Returning from the political wilderness, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters delivered what some commentators described as a “withering attack” on the government. He said the Labour Party was pursuing “woke, virtue-signalling madness” and a “separatist agenda”.
The government, furthermore, was scattering the “seeds of apartheid” through New Zealand’s laws and institutions.
“The [government’s] basis is malignant paternalism arising from paternalism and inverse racism”.
“Co-governance, separatism, and the seeds of apartheid are being scattered throughout all of our laws and institutions.”
He said he knew nothing of the Government’s co-governance plans when he was in coalition with Labour, and now
“… with no handbrake, they are ramming it down your throats”.
This was Peters, as we used to know him. Clearly his years resting up at his northern retreat have restored him to his old self.
Here he was, addressing an audience of 250 in Christchurch, most of them true believers.
He didn’t get a question as he had done at a Tauranga meeting earlier this month, when he was asked:
“Why would we want to trust NZ First [after] your decision to go with Labour, as a traditional conservative party which has got us into this mess we are in now?”
In any case his one-time ally, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, this morning didn’t sound surprised at the bruising language Peters had used towards her government.
As Radio NZ reported, Ardern says Winston Peters’ comments criticising the Labour government were merely “politicking” and it is up to voters to decide what any future government will look like.
Ardern told Morning Report Peters’ comments were part of a “cycle” that could be observed in the lead-up to elections and she wouldn’t entertain them.
“We had similar statements, or quite a lot of hyperbole, in the last election,” she said.
“What Winston Peters is trying to do is to get headlines by making grandiose statements; I’m not here to fulfil his wish.”
But besides making light of Peters’ withering criticism, the key point that emerged from Morning Report’s interview is that Ardern would not rule out working with NZ First again in future. She said that was ultimately in the hands of voters.
“That only becomes an issue if New Zealand voters put [Peters] in the position where any major political party needs to consider that. We’re not at that stage yet.I’ve demonstrated the ability to work well with others, regardless of what voters have presented to us,” she said.
Ardern said voters could see “from history” which other parties were the most likely coalition partners for the major political parties.
As Point of Order sees it, NZ First must share some of the responsibility for the mess the country finds itself in, but the bulk of those who attended the NZ First conference appear not to accept that any more than Peters does.
In any case, a resurgent Peters poses more of a problem for National than it does for Ardern. According to the latest Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll, National has risen to 39% support and with ACT is far enough ahead of Labour and the Greens to govern on their own.
But if NZ First were to burst over the 5% mark, it could spoil the partying on the Right, assuming Christopher Luxon and David Seymour found as Bill English did in 2017 they couldn’t get into bed with NZ First.
Luxon, as a relative political tyro, might find the wily Peters too much to handle. As for Seymour he would choke on his principles before he could sit down at the Cabinet table alongside Peters.