you want to impose your social conservatism on everyone else, and are obsessed by what other people do with their wedding tackle.

I have a certain amount of faith in the commonsense of New Zealanders, but if ever this sort of thing starts to happen here – Brian Tamaki aside – I think it might be time for me to move to Finland.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Chris Morris.

Unless you are able to supply me with an example of WP lying, your comment, and this reply to it, will be deleted.

We don't do defamation here.

Chris Morris said...

Would this example do?
Or this one?

David George said...

I quoted Melanie Philips above about how out of touch with the people our mainstream politicians are. Now this, a new survey from America showing how the media are similarly at odds. Perhaps the politicians have foolishly come to believe that the media are the "voice of the people". Or are they are simply terrified of the media's power.

Glen Greenwald: " What's so striking here isn't that the corporate media relentlessly advocates views and ideologies that majorities of Americans - often large majorities - reject.

It's that the views held by majorities are all but banned on NBC, CNN, NYT and WPost. Thus, this is not a mystery"

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Very interesting David. But as far as I can see it's Republican politicians who are out of touch with the majority of Americans given that huge percentages of ordinary people favour gun control, abortion, birth control, no fault divorce, and of course freedom of speech. Just thought I'd throw that last one in as you all seem to be heavily in favour of it, at least for yourselves.

Those freedoms to not be shot at, to make decisions about one's own body, to make decisions about one's own relationships are all disappearing. Crickets from the right of course again I have to wonder if you all are ignorant of all this, indifferent about all this, or in favour of all this? Just like you, a lot of American politicians are trying to avoid the subjects these days.

David George said...

Thanks GS,
According to Reuters and based on public polling these are, in order, the top concerns of American voters:
The economy, crime, immigration, inequality, environment, healthcare, morality, war/conflict, terrorism.

Our concerns are much the same with some variation - immigration doesn't make the top five for example:
"The top-5 issues currently concerning New Zealanders in February 2023 are inflation / cost of living (65%), followed by housing / price of housing (33%) and crime / law & order (33%), and healthcare / hospitals (27%) and climate change (27%)."

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I'm not quite sure what your point is here David – 71% of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, 61% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases,77%) of reproductive age females favour making birth control pills available over the counter without a prescription if research showed they are safe and effective. These might not be the top concerns, but they are definitely concerns of many people. I you saying that only a top concern should be addressed?

Of course the top concerns are always economy, crime and so on. I imagine it's the same in almost any country. (But just as a side note, Democrats in the US seem to be better economic managers than Republicans. Certainly with regard to the deficit.) "Healthcare" includes birth control and abortion.

Healthcare is a concern in the US largely because many people find it impossible to get without paying huge sums of money. Many of my American Internet acquaintances tell me that without the Veterans' Administration they wouldn't be able to afford healthcare at all. And others tell horror stories about "co-pay" sums which their insurance doesn't cover, which seem astronomical to me.

But on the figures above, why is it that extreme conservatives – somewhat like yourself perhaps – are passing laws that restrict or ban abortion and access to birth control. And our refusing to pass laws that restrict access to guns? They're not just passively refusing to do things, they're actively working against the interests of the people they are supposed to represent. Ah well, I suspect they're in for a bit of a shock at the next set of elections. What little information we have at the moment seems to suggest it anyway.