So what’s the wily old master up to now? In his opening campaign speech, Winston Peters attacked his coalition partners. His party, he says, is sick of “woke pixie dust” from them:
“New Zealanders need to know what’s out there, and what they have been saved from.”
Surely he is not talking about Jacinda Ardern and her party? Haven’t they been our saviours from the coronovirus pandemic?
Peters then spells out what he has saved us from: NZ First has been the handbrake on the “nanny state”.
“We’ve used commonsense to hold Labour and the Greens to account. We’ve opposed woke pixie dust. We’ve defended socially conservative values, like the right to believe in God. We’ve focussed on the wisdom of sound economics”.
Will voters on September 19 show their gratitude?
In attacking his coalition partners, he seems to be saying they can’t be trusted, hardly a heartwarming tribute to those he has sat around the Cabinet table in making decisions in the best interests of the country.
Peters is clearly targeting what he believes are the hordes of onetime National voters who have fled in disillusion after the leadership follies of the past two months.
Give me another term, he is in effect saying, and my coalition partners will be kept in check, their wild ideas (for a capital gains tax, or light rail in Auckland) killed stone dead..
According to the most recent polling by Colmar Brunton, support for NZ First has plummeted to 1.8% and — unless it wins an electorate seat — the party could be consigned to history in the general election.
And even though Shane Jones has poured taxpayer cash into Northland, whatever thanks the party might have expected in return could have been washed away in last week’s floods in the region.
Peters trotted out some of his old war-cries, calling for fresh curbs on immigration. But with the kind of border controls now in force, that really is flogging a horse dead in the stables.
NZ First is taking a pounding from other directions, as it faces a probe from the Serious Fraud Office over the financial operations of the mysterious NZ First Foundation, a body with which Peters say he has no links. If that investigation ends in court just before the election, it could be a turn-off for voters.
Peters’ own efforts in the judicial system are coming back to haunt him, as his failed case over the publication of his superannuation declaration has left him with a bill of $320,000 for court costs. In appealing against that, he may be whistling in the wind.
In its current mood, the electorate may also call time on Peters’ tactics of baiting the media. His latest appearance on TCNZ’s Q&A programme was a re-make of those that a previous generation of voters had come to expect, but left millenials—if they bothered to watch—reaching for the mute button.
The Peters’ performance reached this crescendo:
“My party’s survived for 27 years being put down, traduced, marginalised, and Cinderella-ised by you guys only for you to, on election night, climb through the door and ask me what’s going to happen next”.
It is almost inviting the response from voters to put the party out of its misery.