Prime Minister Winston Peters is possible, moots Hoots

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.

Yet Mr Peters hasn’t even got started yet. His attacks on immigration have so far been muted compared with what is to come and he is now able to speak with a new authority on the subject, being proven to have had a point for at least 20 years and now being tacitly endorsed by every major party including even the Greens.

Looking ahead, Mr Peters can be confident of outperforming Mr Little and Labour finance spokesman Grant Robertson in his criticisms of next week’s Budget. His henchman Shane Jones leaves his role at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade this month to join the party. There is talk of a vote-winning economic development plan for the regions, facilitated in part by progressively closing Ports of Auckland and thereby also removing container trucks from Auckland’s roads and beautifying its waterfront.

Through all this, expect Mr Peters’ language to be quite left-wing, to attract predominantly Labour voters.

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.

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. Like his namesake Sir Winston Churchill in 1952, Mr Peters would see himself as mentoring his young queen as she grew into the role.

Under the circumstances towards which Mr Little appears to be leading them, why on earth wouldn’t Ms Ardern and her colleagues go for it?

Winston will not go with Labour because it means going with the Greens.   Which destroys this little mind exercise.


– Mathew Hooton, NBR

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