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Heather Roy's Diary: What If I Don't Want Winston?

Heather Roy's Diary

But What If I Don't Want Winston?

Parliament resumes next week after a four-week recess amidst speculation as to the election date. The Prime Minister pretends that she is keeping us guessing but she is simply wavering in the face of hostile polls. So much time has elapsed that we are now coming close to the last possible date, which is 24 September. However, most people (including me) are working towards 17 September as the most likely date for the election.

There is also a lot of speculation as to who is going to win the election. Many political commentators are behaving more like sports commentators, excitedly telling us that Don Brash has overtaken Helen Clark on the home straight. The problem with this rather narrow view of politics is that the debate then goes on to post election coalitions. At this point things get really ugly, as the question becomes who gets to marry Winston Peters? He is, of course, playing the part of the reluctant bride for all it's worth and recently called a press conference at which he pretended to be taking a call from Helen Clark on a red cellphone and a call from Don Brash on a blue cellphone. That this ridiculous charade was carried as a "news" item by the media is testament to the shallowness of the election coverage so far.

The problem from ACT's point of view is that everyone thinks that Peters will be the king or queenmaker, which assumes that the election will deliver a government containing NZ First regardless of other parties' vote. Under this scenario a vote for Labour, National or NZ First is a vote for Peters, and yet there has been virtually no debate as to whether or not this is a desirable outcome.

The last government containing NZ First was nasty, brutish and short. Foremost among its critics were Richard Prebble and Rodney Hide, and from their experience opposing them they have made some predictions as to what Peters will do next. Here are a few quotes from a recent speech by Rodney Hide on the subject:

"Winston is a conservative. He doesn't change governments he modifies them. Against all expectation he went with Jim Bolger the last time he had a choice. This time he will stick with Helen Clark.

"That will suit Winston. He's lazy. Going in to form a new government with the National party would be hard work because there is no experience, there are no ministers in place and it would have to be all set up from scratch. Going with Helen Clark will be a piece of cake. The machinery is all in place and better still, Helen Clark's ninth floor machine will look after his MPs as ministers, and they will need a lot of looking after, as he won't do it. So that will suit him.

"He will demand his policies and Helen Clark will give them to him. Why? Because she is desperate to be the first ever and only Labour Prime Minister elected three times to office. That is her goal and she doesn't care beyond that. She will give him anything. But there's also the policy match. Winston is a big spending interventionist. Her policies square more easily with Winston's. She can easily give him his pension promise - she made a similar one in 1999, she can agree to the Treaty changes (after she won't have the Maori seats to contend with!), and she has already shown a preparedness to match her policy to Winston's on immigration".

And here are Richard Prebble's thoughts on the subject:

"Peters, like his supporters, thinks everyone is conspiring against him. He has spent years thinking about the failure of his coalition, which he partly puts down to independently minded, Dirty Dog- wearing, Maori constituency MPs. He has vowed to never have them again. Hence his decision not to contest the Maori seats even though the success of the Maori party shows NZ First would have done well. Peters also blames National who he believes broke its word and are untrustworthy.

"Peters has been a minister twice. Both times it has almost destroyed him. As Minister of Maori Affairs his personal popularity went into free fall. He blamed the "dry" policies of Finance Minister Ruth Richardson. He determined next time to be Finance Minister. He was and his popularity fell again. He survived by just 34 votes in 1999. Commentators have speculated Peters will do a United Party and refuse to join the government. Being outside government has not saved United and Dunne has now said he wants to be in the cabinet. Peters himself is all about power, perks and prestige; he hates the backbenches and longs for ministerial power and prestige".

As I go around the country it is clear there is a mood for change. Giving both votes to National is not going to achieve this change. It might deliver a National-NZ First government, which will be chaos. But it's more likely to deliver a Labour-NZ First government - big spending, high tax and more of Helen Clark's social agenda.

A taxi driver said to me last week, "I've always been National but this time my wife and I are voting strategically because we need ACT too".

As we travel around New Zealand we're finding that many people are still confused MMP. To guarantee the change that Kiwis are saying they want, the Electorate Vote must go to the bigger party and the Party Vote to the smaller party that will support the key policies you want. The Party Vote should go to the party you believe in, to get the government you want. Winston Peters and Peter Dunne refuse to say who they'll support. ACT will support National to guarantee change.


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