Friday 7 January 2011

Sean's Going To Need A Bigger Stake (To Destroy Winston Peters)

In the Role of Van Helsing: Like so many of his colleagues in the news media, broadcaster Sean Plunket would like to be the one who finally drives a stake into the heart of Winston Peters. But, in spite of the veteran journalist's best efforts in this month's Metro, the NZ First leader remains undead.

SEAN PLUNKET is a formidable broadcaster whose inquisitorial ferociousness is sorely missed by listeners to Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report. Predictably, state radio’s loss has been commercial broadcasting’s gain. Not only did Mr Plunket secure a berth at TV3’s The Nation, but he’s about to become the weekday-morning talk-back host at Newstalk-ZB Wellington.

It is not, however, in his guise as broadcaster that I take issue with the redoubtable Mr Plunket, but as author of the "Windy City Struggles" column in Metro magazine.

In an essay entitled "Dealing with Winnie" our Windy City Struggler argues forcefully that Winston Peters and the NZ First Party should not, under any circumstances, be permitted to ever again cross the parliamentary threshold.

To this end, Mr Plunket calls upon both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to very publicly rule out NZ First and its leader as potential coalition partners. Or, in his own colourful language:

"For a stake to be truly driven through the heart of this political vampire, Key must again deny Peters a seat at the post-election dealing table [and] Goff should do the same."

Vampire? That’s pretty strong stuff. On what evidence does Mr Plunket accuse Mr Peters of sucking the life-blood out of his country?

The answer, frankly, is – not a lot.

The first indictment against Mr Peters is rather peculiar. As best as I can judge, he is accused of seducing the Parliamentary Press Gallery (of which Mr Plunket was once a member).

"I became party to a general journalistic infatuation that lasted some years," writes Mr Plunket, "as Peters used his charm and guile to grab headlines and keep the scandal-hungry media desperate for his next revelation."

I’m sorry, Sean? You’re complaining that Winston got the measure of the Gallery and shamelessly exploited their willingness to be fed stories – rather than go out and find the stories themselves? Well, forgive me, but I can’t help thinking you’ve addressed the indictment to the wrong party!

The second indictment against the NZ First leader is that, on occasion, he has been guilty of rhetorical exaggeration.

Whoa there big fella!

If failing to present only the unembellished facts to the electorate is henceforth to be classed as a political crime, then I’m afraid every single Member of Parliament – from the Prime Minister to the lowliest back-bencher – will have to join Mr Peters in the dock.

The third, and by far the most serious, indictment against Mr Peters is that he "knowingly provided false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interest". More precisely, that he failed to properly account for "a $100,000 donation from Owen Glen".

Mr Plunket states that this judgement was delivered against Mr Peters following "a marathon inquiry by Parliament’s privileges committee".

Had it been delivered by a Court of Law this would, indeed, have constituted a serious blow to Mr Peters’ reputation. But, it was not. Parliament’s privileges committee is a political tribunal and it’s findings are not always the fruit of dispassionate legal judgement. Indeed, there are occasions when its decisions appear to have been arrived at via the most ruthless Machiavellian calculation.

And isn’t it strange that Mr Plunket neglected to inform his readers that politically independent investigations by the Auditor-General and the Serious Fraud Office both found that Mr Peters had no case to answer?

Mr Plunket’s indictments should likewise be rejected.

The Court of Public Opinion might, however, care to consider a related charge:

That, in the interests of securing a National Party victory in the 2008 General Election, unscrupulous journalists did wilfully conspire with divers Members of Parliament to blacken the character of the Hon. Winston Peters and his NZ First Party. And that, to preserve the present Government in office, both groups are preparing to do so again.

What National, Act – and I’m sure Mr Plunket – understand is that the day Mr Peters re-enters the House of Representatives, is the day Mr Key departs the Beehive.

This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 7 January 2011.


Anonymous said...

You are spot-on Chris, my thoughts exactly! By refusing to challenge the powers-that-be or to ask the hard questions on behalf of ordinary people, today's news media are complicit in helping to champion this nasty, elitist government.

I find it very telling that the concept of balanced news articles outlining the views of both the government and the Opposition (as opposed to extremists) no longer exists. These days I am trying to read Hansard online to get my information straight from the horse's mouth. I really hope the standard of journalism improves prior to the next election, but I expect the current breed of journalists won't 'allow' National's election hopes to be challenged in any meaningful way.

After years of voting for Labour under FPP, then with the arrival of MMP voting for Alliance, and then Jim Anderton's Progressive Party, I'm now transferring my party vote and my hopes for the future to New Zealand First.

This serves three purposes:

1. It will ensure that the future govt probably has to go into coalition with NZ First, which has some very sound policies on healthcare, education and the economy when you examine them in detail, and they are very upfront about what they plan to do, unlike National or Labour. See

2. NZ First will block further F&S-style legislation being introduced against the will and against the interests of the majority (particularly Pakeha, new immigrants and urban working-class Maori)

3. It will seriously piss off National and the Maori Party, and most of the journalists in this country, if Winston Peters is 'ressurected' into Parliament, which couldn't please me more! Anyway, what's the worst that could happen if Winston gets back in? Seriously? Why is everyone getting so worked up about this?

Winston Peters may be an opportunist, but I admire him greatly as a masterful orator, a tough negotiator, an outspoken and hardworking politician, a socially-minded leader who opposes neo-liberal economic policies that hurt ordinary Kiwis, a Maori who dares to question the Waitangi gravy train, and a true friend of everyone's grandma!

I think National and the journos are just shit-scared of him! Go Winston!

Anonymous said...

Oh NACT most certainly do understand it Chris: and you can be sure that their sophisticated polling also tells them that in these anomie times an appetite for charisma, familiarity and a history of fearless challenge to Big Money is growing exponentially.

You can also be quite assured that even more resources will have already been allocated to Project Winniebang II. Press fellatio of Orewa I and Espiner and Garner on the piss with Key gave us glimpses of previous campaigns; and
Joyce/Limbaugh's subterranean manipulation screams again from this tawdry Plunket handjob.

Expect plenty more from now till November from various, similar, strategically-positioned ingenues and whores.

Onya bud. Kia kaha and keep on top of them (so to speak!)

Anonymous said...

Winnie will be a brave man if he stands. The heckling he is going to get will make John Minto and Sue Bradford look like amateurs.
This man will be embarrassed and exposed as the venal and hypocritical little p***k that he is.
Cant wait.

Anonymous said...

Peters has a large level of support amongst people I know. Free GP visits for under 6's, support for racing industry & gold-card are tangible things that ordinary NZers remember. Corporate media and wing nuts hate this guy because he commands respect. He would rip jonkey to shreds in a live debate and you are dead right Chris, NZ First are a big show to bring down NACT. Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

Winnie and NZ First will certainly get my vote. Stuff National, will never, ever vote National again. JK is selling us out with this S/F Bill
We need Winnie to keep the rest of the 'mollyhawks' honest.

Victor said...

An excellent piece, Chris, although I think that your final paragraph is a bit too optimistic.

Between 5% and 8% for NZ First would certainly change the political landscape but might not,in itself, be sufficient to get National out of power.

I also think that Winston's own ability to shoot himself in the foot shouldn't be discounted.

Gooner said...

Previous commentator thinks Peters is great because he offers things for free. Anyone can do that, and it is not a sign of "greatness". It's a sure sign of a charlatan.

Anonymous said...

Chris, WP has appeal to many on one point only--his forthrightness in fronting up to Maori troughing. As for the rest, I think your political olefactory sense has let you down.

The man smells of deceit and corruption. He is counting on the political amnesia of NZ. I am counting on the fact there are better men and women than him to play a part in governing this country.


Chris Diack said...

Can’t workout out Mr Totters line of argument.

The Greens are flayed for trying to move away from being watermelons. Such pragmatic centrist aspirations put them beyond the pale. How can you trust those who want to play both sides – they don’t deserve to be wooed.

Labour’s got to adopt a clear unambiguous leftwing economic programme and get a mandate for that– it’s all about class no point in mining identity politics anymore it’s all played out.

And now Labour’s electoral strategy (Trotter endorsed) is a return to whiskey and rettes government with Winston First. A irrational incoherent policy programme, a desire to be in play with both sides (which he won’t be of course as Key will rule him out).

Oh and lets re-float the boat of the King of the most disgraceful form of identity poltics.

Wow. That’s looking to the solutions for New Zealand’s future challenges.

Of course as it happens this might just be the embrace of death for W1. If a vote for him is one for Goff he is probably likely to get back.

As it happens Mr Trotter has it all wrong on the Privileges Committee to. For political reasons National decided to back off. They were also party to putting off the Serious Fraud Office (who offered to provide evidence) for their own reasons. As it turns out with National not making W1 a martyr and Labour streightjacketing him he was taken out by the voters.

In the election Labour spent votes on him but they didn’t make the difference between govt and opposition. Labour in fact did our political system a service.

Now it appears the strategy is to undo that work by talking up W1. And that’s and electoral strategy!

As for independent adjudications which Mr Trotter seems so fond, we have one in the Auditor General’s report on W1’s use of Parliamentary funds. We don’t have a legal judgment because the law was changed to make a pending case before the Courts moot. The upshot is whether Mr Trotter likes it or not the umpire called it and said W1 owed the taxpayer 153k. Still unpaid.

Chris Diack said...

If a vote for him is one for Goff he is probably unlikely to get back.

Victor said...


It's a mistake to think that belt-tightening alone will get our economy out of its current malaise.

Winston Peter's essentially Keynesian approach has much merit. Most of his economic policies should be adopted in their entirety by Labour.


If the smell of deceit and corruption hangs around Peters, that may well tell us more about the power of our disgracefully biased media than about than about his actual activities whilst in office. He was certainly more sinned against than sinning during his last tenure, albeit that his characteristic truculence made him an easy target.

A more telling criticism of Peters would address his cynical and potentially incendiary courting of a racism that he has probably never himself shared. That, plus his record of bringing down any government he's a part of, should make Labour wary of any deal.

Chris Diack

O please! Not a return to class consciousness! That's even more limiting and self-defeating than identity politics!

Labour has to start advocating counter-cyclical policies that will grow our real economy and ensure the results feed back into our society.

Such policies will be in the interests of everybody,not just a working class that no longer defines itself as such.

But these ideas will need some selling to a population brainwashed by thirty years of neo-liberal propaganda.

Anonymous said...

Chris Diack- your '153k unpaid' is a feed of arse. In this street there's at least 4 people I know who will vote for Peters. Bring it!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"Chris, WP has appeal to many on one point only--his forthrightness in fronting up to Maori troughing. As for the rest, I think your political olefactory sense has let you down."

Quite a few practically headed Maori support Winston as they can see that flogging New Zealands property (and lifestyle) to foriegners is what we do these days.

Anonymous said...

NZ First are an embarassment to the "Greens" whose immigration policies are based on an "objective assessment of a sustainable popluation".... and "we aren't there yet" So while some question the rationale behind Aucklands predicted growth (which has John Banks rubbing his hands) the Greens have their knickers in a twist over people who claim (by birthright) a higher status and powers in decision making (as their ancesters where here earlier).

WAKE UP said...

The media's original mistake, now entrenched in the way it approaches politics, has been to see itself as a PLAYER, instead of keeping to its proper role of reporter-observer-commentator. Heaven knows why this came about, but it did, and now, having "beaten" Winston once (mostly through circumstance rather than good judgement, it must be said) it now has a vested interest in preventing his return. Well, Sean and co, you had your Phyrric victory then: now you're about to become LOSERS, just like any other political party - and, also just like any other political party, you now have about the same credibilty. You have failed us all (Winston Peters included).

KjT said...

If troughing, racism, cronyism, telling porkies and dishonesty were a disqualification for political candidature in NZ all of the Neo-Liberal right would be disqualified from Parliament and not a few of the others.

jh said...

Oh crap Chris. NZ First will never get in.
Superior minds will knock them over.