Bill Ralston sees an end:
You can never write off Winston Peters. That well worn cliche is trotted out by commentators at every election. Except, this election, I believe at last we can write off Peters. I suspect even he is no longer confident of ever again being “happy as the MP for Tauranga” and at age 63, he is wistfully eyeing the prospect of retirement from politics in October.
I would just make the point that not winning Tauranga does not mean retirement for Peters if his party makes 5%.
National has just selected its candidate for Tauranga, Simon Bridges, the party’s electorate chairman and a Crown prosecutor. He is half Peters’ age.
Bridges’ youth neatly underlines the fact that Peters is a political dinosaur, a throw-back to the era of his mentor and role model, Rob Muldoon. Bridges was barely born when Muldoon was Prime Minister and Winston was first on the hustings.
That National is willing to put up someone more than just a lame stooge means it is serious about winning the electorate and it is confident Peters and New Zealand First are dog tucker.
National certainly is serious about winning the electorate. The outcome is of course up to the voters.
There is an air of desperation about the New Zealand First leader these days, as if he senses his old magic is no longer working. He and his party have repeatedly tried to pull the race card, particularly on immigration, but for once have found little response from the electorate.
However, it does not stop Peters having a knee-jerk reaction any time anyone mentions foreigners in a positive way.
Peters seems unable to comprehend the statistics that show migrants have a higher rate of employment, higher incomes, pay more tax and are less likely to go to prison or get a social services benefit than the average Kiwi.
His anti-Asian rhetoric, which was so politically advantageous in the 1990s, is increasingly falling on deaf ears. Over the past couple of decades, New Zealanders have come into much greater contact with their Asian neighbours and no longer fear them.
This is true, but remember unlike the big parties Peters is not worried by how much he offends 90% of NZ. He is targeting just 10% and needs half of them.