The three major editorials are all on Peters today. First the Herald:
It is stating the obvious to say Winston Peters should have resigned as a minister some time ago. And that he should go now, after the censure delivered by Parliament’s privileges committee. He will not, of course, and, the New Zealand First leader may even see a silver lining in that dark cloud. The Prime Minister has said she will not reinstate him as Foreign Minister, but that he will remain a minister without portfolio. As such, Mr Peters is free to hit the campaign trail with the salary and perks of a minister but none of the responsibilities.
All baubles, no work.
The Prime Minister sought to construct one by calling the committee “tainted” and suggesting most of its members were politically motivated. The criticism was tawdry. No representatives on the committee had, out of necessity, a more highly politicised view of Mr Peters than those of Labour.
And she admits she has not even read the report.
Now The Press which has a simple headline of “Sack Peters”:
The seriousness of the report means that Peters should not be reinstated as foreign minister, a position in which the qualities of credibility and trustworthiness are crucial. So why is it that for the next two months or more, until the shape of the next government is known, he is allowed to retain his ministerial salary and the other perks of the job? The only answer is that it is still politically expedient for Labour to let him cling to the baubles of office.
I think they are worried if they take his baubles off him, he will remove their ones.
Peters, after weeks of self-righteous bluster and confusing problems of recollection, reacted in typical fashion. He slammed the committee members who found against him, claiming that they had prejudged the issue for political reasons and applied retrospectively a new interpretation of Parliament’s rules. This, according to Peters, had “echoes of Zimbabwe” and, oddly enough, he was right.
In Zimbabwe, after all, there is a certain political leader whose stock response to any criticism is to clamp down on the news media and to claim that he is the victim of murky conspiracies. And that same leader has exhibited a grim determination to hold on to the trappings of power.
We’re just fortuntate that most of his supporters are too elderly to invade farms!
The Government has clearly taken a gamble. It believes that Peters will return to Parliament after this year’s election, courtesy of him persuading 5 per cent of voters to believe him, and that with his support in some capacity Labour could lead a fourth consecutive administration. But it is far more likely that voters will be aghast that Peters has not been sacked or stripped of his baubles and judge Labour itself to be guilty by association.
As the saying goes, a vote for Labour is a vote for Winston in Government and a vote for Winston is a vote for a Labour-led Government.
Finally the Dom Post:
Pared back to its essentials, what that means is that the committee did not believe the evidence presented to it by Mr Peters and his lawyer Brian Henry. There is another, shorter, word to describe what the committee made of their testimony.
They lied. Many many times in fact.
The committee was presented with two conflicting versions of events. One was internally consistent and supported in material parts by documentation; the other was subject to frequent revision and unsupported by documents. Mr Peters and his lawyer were given multiple opportunities to come up with a version of events that fitted plausibly with the known facts. Their inability to do so left the majority of the committee with no option but to conclude their evidence was unreliable.
Except for Labour First MPs.
In Mr Peters’ case, Miss Clark has the power to demonstrate that such conduct is not acceptable for ministers in her government. That she has not done so because she harbours the hope that support from NZ First might enable her to form a fourth government after the election is a matter of regret.
You have to wonder if there is any conduct that Clark would sack Peters for. Any at all?