The latest idea to sweep Parliament is that Winston Peters will use his victory in Northland to transform New Zealand First into a ‘country party’:
With his talk of “two tiered economies” and “second-class citizens”, Peters is already looking well beyond Northland’s boundaries to sell his message of Government neglect to the inhabitants of other regions, such as Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, eastern Bay of Plenty, Wanganui and the West Coast, who – rightly or wrongly – feel they too have been chucked on the economic scrapheap while metropolitan New Zealand prospers.
What will really be troubling Key, however, is that Peters’ repositioning of New Zealand First as some kind of “Country Party” will see him wreaking havoc behind National’s well-fortified frontline – territory previously considered to be impregnable.
That is Key’s nightmare. Not that he will be allowed to sleep in peace anyway.
The fall of Northland means there will be sleepless nights for nervous National MPs who thought their seats in National’s supposed “heartland” were safe forever.
The National MPs representing all of these heartland seats aren’t likely to resign in disgrace en masse, so Peters will have to wait until 2017 to campaign in them. And let’s say people in those provinces are as excited about Ron Mark and Tracey Martin as they are about Peters himself. And let’s say that Labour doesn’t stand candidates in those seats, or signals that their voters should vote strategically for the NZF candidate. And say that ceteris paribus, Peters wins NINE electorate seats, an astonishing victory. Surely nothing really changes, because he already qualifies for nine list MPs?
Okay. What if he uses these electorate battles to campaign for list votes. ‘Two ticks New Zealand First’. That might be a big deal. But, based on the Northland outcome, the majority of those list votes would come from Labour voters. Labour’s collaboration is vital to the success of Peters’ ‘Country Party’, but in a General Election they’d be the big losers. Wouldn’t they? How would this plan actually work?