Whether John Key or David Cunliffe gets to be Prime Minister after 20 September could well hinge on the decision as to who will be the New Zealand High Commissioner to London after the 2017 election.
The old warhorse Winston Peters will be planning his exit from politics and what better way than handing over the leadership of New Zealand First to Ron Mark at the 2017 election before heading off on the ultimate junket for three years – New Zealand High Commissioner in London from 2017.
It’s a BS role full of cocktail parties, social page engagements, rubbing shoulders with the world’s elites – where the food is great, the alcohol flows free, the expense account is unlimited and responsibilities near zilch.
It’s the ultimate Garden of Eden for politicians on their last legs. The equivalent of being turned out to pasture.
Labour’s Minister of Wine and Cheese Jonathan Hunt took the job after finishing as speaker of parliament – the same path as now taken by National’s Lockwood Smith. Both of them say how important the job is in promoting New Zealand wines to Britain. The only problem for Winston is there may not be enough life left in his liver to take up this final challenge.
My pick is that unless there are dramatic shifts in the polls over the next few weeks Winston Peters will be negotiating his exit from politics with John Key or David Cunliffe after 20 September and whichever can give him the best package will become PM.
Nothing of this will be put in writing of course but such a nod and a wink arrangement will be sealed one way or another.
Most commentators expect Peters to go with National as he did in New Zealand’s first MMP election in 1996 and it’s easy to see why. Peters has always been an unstable mix of grumpy populism but at heart he is a traditional conservative. He entered politics as a National Party MP and he will almost certainly end his political career supporting a National government – provided of course National gives him a sweet deal to exit at the 2017 election.
When he was out of parliament from 2008 to 2011 he wasn’t missed – and he won’t be missed when he finally leaves. New Zealand First has always been about Winston and Winston has always been about Winston. No loss to New Zealand politics.