Matthew Hooton was one of the first to posit that Winston Peters is aiming for a big swansong to leave politics.
The polls are pointing to that conclusion.
He’s never been Prime Minister, but wants to at least have some time in the job.
Sceptics of the Peters’ plan all miss two important points. The first is that the people of New Zealand simply aren’t stakeholders in post-election negotiations. No one voted for Mr Peters to become Jim Bolger’s treasurer in 1996 or Helen Clark’s foreign minister in 2005. On both occasions, voters would have considered the very idea laughable – and, indeed, I was laughed at on Radio New Zealand’sNine to Noon in 2004 when I first raised the idea of Mr Peters becoming foreign minister.
More recently, it’s doubtful New Zealanders have really wanted United Future’s Peter Dunne to have responsibility for tax collection or drug policy, or Act’s David Seymour to set up charter schools. But, immediately after an election, the next is a political lifetime away and the politicians go for whatever they can get, regardless of what voters think.
The second point is that a Peters-chaired government would not be seeking a second term anyway. If Mr Peters’ aspirations could be negotiated back to a single year, Andrew Little or a new National leader would have to wait just 12 months to become prime minister and would then have two full years to refresh the government and make a pitch for re-election. Sir Winston would be safely packed off to Observatory Circle or New Zealand House.
Ambitious politicians would have little doubt they could get voters to forget about the controversial origins of their government in that timeframe. Do you recall what the political controversy du jour was even six months ago? (Hint: in early November I wrote about the Royal New Zealand Navy’s invitation to the US to send a vessel to its birthday party later this year.)