There are theoretically four candidates to replace Peters but, if there is a change, NZ First MPs have no more choice than National MPs with Judith Collins, than to anoint Shane Jones.
While more internationalist than Peters, Jones would need to respect NZ First’s heritage by becoming the champion of globalisation’s victims and broadening the party’s appeal to small business owners — the so-called “white vans”. Jones’ Labour background might help attract its remaining conservative males.
If Peters accepts change is needed to assure his legacy, he may agree to forgo the leadership but try to remain Deputy Prime Minister. This would be a mistake.
If Jones is to get NZ First back above 5 per cent, it must be him voters see alongside Ardern over the next 18 months. He must become as much part of the political furniture as Peters for so many years. Bad behaviour won’t work post-March 15.
So Hooton argues Jones must become Deputy Prime Minister in order for NZ First to survive.
That would be very interesting indeed.