I am trying not to blog on Peters much. With the help of my psychiatrist and some happy pills, I even refrained myself from firing off an angry post last night on his incredibly rude treatment of TVNZ’s Jessica Mutch. But the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Ruling Council has ordered me to try and give Winston less airtime, so I complied.
But Simon Upton’s analysis yesterday of Winston is too insightful to pass up. Some extracts:
I was present 30 years ago when Winston Peters won the National Party’s nomination for the Hunua seat. There was never any doubt about the outcome. His youthfulness, flawlessly fluent delivery, charm and above all self-assurance swept all before him.
And Simon goes on with more examples of the charisma.
Few politicians can hope to hold either the finance or foreign affairs portfolios. Winston has held both. I have, obviously, no firsthand experience of his execution of the latter role (carried out in bizarre isolation from the Cabinet). But I witnessed his reign as treasurer. It was an uneasy, faltering performance carried by the professionalism of his officials and the self- effacing industry of Bill Birch. There was something genuinely sad about watching him arrive at Cabinet meetings with his papers unread, still tightly secured by their green Cabinet Office ribbon.
Winston’s two departments have both loved Winston. Treasury found him a good Minister because he only read the one page summary papers, never the full papers. Birch handled all the details. A Minister who never second guesses officials, makes officials purr.
MFAT love Winston even more. He has been totally tamed and captured to their viewpoint in a manner not even Sir Humphrey could aspire to. Take this story from ZB:
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters is belittling suggestions a budget boost for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade should be cut.
Both National Leader John Key and Finance Minister Michael Cullen have signaled the extra $600 million set aside for MFAT in this year’s budget could be cut, in light of the poor state of the Government’s finances.
Winston Peters, who lobbied for the spending as Foreign Minister, says it is the wrong move to cut an area that could help grow the country’s exports and wealth, at the first sign of trouble. He says it would be disastrous for the country.
You can;’t get better than that. a Minister who will argue that the way to get out of the economic crisis is to hire more staff for MFAT. And I suspect he actually believes it, so successful has MFAT been at taming their Minister. This can only happen when the Minister doesn’t take independent advice or delve into details.
Winston wasn’t cut out to be a policy wonk, or a detail man. He was cut out to be a leader. That he failed to become prime minister is possibly the singular political tragedy of our time. Perhaps too many people told him that he would be. He believed his trajectory to be unstoppable – and he took the sort of risks (leaving his party, calling by-elections) that only the most self-assured politician would consider.
Winston probably would have ended up National Party Leader in the mid 90s, if he had played a smarter game, and not tried to white-ant Bolger from within Cabinet.
But at the end of the day, he could not win the respect of those of his political colleagues who ultimately mattered – the ones who did the hard work, who read their papers and knew how to temper ambition with responsibility.
As time went on, Winston covered his inadequacies with belligerent counter-punching. He also began to believe his own rhetoric that he was unlike other politicians.
Recent events have revealed a politician every bit as human and flawed as the rest.
Ironically, the flaws he has denied would easily have been forgiven him if he had delivered substance to match his charisma. His failure to do so means his political legacy will be correspondingly meagre. We are all the poorer for that.
This has been WInston’s problem – he never ever admits fault, and thinks he has none. Most MPs know what their weak areas are and will work hard to improve them. But Winston has always though charisma alone will get him through.Tags: Simon Upton, Winston First