Pundits peddle opposing views on how PM should deal with Peters – but voters perhaps have other concerns

How voters react to the headlines generated by NZ First’s  latest financial  shenanigans may  (or  may not) determine  the outcome  on  September  19.

The most recent Colmar Brunton poll had NZ First down at  3%, so  some  commentators   are  already  writing  off   the party’s chances of  survival.

But the real question, as some authorities see it, is whether  Labour  will  suffer   collateral  damage  from  the fallout,  if the Serious Fraud Office probe into  the  operations of the  NZ  First  Foundation  ends  up  in court  action.  It could be  uncomfortable  all round for the coalition if  the  SFO’s  investigation  leads to charges which a court  ultimately  finds proven.

Labour edged down to 41%  in  the Colmar  Brunton sampling,   but its own polling   apparently  shows  the   gap  with   National is narrower than  the  5 percentage points  Colmar Brunton registered.

Whether Labour’s polling by the respected UMR shows NZ  First below the  5%  threshold is not clear, but  Jacinda  Ardern  seems  confident  enough  that  NZ  First  will  return  to  Parliament after  September.  She doesn’t see the need to do as National does with ACT’s David Seymour in Epsom  to  save her coalition  partner. So she is not pulling Labour’s candidate  from Northland to  ensure Shane  Jones scores a home  run  there.

Meanwhile political pundits are  having   a  field  day over the repercussions of the  SFO  investigation into the  allegations against the NZ  First Foundation — but there is no consensus  on the impact  on   voters.

One News columnist John Armstrong  is  fierce:

“When is Jacinda Ardern going to stop displaying all the backbone of a spineless jellyfish and start reminding Winston Peters who is the boss?”

He  argues that once it became public that the Electoral Commission’s findings had been passed to the Serious Fraud Office, Peters’ relinquishing his status of Deputy Prime Minister ought to have been a mere formality, if only a temporary measure while the SFO determined whether everything was above board or whether prosecutions should follow its investigation.

Fran  O’Sullivan  in  the  NZ  Herald   peddles the opposite view. She contends

“ … it’s  quite ridiculous  to  slam the  Prime  Minister for failing to execute—at this point—an immediate  decapitation policy  on  Winston Peters.  Jacinda Ardern will tough it out— as she should.  She is right to  argue ‘natural justice’ should prevail.  Yet, at the same time, reserve her  right  as Prime Minister to stand Peters down from Cabinet if the Serious Fraud Office, on completion of its investigation, does file charges  against  the  NZ   First  Leader”.

O’Sullivan  argues  that no  evidence has been put in public that Peters not only had knowledge but connived in the alleged  flow of  donations into the  NZ  First Foundation that donors  had felt  were to be directed to the NZ First Party  itself.

Point of   Order suspects the average punter  doesn’t  give a  toss  about  the implications.   What he, or she, cares about is the capacity  and competence a politician, or  a  government in which he is an influential minister,  displays to  change  people’s lives for the  better.

On that yardstick the evidence of how voters view the performance of  the Ardern-led coalition  is equivocal.

Certainly those who believe the PM’s  “kindness and  compassion”  qualifies  her  as  a  “world leader”  won’t  be changing  their opinion.

As  for  Peters,  can a  leopard   change  his spots?

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