Is Winston Peters NZ’s Donald Trump?

Chris Trotter writes:

So completely does Trump dominate the global news cycle that, even here, at the bottom of the world, political experts have begun speculating as to whether New Zealanders might be in line for an Antipodean version of “The Donald”.

Others object that the Americans have, as usual, come late to the party. New Zealanders, they insist, have had their very own populist political leader for nigh-on a quarter-century. His name? Winston Peters.

But identifying Peters as the New Zealand Trump merely pushes the question back one space. Instead of asking: Does NZ have its own Donald Trump? The question now becomes: Can Peters replicate Trump’s extraordinary success?

The short answer is: No. Trumpism could only be established in New Zealand by a politician drawn from the ranks of one of the major parties. Such a person would then have to take his or her party by storm: over-ruling and over-powering its existing power structures with the assistance of fanatical supporters drawn from both within and without the party.

Winston Peters is no Trump, he’s far smarter than Donald Trump for a start.

So if not Winston then who?

Labour’s rules make such a political eruption much more achievable than National’s, but the absence of a Trump-like figure in its caucus makes one much less likely. National, on the other hand, has Judith Collins who, given the right conditions (and they would have to be very far-right conditions) could place herself at the head of a populist putsch – but only if her caucus colleagues believed themselves to have no other option.

Bill English couldn’t inspire a dropped pie. Labour are too busy fighting themselves and have a talent pool shallower than a car park puddle at Alice Springs in summer.I think Trotter is being very unkind to Judith Collins to call her far-right. I wonder if Trotter knows she used to be a Labour party member? He might like to ask her why she left the Labour party. The answer might surprise him.

What, then, are the economic and social forces currently influencing New Zealand society that could enable Peters and NZ First to give the forthcoming general election a populist tinge?

Essentially, they are the same forces that drove the United States into the arms of Donald Trump: fear of the “other”, and the hollowing out of the heartland.

The ethnic composition of the New Zealand population has changed so dramatically since the mid-1980s that native-born New Zealanders no longer regard their social and economic ascendancy as unassailable. Although Peters has yet to give unapologetic voice to these racial anxieties, their potential to deliver the coup de grace to an already faltering bi-partisan consensus on population policy is undeniable.

Trotter is onto something there, the provinces aren’t happy with National. They are conservative and they see National as Labour-lite. They will deliver a potential extra 5% to Winston Peters.

What populist worthy of the name could have viewed the shocking video footage of an angry young Maori woman abusing a pair of young Muslim women stretching their legs at Huntly and not drawn the all-too-obvious conclusions about the volatility of race-relations in contemporary New Zealand?

It is, moreover, very likely that the young Maori woman’s anger was fuelled by more than racial animus. It’s highly probable that envy was also a factor.

I’d say race or envy has nothing to do with it. More likely she was fueled by meth and booze. Occam’s Razor suggests that as the real reason for the feral behaviour. It was Huntly after all.

For those whose lack of education and skills keeps them trapped in declining provincial communities, the presence, however fleeting, of young professionals from metropolitan New Zealand can only remind them of all the things they seek but cannot find: employment, income, accommodation, mobility, freedom … and a future.

It is a potent political cocktail just waiting to be mixed.

Except those people can’t even be bothered to vote…and if it’s raining on polling day…well…

Take, ‘Immigrants willing to work for ridiculously low wages preventing ordinary Kiwis from accessing well-paying jobs’. Add, ‘Big cities – particularly Auckland – sucking up the nation’s scarce resources and leaving New Zealand’s provincial heartland starved of everything from decent roads and railways to policemen able to respond when called’. Shake vigorously and decant into the nearest polling-booth.

This is bullshit, with respect Chris. We have a minimum wage law so immigrants can’t work for ridiculously low wages. What they do do though is…work. We have an indigent class of people who are simply too lazy to work and they’re rewarded by a generous set of what they describe as “entitlements” from the welfare state. Many immigrants come from countries where there is no welfare and so have a work ethic that far exceeds some of our bludgers.

Peters delivered the latter ingredient straight to the voters of Northland in March 2015. Mixed with the former, and garnished with the bitter fruit of homelessness and poverty, he would have a political cocktail of unprecedented potency.

The only question that remains is: will Peters mix it?

Is our political culture as irredeemably divided as America’s? Are our core institutions as bereft of competent defenders? Is Winston Peters as blinded by ignorance and narcissistic self-regard as President Trump?

Personally, I do not think so. If the drumbeat is Peters, Peters, Peters – it’s unlikely to accompany our collective march to the scaffold.

Winston Peters is perhaps New Zealand’s most consummate politician. Sure, he’s a trougher and he’s got more positions on any issue than the Kama Sutra, but the fact he keeps getting elected election after election says that he deserves his place in the parliament.

 

– Bowalley Road

 


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