Now he really is able to sell himself to whoever will give the most for his services. He is well-used to this role and he knows that both Labour and National really haven’t got a bottom line when dealing with him.
Both have already demonstrated that when Peters finds a target to denigrate – Chinese, Asians in general, Muslims, non- white immigrants, asylum lead the target groups so that he can get his 5 per cent – that they still have no principled objection to inviting him into a government. Thus National and New Zealand First joined hands in 1996, despite declared enmity and mutual loathing beforehand, and Labour invited Peters into government in 2005. The leopard has not changed its spots at any time.
I asked Labour’s Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter in 2005 why given his role he did not express his revulsion at Peters’ anti- immigrant rants and vicious and unsubstantiated attacks, using parliamentary privilege, on individual Iraqi migrants . His answer: we may need him to form the next government. The blatant racism used by Peters, and his reactionary baggage in general, was not enough to debar him from a coalition with Labour. And the dance with him has begun again at the 2014 election approaches , with Labour and the Greens avoiding criticism of their potential coalition partner.
Before the 2008 election when Peters’ stocks were at a low ebb with the public because of his dissembling over party funding , and National was lining up Act, United Future and the Maori Party and even flirting with the Greens , John Key was able to disown Peters and appear to be acting on principle by refusing to entertain a coalition with him.
How things have changed! Now with Banks headed for the proverbial dustbin of history and Dunne and the Maori Party looking as though they will be consigned there as well , John Key and “I will not accept the baubles of office” Peters are eying each other up. This will make Labour even more desperate to stay on his good side.
And the Greens? Although they know Peters’ has them in his sights because they are his competitor for Labour’s affections, they have sent signals before that they could work with a right wing party.
Thus at the 2011 election they would not rule out a coalition with National. This reflected the underlying philosophy of the Green Party that capitalism is a system that doesn’t need a fundamental transformation but can be prettied up by having capitalists forego the requirement of remorseless capital accumulation and by using ‘green technology” to somehow create a sustainable capitalist system. Thus by a wave of the coalition wand and platitudes about sustainability the Greens could have happily placed themselves in a government with a right-wing party committed to driving back progressive social ,economic and environmental gains achieved over decades.
In the last 2 years John Key thought he didn’t need the Greens who had become locked in (seemingly) with Labour. And thus a war of words began. But as the 2014 t election looms both these parties which have no policies that in any way fundamentally challenge the social and economic system we live in, may rediscover that they can work together. Particularly if the price for Peters working with Labour is to shut out the Greens.
This coalition dancing between the parties demonstrates the fact that Labour and the Greens do not have a coherent set of progressive economic, social and environmental policies which will transform New Zealand and begin to redistribute wealth from the top to the bottom.
The Greens, however, still claim that they are neither left nor right and that of course leaves them nicely in the middle to p lay with both sides. At present though, their strongest bet is a coalition with Labour. But what to do if the price of that is also coalescing with New Zealand First? Are the Greens going to say here and now that they will not have a bar of a party which uses xenophobia as a key tool for votes and whose basic economic and social policies are reactionary to the core? Will they tell Labour that they do not want a coalition where right-wing parties can set the agenda and in which they become prisoners .
Dunne’s resignation as a prelude to his political demise in 2014 leaves National without an obvious coalition ally. Both Labour and the Greens need to tell progressive voters whether New Zealand First with all its reactionary baggage will be their coalition partner. If the answer is yes then they will not have my vote.