Andrew Little has fired his best shot.
No opposition leader receives better media coverage than at their pre-election conference. For John Key in 2008, Helen Clark in 1999 and Jim Bolger in 1990, each had the feel of a coronation.
Mr Little’s conference went perfectly well. He got on the TV news. His acting lessons with Gliding On’s Ross Jolly have paid dividends.
An appropriate choice of acting coach.
As I wrote here more than two years ago, Winston Peters has resolved to seek the prime ministership after the election, the last senior government role he has not already held.
Back then, his NZ First party was polling in fourth place at about 7% and his plan to take the top job seemed laughable. The daily media reported it had been ruled out by both Mr Key and Mr Little as if they were objective observers or even the decision makers.
Two years’ later, NZ First has doubled its polling numbers and moved into third place ahead of the Greens. As preferred prime minister, Mr Peters is second only to Bill English and ahead of the leading Labour candidate, Jacinda Ardern, with Mr Little bringing up the rear.
I don’t think we’ve ever before had a major party leader in 4th place as Preferred PM, behind his deputy.
Mr Peters knows that if he can get his party up another five points at the expense of Labour, Mr Little – a list MP – will not even be in parliament. The result might be something like 23% for Labour, 17% for NZ First and 12% for the Greens.
So does Winston have a decapitation strategy for Labour?
The crisis in the Labour Party would be readymade for Mr Peters to step in, declare that he will be prime minister, Ms Ardern his deputy, Mr Robertson finance minister, Mr Jones foreign minister, Phil Twyford transport and housing minister, and James Shaw climate change minister. Ms Ardern would then become prime minister after 18 months and Mr Peters would retire, to be replaced as NZ First leader by Mr Jones, Ron Mark or Tracey Martin.
Well that would certainly solve the immigration problem, as Kiwis would start leaving to go to Australia again in record numbers!