Danyl McL writes:
New Zealand First used to have this guy called Peter Brown as their deputy leader. Brown was (a) fiercely anti-immigration and (b) a migrant, having been born in the UK. It was useful for Winston Peters, I think, to have a white migrant deputy thundering that “the wrong sort of people were coming into the country”, spelling out to his elderly and easily bewildered constituency exactly what “the wrong sort” meant.
But here’s the thing about Peters’ perennial race-baiting – given airing most recently following a remit at the party’s 25th birthday over the weekend. He campaigns on the immigration issue every election, but Peters has been in the powerbroker position in government three times now, and each of those governments has seen very high levels of net migration of what his supporters and voters consider “the wrong sort” of people.
There are a few reasons for this. Most populist, anti-migrant politicians believe what they say about “our values” and “preserving our way of life”, and at least attempt to reduce migration when they get into office. Trump has his Muslim-ban; the conservatives have Brexit. But Peters’ statements about migrants appear to be as meaningful as so much else he says, ie nothing. It is useful for him to race-bait by grandstanding about immigration but never useful for him to ever do anything about the issue.
A very astute analysis. Winston doesn’t believe most of what he says. He says it to get support.
Another example was monetary policy. In 1996 he campaigned on radical change to monetary policy. He became Treasurer. The Reserve Bank said it could meet him to talk through the changes he had campaigned on. He told them not to bother, as that was just for the campaign.
We saw this also with the Maori seats. It was a “bottom line” in the 2017 campaign yet according to Labour he didn’t even raise it during the coalition negotiations.
There’s this theory that Winston Peters, despite his many terrible flaws, represents a lesser evil; that it’s better to have him out there grifting the elderly racists, using their votes as currency to gratify his own malevolent ego than having some genuine ethno-nationalist form a new party and rise to power. “You’ll miss him when he’s gone,” people warn me. They might be right. But I’m an optimist; I have faith in MMP’s 5% threshold (which I used to oppose as undemocratic, but now see the wisdom of) to wipe Peters out in the next election and to protect us from his successors. New Zealand First is 25 years old, but it would, I think, be a great shame for our country if it lives to 30.
It is a party that in the future historians will say achieved nothing except giving out money to various groups.