Smart Nats and tone deaf Labour assemble negotiations teams

Patrick Gower writes:

The political parties are beefing up their backroom teams to woo Winston Peters.

I’ve been talking to multiple and senior sources inside all the camps and have the lowdown.

Winston Peters will have his best mate and long-time confidante, Auckland lawyer Brian Henry working his corner throughout this process.

Henry has been at Peters’ side during multiple negotiations and court cases – and their relationship is like that of brothers.

Brian is a bloody top bloke. He is also my lawyer.

You might assume Steven Joyce would be there but you’d be wrong… Peters hates him – and Joyce knows it, so he has already stood aside.

Taking his place is Gerry Brownlee – he and Peters have what’s been described as a “mutual fondness and respect” by a National insider.

Trade Minister Todd McClay is in the team because his father Roger McClay was one of Peters’ top advisers.

Interestingly, Todd McClay took Peters to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU last year. Don’t be surprised if you see a EU/UK trade negotiating position offered to Peters by National.

Wayne Eagleson is Bill English’s chief of staff – but he actually quit today. He says he’ll stick around for the talks, but it may be that Peters blames him for the leaking of his pension over-payment details and Eagleson may have to step aside.

That is a bloody smart move by National. Todd McClay is the son of Winston’s long time bagman. Gerry is a good operator and Eagleson is good at negotiations. Notably Paula Bennett was chucked off National’s team this morning.

Labour though have made a mistake.

Labour has David Parker, who Peters says is the MP from another party that he respects the most. They have similar brains and philosophies – and could genuinely work together.

Annette King is also being lined up. She is respected by all, including Winston, who will consider her appointment a mark of respect to him.

And talking about respect, Labour are considering bringing in Sir Michael Cullen – the former deputy Prime Minister and finance minister, who Winston Peters worked in Government with.

Labour’s big mistake is involving Cullen. It was people like Michael Cullen who cost Helen Clark her place as NZ’s first female PM. Their arrogance in 1996 was the reason Winston Peters walked across the hallway and signed up with National.

I’d say early advantage to National.




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