The Dim-Post

April 13, 2014

Winston is actually a really sweet guy. You just don’t know him like the Labour Party does

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:27 am

Matthew Hooton writes in the NBR:

For two years, the average of polls has shown that if Winston Peters’ NZ First misses out on 5%, Mr Key will be re-elected. If NZ First gets to 5%, Mr Peters chooses the prime minister.

Increasingly, Mr Peters is tilting toward Labour.

While John Armstrong writes that Labour’s positioning with the Greens is dictated by their relationship with New Zealand First:

Key likes to wind Peters up; Cunliffe risks looking like he is being cowered by the veteran politician.

Labour’s pursuit of power dictates, however, that Labour be hostage to Peters for the next five months despite knowing such obedience will not make even the tiniest bit of difference as to whether he ultimately favours the centre-right or centre-left.

And Martyn Bradbury also comments on this dynamic:

Cunliffe can only become PM by unifying the opposition and the Greens are a major part of that opposition and right now they need to be working out how best to approach Winston so that they can uphold their side of the responsibilities of being such a major part of that opposition.

There is a Government in waiting, Cunliffe has identified it, now the leaders of the opposition have to lead and forge dialogue between one another or John Key gets a third term and we all end up sitting on our hands for another 3 years.

It’s conventional wisdom among political pundits that Winston Peters is impossible to predict. ‘He’s too wily! You never know which way Winston’s gonna go!’ But Peters political strategy is actually orthodox and entirely predictable.

Consider the 1996 election campaign. Peters campaigned against the incumbent National government and indicated that he would go into coalition with Labour and ‘keep them honest’. After the election he formed a coalition with National and became Bolger’s Finance Minister and Deputy PM. In 2005 when Peters was again in the position of kingmaker he campaigned against the Clark Labour government and promised his voters that he would not form a coalition with either Labour or National because ‘he did not seek the baubles of power’. After the election he went into coalition with Labour negotiating a position as Clark’s Foreign Minister.

Nothing Peters says prior to the election has any bearing on what he’ll do after the election. All statements made before the election are about maximising his vote. Nothing more. After the election he’ll seek whatever outcome benefits him personally. If anyone questions him about his pre-election promises he’ll roar with fury that he never said any such thing.

So if Peters is moving closer to Labour that doesn’t mean he’s favoring a coalition with Labour. It doesn’t mean he wants to get rid of John Key. It doesn’t – as poor old Bomber thinks – mean that Winston is ‘uniting behind David Cunliffe as the leader of the left’. What it means is that Peters thinks there’s votes there, and as usual when it comes to political strategy Winston Peters is right. He’s picked up about 50,000 votes off Labour in the last few months.

Obviously Peters needs to be able to pretend he’ll go into coalition with Labour – that strengthens his bargaining power with National. But Peters will want a stable government that can guarantee him his knighthood and posting to either London or Washington at the end of it all, and no hybrid of Cunliffe-led Labour-NZ First-Greens government will deliver that to him.

47 Comments »

  1. >But Peters will want a stable government that can guarantee him his knighthood and posting to either London or Washington at the end of it all, and no hybrid of Cunliffe-led Labour-NZ First-Greens government will deliver that to him.

    The post and the knighthood are well within the power of a Cunliffe government. The stability of it would be down to Peters himself. So we’re back to not really knowing.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — April 13, 2014 @ 8:16 am

  2. Even if Labour miraculously gained enough votes to rule alone, I’m not sure that would be a ‘stable’ government.

    Comment by Andrew M — April 13, 2014 @ 9:07 am

  3. Very good, that’s Winston.

    Comment by Tinakori — April 13, 2014 @ 9:34 am

  4. But Peters will want a stable government that can guarantee him his knighthood and posting to either London or Washington at the end of it all, and no hybrid of Cunliffe-led Labour-NZ First-Greens government will deliver that to him.

    Funny how your take on Winston’s vanity just happens to coincide with your prediction for a National government post-election.
    Why would Winston want to be posted to London or Washington where he will be a complete nobody?

    I think Winston probably wants to retire in NZ and I doubt that he will want his lasting legacy to be that he returned a band of neoliberal thieves into power.

    Comment by trev — April 13, 2014 @ 9:58 am

  5. The post and the knighthood are well within the power of a Cunliffe government. The stability of it would be down to Peters himself.

    The stability would also be down to Labour’s caucus, who want to dump their leader, and the Green’s relationship with Labour and the Green’s relationship with New Zealand First, and Labour’s relationship with New Zealand First.

    Comment by danylmc — April 13, 2014 @ 10:04 am

  6. Danyl, you say Peters’ actions are predictable, but you don’t actually make any predictions. Presuming that everything you say here is right – and I’ve seen nothing that any of the media’s various Winston-watchers will disagree with – doesn’t it just mean that Winston will go for whomever will offer him more? This seems to be the main determinant in his behaviour.

    To be more specific, your discussion of the 1996 result entirely skims over what is, in my opinion, the critical issue – the Tories were willing to offer Winston the “Treasurer” position (not actually Minister of Finance, and it’s debatable whether he actually exercised that much control over economic policy, but w/e), while Labour was not willing to budge, insisting that Michael Cullen be made Minister of Finance. Would Labour draw a line in the sand on this issue again? Would they be prepared to offer a similarly prestigious Cabinet post (e.g. Foreign Affairs?) That is a big question mark, especially when you consider that Labour will also have to negotiate with the Greens (who are unlikely to ask for Finance, but whose own Cabinet demands will reduce Labour’s room to maneuver vis-a-vis Winston).

    So in summary, nothing you’ve said here is novel or contradicts the received wisdom. You’re right, Winston’s decisions will have more to do with post-election bargaining than pre-election promises, but is that really a surprise to anyone? And can we really call his behaviour predictable when we don’t know how that post-election bargaining will go?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 13, 2014 @ 10:10 am

  7. @Danyl:”The stability would also be down to Labour’s caucus, who want to dump their leader”

    Do you really think the Labour caucus would be looking to roll Cunliffe if he had managed to take them into government post-election?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 13, 2014 @ 10:13 am

  8. “…Very good, that’s Winston….”

    I agree, something which has ruined both our Sundays.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 13, 2014 @ 10:36 am

  9. I think Winston probably wants to retire in NZ and I doubt that he will want his lasting legacy to be that he returned a band of neoliberal thieves into power.

    Peters doesn’t care about neoliberalism, or who is in power so long as he gets his. In 1996 he campaigned on getting rid of National and stopping privitisations and then went into government with National and sold Auckland airport. He might pretend to oppose neoliberalism in the run-up to the election if it can get some suckers to vote for him, but he couldn’t care less about it.

    Comment by danylmc — April 13, 2014 @ 10:44 am

  10. I don’t agree with Armstrong’s framing of this as the Greens being the innocent aggrieved party.

    I also don’t agree that the strategy of Labour and the Greens comeing to a formal arrangement now to present a unified left opposition makes much sense.

    The voters that this strategy would hope to attract aren’t prople who are thinking of voting Green – they most likey are already decided.

    So they’re voters that might vote Labour – or a party other than the Greens. ie National or NZF. (Presuming those voting Mana and Maori Party voters won’t shift that much).

    Being closer to the Greens won’t help there.

    The other aspect is a belief that a formal alliance will some how show that Labour has a direction or something.

    But I think that’s something Labour has to do on its own, it’s not something that could be gifted to them by another Party.

    Possibly it could have the opposit result of making Labour look weaker.

    Personally, I think there’s just not enough discontent with National to make a change likely and this united left front idea just places the blame for the opposition’s woes in the wrong place.

    Comment by NeiiM — April 13, 2014 @ 11:34 am

  11. >The stability would also be down to Labour’s caucus, who want to dump their leader, and the Green’s relationship with Labour and the Green’s relationship with New Zealand First, and Labour’s relationship with New Zealand First.

    Two of those are down to NZ First. The Green relation with Labour is pretty much that the Greens have their cards on the table right now as wanting to be part of a Labour led government, and Labour have no choice in going with them. So really, all we’ve got is that the ABCs might dump Cunliffe post election. I *really* doubt that would happen. As far as I’m aware it would be completely unprecedented in NZ history. More likely, he would dump them. And he would be right to, and it would probably *increase* the stability of the party, AND it’s appeal to NZF.

    So nope, sorry. It’s Peters himself, again, around whom the stability of a Labour/Green/NZF government hangs. If he wants it to be stable, it will be. The main source of difficulty for him will be the Green Party and therefore they should be in talks with him right now if they seriously want to win this time. There’s considerable scope for the two to nut out an agreement with a bunch of no-go zones.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — April 13, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

  12. Labour’s Don Brash moment of wanting to raise national super age went down like a cup of cold sick with Brand Winston.
    Winston is getting too old to fart around with the greens & a divided Labour party.

    Comment by Simon — April 14, 2014 @ 8:41 am

  13. One factor that hasn’t yet been mentioned is the minor-party back benches. With NZF, you’re only ever going to be dealing with one figure; Winston. The rest of his caucus are compliant puppy-dogs that appear to have no aspiration for reform over and above what they can install in their renovated kitchens and bathrooms, which were purchased on the security of a continued parliamentary salary.

    The greens, on the other hand, have a caucus that is exercised and eager to implement change. Some of those changes will be unpalatable to the Labour Party. If I were David Cunliffe, I know which one I would rather have sitting across from me at the Cabinet table.

    Comment by Phil — April 14, 2014 @ 9:34 am

  14. What if Winston decides that having been a ceremonial Treasurer he wants to be a ceremonial PM. Who would blink first, Deputy PM Key or Deputy PM Cunliffe? Russel and Metiria might be happy to sit that one out or, as an extreme measure, support a National led government.

    Comment by Tinakori — April 14, 2014 @ 9:43 am

  15. What if Winston decides that having been a ceremonial Treasurer he wants to be a ceremonial PM. Who would blink first, Deputy PM Key or Deputy PM Cunliffe?

    I’ve been wondering about that. It would be for the first two years, presumably, with Cunliffe/Key taking over when Winston retired, which might make it all a bit more palatable, to Cunliffe at least.

    Comment by danylmc — April 14, 2014 @ 9:45 am

  16. Don’t be dickheads. This is Parliament, not a Dan Brown novel.

    Comment by Phil — April 14, 2014 @ 9:47 am

  17. I would bet Dan Brown is Winston’s favourite novelist

    Comment by Tinakori — April 14, 2014 @ 10:01 am

  18. >If I were David Cunliffe, I know which one I would rather have sitting across from me at the Cabinet table.

    Yes, but Labour+NZF doesn’t even make 40%. So they’re going to be sitting across the Cabinet table from the Greens, or not sitting at the table at all.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — April 14, 2014 @ 10:41 am

  19. Danyl – following your charts, the non-bias corrected polls for NZ First seem to mirror the non-bias corrected polls for National, suggesting that NZ First voters may habitually lie to pollsters and say National(?)

    If so, does this suggest the NZ First voters would otherwise vote National?

    That would suggest that National’s best strategy would be to bend over forwards for Winston this election, with one of the baubles being a long term ambassadorship somewhere, starting just BEFORE the next election.

    Comment by rickrowling — April 14, 2014 @ 10:59 am

  20. Also, despite disliking one major facet of Winston Peters, his tapping of bigotry for votes, all this talk about how he’s just in it for the pork is a bit rich. FFS, they’re all in it for the pork. I’ve never heard of one Parliamentarian turning down their massive salary, or their perks.

    What is unpredictable about Peters isn’t his level of corruptibility, which is the same as pretty much everyone else. It’s what his political views are on specific matters of importance to the governing of NZ. Because so much of the power in his party resides entirely in his hands, it’s more unpredictable than other parties with more than one MP. In those ones, you can at least presume that some kind of averaging of the pronouncements of the people in it will apply, and that one powerful individual can’t move it all around rapidly, because they do have to convince the others first.

    Also, Winston is a very old hand. He keeps his cards well covered. It’s very hard to pin him down on specific issues.

    It sucks a little bit that Winston gets to decide the government. Of course that could very easily change in an instant, if the major parties wanted it. There is no constitutional impediment in this country to a Grand Coalition. So the supporters of the major parties can hardly bitch about the tail wagging the dog, when the reason the dog even can be wagged is because the two other main parts of it insist on being in direct conflict, despite being extremely close together in all policy matters.

    And the reason those parts can’t work together is because they want Most of the Pork for Themselves. The cost of giving a few pork scratchings to Winston Peters is much less unpalatable to them than sharing the pork so that a strong government representing up to 75% of the population could actually work directly on the matters of common interest.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — April 14, 2014 @ 11:04 am

  21. When did pork become such a key part of our political vocabulary?

    Comment by Alex Braae — April 14, 2014 @ 11:48 am

  22. Labour+NZF doesn’t even make 40%. So they’re going to be sitting across the Cabinet table from the Greens, or not sitting at the table at all.

    The logic goes like this. All Labour+NZ First need to do is get more votes than National. Then they can go to the Greens and say, ‘We’re going to form a coalition, we want you to abstain and give us the numbers. Otherwise you’ll be responsible for putting National back in government.’

    Comment by danylmc — April 14, 2014 @ 11:49 am

  23. The logic goes like this. All Labour+NZ First need to do is get more votes than National. Then they can go to the Greens and say, ‘We’re going to form a coalition, we want you to abstain and give us the numbers. Otherwise you’ll be responsible for putting National back in government.’

    I get the logic. But for it to work, Labour/NZ First would have to win 6-8ish percent from National (without losing any support over to the Greens). That’s an … ambitious target. Plus, the Greens refusing to abstain wouldn’t “put National back in Government”. It would mean there was no viable governing arrangement, and so we’d have a fresh election. G-d only knows what would come out of that.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 14, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

  24. When did pork become such a key part of our political vocabulary?

    Possibly since Ashraf Choudhary retired?

    Realistically though, I’m not sure that the term is appropriate to the NZ political scene anyway.
    Ben seems to be talking about entitlements rather than MPs directing appropriations to their specific geographic constituencies – though I guess the term might be loosely applied to electorate bribes proposed to secure votes (though that seems like run-of-the-mill electioneering to me).

    Comment by Gregor W — April 14, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

  25. Could I dare to suggest that it might be this election where Labour finally gives up on Greens + NZFirst as too hard, too demanding and does the unthinkable: propose a grand coalition with National?

    Comment by cctrfred — April 14, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

  26. I’d be perfectly happy with making Winston a Duke and making him ambassador for life to the Bahamas if it gets rid of Key

    Comment by richdrich — April 14, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

  27. Then they can go to the Greens and say, ‘We’re going to form a coalition, we want you to abstain and give us the numbers. Otherwise you’ll be responsible for putting National back in government.’

    Let’s say Labour + NZF had done precisely that at the last election….the result (other things being equal) would not have changed. So, ultimatums seem kind of silly.

    Comment by Ross — April 14, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

  28. Labour finally gives up on Greens + NZFirst as too hard, too demanding and does the unthinkable: propose a grand coalition with National?

    I’ll have whatever you’re having.🙂

    Comment by Ross — April 14, 2014 @ 12:40 pm

  29. “…Possibly since Ashraf Choudhary retired..?”

    I lol’ed.

    “…The logic goes like this. All Labour+NZ First need to do is get more votes than National. Then they can go to the Greens and say, ‘We’re going to form a coalition, we want you to abstain and give us the numbers. Otherwise you’ll be responsible for putting National back in government…”

    I think you’ve got the first bit wrong here Danyl. All Labour+NZ First AND THE GREENS need to do is get more votes/seats than National. The end game is still the same for the Greens. Why Labour would have people who think this is a good way to treat the Green party is anyone’s guess.

    One other thing – I am picking a Mana-Dotcom party will have four seats.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 14, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

  30. Mana: Hone’s condescending dismissal of Bradford’s views shows just where the power lies. He’s enthraled by KDC and Gareth Morgan – the Crooks and the Cranks.

    Comment by NeiiM — April 14, 2014 @ 1:14 pm

  31. It’s a race between NZ politics and DPF to reach the greater heights of stupidity.

    Comment by NeiiM — April 14, 2014 @ 1:18 pm

  32. “The logic goes like this. All Labour+NZ First need to do is get more votes than National. Then they can go to the Greens and say, ‘We’re going to form a coalition, we want you to abstain and give us the numbers. Otherwise you’ll be responsible for putting National back in government.”

    If the Greens have Winston’s phone number then it doesn’t have to work out this way. If the Greens negotiate directly with Winston, together they could wrestle more policy concessions from Labour.

    Comment by Swan — April 14, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

  33. I am picking a Mana-Dotcom party will have four seats.

    That’s 3% of the party vote (tripling their current vote share) so I think we can discount the prospect of any list MPs.

    So then, where are you going to get four electorate seats from?

    Hauraki-Waikato – locked in for Labour with Mahuta.
    Ikaroa-Rāwhiti – Horomia’s personal fiefdom, and the MP outperformed Mana for second place. I don’t know who Labour have selected (if anyone yet?) but they must start as odds-on favorite.
    Tāmaki Makaurau – a tight race between Sharples and Jones, so I expect Jones to clean up this year.
    Te Tai Hauāuru – went to Turia, with Labour a clear second. The Greens outperformed Mana for third place.
    Te Tai Tokerau – Harawira gives you one.
    Te Tai Tonga – another Lab/MP race, with the Greens in third ahead of Mana.
    Waiariki – Sykes pushed Flavell hard, so maybe that gives you two if we’re being super-generous.

    Comment by Phil — April 14, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

  34. It’s a race between NZ politics and DPF to reach the greater heights of stupidity.

    The Standard is already at the summit, with a little flag and everything.

    Comment by Phil — April 14, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

  35. @richdrich: I’d be perfectly happy with making Winston a Duke and making him ambassador for life to the Bahamas if it gets rid of Winston.

    Comment by Ataahua — April 14, 2014 @ 3:00 pm

  36. “One other thing – I am picking a Mana-Dotcom party will have four seats.”

    That is desperate wishful thinking at its most hilarious. Here’s the real question, when your prediction turns out to be wrong, are you going to have a good hard look at the preconceptions that led you to this erroneous thinking? Or are you just going to launch right back into some other ridiculous prediction informed by your own hopes and dreams, like John Key turning out to be a CIA agent or Winston being put on trial for treason?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 14, 2014 @ 4:25 pm

  37. Waiariki is definite possibility for Mana. On the one hand, Flavell looks like National own him. On the other, Sykes is very strong candidate, who’d be an asset to parliament. Mana have a good ground organisation and some headway. It’s winnable.
    What would pretty much seal the deal, is if Labour came to its senses and had a cuppa with Sykes. Definitely an easy way to take a seat from National. Really can’t understand why they wouldn’t.
    On the other hand, it Harawira and Sykes both in with a good chance could sink the internet party – mana deal: it’d mean an alliance would need 2% of the vote to get another MP. From a strategic point of view, Labour should see that as a bonus too: some swinging left voters could change their party votes to Labour or Green, rather than (effectively) wasting them on Mana.
    It’s what Key has done with both the MP (electorate seats that cost National nothing in party vote) and Act. It’s getting the most out of the available support, on the assumption people will vote strategically.

    Comment by Robinson Stowell — April 14, 2014 @ 4:35 pm

  38. “Definitely an easy way to take a seat from National. Really can’t understand why they wouldn’t.”

    In the long term, Labour is trying to rebuild its brand in the Maori seats. Cutting deals like that only undermines it, although in the short term it makes sense.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 14, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

  39. I’m a bit surprised Sykes didn’t challenge Hone over KDC.

    All bark and no bite plus being rolled by the patriarchy.

    Comment by NeiiM — April 14, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

  40. “All bark and no bite plus being rolled by the patriarchy.”

    I would pay cash money to see you say that to her face.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — April 14, 2014 @ 8:51 pm

  41. I’m a bit surprised Sykes didn’t challenge Hone over KDC.

    Well, she is set to be number 2 on the list, so would be the most direct beneficiary of any lift in the combined party’s vote … .

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 15, 2014 @ 7:28 am

  42. “…That is desperate wishful thinking at its most hilarious…”

    It only requires 2.8% of the vote. Somehow, the idea that multi-millionaire Kim Dotcom using novel campaign methods in alliance with an established political party with a rock solid electorate seat can get 2.8% of the vote is “hilarious wishful thinking”, yet apparently the same target is a piece of cake for fruit loops like Colin Craig’s Conservatives or ACT, if only they get gifted an electorate seat.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 15, 2014 @ 7:37 am

  43. multi-millionaire Kim Dotcom using novel campaign methods
    KDC has no experience in campaigning. He advertises his album on the back of buses, and drive-time radio, for god’s sake.

    an established political party with a rock solid electorate seat can get 2.8% of the vote is “hilarious wishful thinking”, yet apparently the same target is a piece of cake for fruit loops like Colin Craig’s Conservatives
    The difference is that the left of Labour already looks bunched up with minor parties that have a presence. On the right they’ve got 0% UF and 0% ACT. I’m confident that there is room for a right-wing party, if one could get its shit together and stop being distracted by telling me who I’m allowed to fuck and/or marry.

    Comment by Phil — April 15, 2014 @ 10:24 am

  44. if one could get its shit together and stop being distracted by telling me who I’m allowed to fuck and/or marry.

    hate to break it to you Phil, but that’s the popular stuff of what they have to offer.

    Comment by Alex Coleman — April 15, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

  45. That’s, unfortunately, the social conservative element of the right. Their needs should already be met by NZF, quite franly.
    I’m talking a ‘classically’ liberal party – something that mixes the personal liberties espoused by the GP with the economic freedom that ACT used to stand for.

    Comment by Phil — April 15, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

  46. Now you’re just talking crazy, Phil.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 15, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

  47. @ 33.

    Mana is standing candidates in only three of the seven Maori electorates this year, namely, Ikaroa-Rawhiti, Waiariki, and Te Tai Tokerau.

    Comment by SouthDeez — April 15, 2014 @ 11:03 pm


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