Very good analysis from John Roughan:
Winston Peters says every Chinese leader understands his position. I believe him. Winston personifies everything they fear in elective democracy.
China’s leaders see free elections as an invitation to egocentric individuals to play politics for personal gratification rather than social improvement. They genuinely think that where multi-party competition is permitted it will only produce politicians like Winston.
Bingo. Dead on the money.
It must be hard for people with no experience of free elections to believe that in educated democracies such as ours the vast majority of voters in fact are not seduced by politicians like Winston. It is hard enough to convince some in this that all politicians are not like him.
This is important. The vast majority of MPs, from all parties, are sincerely dedicated to improving NZ, and believe their policies will do so.
A tiresome popular misconception, assiduously cultivated by himself over the years, holds that all politicians except him are unprincipled and self-serving. The truth is exactly the reverse. Winston is unique but not for the reasons his admirers think. Just about everybody else in our Parliament is there with a sense of the social good.
Again, Peters is near unique in his populism without conviction or belief in anything but that he should be in power.
That is what we all thought. But the reason he gave this week was quite different. The agreement was too soft, he said, the tariff reductions too slow. He was hoping for better.
Bullshit. Phil Goff’s word is the only apt description for Winston’s politics. Our tariff phase-downs might be faster than China’s in this deal but those China has agreed to are rapid by comparison with New Zealand’s voluntary reductions over the past 20 years, which Winston of course opposed. He has opposed every important economic step the country has taken during his time in Parliament. If he operates by a principle beyond personal survival it is simple conservatism: do nothing drastic, nothing much is wrong, leave us alone.
Peters reasons for not voting for the FTA are bizarre. The Greens have a sincere opposition to the FTA- to be blunt they don’t like trade as it is bad for the environment.
But Peters says the tariffs in China are not coming down fast enough. So his solution is to do nothing, as if that will be better for our exporters!! He complains that we reduced tariffs unilaterally in the 80s and 90s. Well yes we did, and now have the lowest unemployment in the developed world because we have a modern competitive economy. But can no one see through the faulty logic of complaining we have already lowered our tariffs, yet refusing to vote for something which will lower barriers for our exporters?
Yet both major parties now plainly hope he will return. Since they have to deal with minor parties to govern under MMP, they both would sooner deal with personal egos than principled parties. It is easier to satisfy a Peters or a Dunne than Act or Maori or the Greens.
Oh I would not say they “hope” he will return. Personally I would take a principled party you can trust over a politician you can never trust, any day of the week. But parties don’t get much of a say in who they get to deal with – the voters do, and then you see how a Government can be formed.
Each side at different times has been able to finesse Winston with a sinecure. National made him Treasurer, a position that didn’t exist before or since. In that role he was an impeccable presenter of the monetarist principles he had damned up and down the country for the previous 10 years.
And he sold Auckland Aiport!!!
Now he is Foreign Minister for everything but trade, which seems rather like being admiral of everything except the ships.
But to give him his due, his flexible ego has made him a force for stability in our new system. He was genuinely upset when Jenny Shipley could not maintain a coalition with him, and timed his decision on Labour’s China deal this week to ensure he did not undermine it.
Here I disagree. People have short memories. Peters killed the Coalition by staging a walkout from Cabinet, six hours *after* the dispute over Wellington Airport had been solved. And running newspaper ads attacking the agreement the day after the PM has signed it looks like undermining it to me.
Nevertheless, our politics would be better without him. He has been a misleading voice in national debates, a negative influence on public confidence in the country and those who genuinely serve it, a mischievous, evasive, obnoxious muck-raker with the charm of an attention-seeking child.
Poetry, sheer poetry.
He has fooled his admirers for too long. May this be the year that voters wash him out of our public life.