The Herald on Sunday editorial calls for the winds of change:
New Zealand First leader and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has exceeded even his own characteristically pugnacious standards in the past week as he has continued to deflect questions about the cash donations made either to him or to his party. Promising much but delivering nothing in terms of clearing the air, he has engaged in behaviour which has been at times hard to distinguish from the paranoid and irrational.
Except that Peters is just acting – the whole thing is just a charade to him.
It is difficult not to see Peters’ actions as those of a man committing slow political suicide. His party’s poll ratings (which is to say his; there has never been a significant distinction) are averaging barely 3.5 per cent, a long way from the threshold that would ensure its return to Parliament (he seems beyond unlikely to recapture the Tauranga seat).
National’s Tauranga candidate Simon Bridges is a very happy man. Peters may or may not fool 5% of the electorate into believing his protests he is victim of a media conspiracy, but he will not fool 40% of Tauranga voters.
But what is much more likely is that his behaviour is both shrewdly calculated and tactically astute. Fighting for his political life, Peters is interested in appealing only to the small number of voters – most of them lapsed NZ First loyalists who are making eyes at National – who can push his party over the threshold. If he alienates and exasperates the rest of the country, generous wealthy donors, his political opponents and even his coalition partners in the process, that is neither here nor there.
Spot on. He is not worried about the 90% who will never vote for him. He is just trying to lock in half or more of the 10% who might vote for him.
Until now, the Prime Minister has adopted a legalistic wait-and-see approach, saying she must let matters run their course. It is notable that her endorsements of Peters, never warm, are becoming steadily cooler. But it is intolerable that she should allow one of her ministers the freedom to manipulate the democratic process.
Clark will be laughed at if she tries to campaign on transparency or accountability.
Up to now, she has had to consider the implications for the coalition’s stability of alienating Peters, but this week, as the last of the Budget legislation is passed, represents the last procedural opportunity for NZ First to bring the Government down and force an early election. Come Friday, the PM could, and should, sack the minister and expose him to the chill electoral winds that are blowing his way. It would be a good thing for the country if those winds, once and for all, blew him from the political stage.
She made pretty clear on Agenda this morning, she would not be doing that.Tags: anonymous donations, Herald on Sunday, Simon Bridges, Tauranga, Winston First