GUEST BLOG: Ben Peterson – The truth about Winston Peters.



After 8 years of Prime Minister John Key has stepped down. Bill English will be the new PM but an election is due next year. The sudden departure of Key leaves a political space that must be filled. All politicians will be trying to make the most of this unexpected opportunity, and chief among them will be NZ longest serving MP- Winston Peters.

There are many myths surrounding Peters. For some people, these myths can make his party (NZ First) appear like a project for a new, more progressive politics in New Zealand. The truth is very different. NZ First isn’t committed to protecting New Zealand from powerful foreign interests. And it’s certainly got no meaningful claim to supporting governments of the left. NZ First is a contradictory collection of individuals around the personal ambition of Winston Peters.

So, Winston might be an entertaining politician, but he is no friend of working people.

The Peters Myth vs Reality

The Winston Peters myth is constantly evolving, but he often likes to paint himself as a political outsider. Winnie likes to portray himself as straight talking, and standing up to the establishment. To give him credit, the fact he can sometimes pull this off is a master class in political spin. The reality is, Winston Peters has more claim to being the political establishment as any other New Zealand MP. He is the country’s longest serving MP, and has been a minister three times, including being Treasurer between 1996-1998 and Foreign Minister between 2005-2008.

While Winston wants to appear to be the chief critic of economic neoliberalism and NZ being a pawn in American imperialism, while serving as a minister he failed to make any dramatic departures from political mainstream. He has had his opportunity to raise an alternative, but has failed to do so.

It is important to judge politicians based on their actions, not just their words. The more you look at Winston’s record, the larger the gap between perception and reality.

TDB Recommends

For some activists, NZ First’s stance against the TPPA has given them some credibility. NZ First has publicly stated concerns about the effect the TPPA would have on working conditions in NZ. While it is true that NZ First has generally been economically nationalist, concern for working people is a new phenomenon. It needs to be remembered that NZ first supported the employment contracts act in the 1990’s. This directly led to an assault on the wages and conditions of working people and the Union movement. Today, NZ First maintains a policy to create provisions for permanent ‘casual’ employment, which would bring back and re-legalise Zero Hour contracts.

To build a mass following, NZ First has tried to channel something darker- xenophobia. Winston Peters consistently appeals to racial divisions to further his own career. Peters has been one of the most vocal critics of ‘Maori privilege’, and consistently blames the Auckland housing crisis and unemployment on migration.

It’s nonsense.Rather than being privileged- Maori are over represented in prison and unemployment numbers. Housing prices increases and unemployment stem from changes in government policy going back to the 80’s, trends extend over decades, and cannot reduced to immigration. For Peters though, the facts don’t matter. It doesn’t need to make sense, it just needs to pander the the superficial fears of some voters. He has perfected this politics of fear.

Understanding this phenomenon is important for leftists for two reasons:

Firstly, false debate takes attention away from the real radical alternatives we need. To fix housing we need to take on big money investors. Most of which are Kiwis, not foreign investors.

Secondly, if the political conversation focuses on distractions, the solutions that working people need will not be discussed and fought for. It makes it harder to build a movement for change. This needs to be a movement that can provide solutions that work for the majority, not those with money. Working people are divided, it makes it harder to put the blame back on the root cause- a political and economic system that puts profit ahead of people.

Working Communities First

Aotearoa/New Zealand needs a new political project. There needs to be an alternative to the growing poverty and environmental destruction today- the world depends on it.

When building this bold vision for the future, do we want a former National MP with an axe to grind to be front and center? Do we need someone whose politics is self promotion, or do we need a new politics that promote ourselves?

Do we really want to trust a politician who tries to tell you that your problems are caused by your Maori and migrant neighbors, all the while he’s wining and dining with the racing industry and the rich?

Do we really believe a politician who’s been in parliament for 4 decades, been a minister three times, and took jobs with both Labour and National, when he tells us he stands for ordinary kiwis?

Is this the best that we can do? Some people, be they desperate or deluded, believe that it is. I beg to differ.

I believe that a movement of people in Aotearoa/New Zealand isn’t just possible, it’s necessary. I believe that it’s not important where you’ve come from, but what change you want to see. When ordinary people come together, another world is possible.

But that will only be possible if we don’t settle for bullshit and bullshit artists.


Ben Peterson is a Union Activist based in Auckland 


  1. Good to have someone reflecting on Winston and his impact on workers. By choosing to go with National in 1997 he extended the vicious attacks of the Employment Contracts Act and its impact on hundreds of thousands of workers. During Labour’s time he had the chance to address the situation for thousands of contractors not receiving minimum wage, but opposed it; and also transport workers getting tea breaks. I have a long memory.

  2. Good one Ben and timely. NZF has always been what you claim ie Winston’s baby. Anyone who has forgotten the bunch of dysfunctional clowns he brought in on his coat-tails needs to remind themselves that we don’t want that again.
    Winston took over from “Robs Mob” and is conservative through and through. To put it mildly ,his constituency is not progressive, they would be better described as grumpy old farts.

  3. I was aghast at the audacity of the players in the book ‘The Paradise Conspiracy’ by Ian Wishart. The SIS tried to burgle a retail business, Paul White was allegedly murdered for his audacious efforts at extorting money out of Citi Bank for floppy discs containing damning evidence of tax evasion by The Big NZ Players and on and on it went. Then, in came winston peters. A short arsed legal flea bellowing out the neck hole of his pin stripe suit jacket.
    Then? Nothing happened. I used to watch peters bleat and bombast. He’d lean into his words as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth as he blew out gales of bullshit. His promises of justice, his posturing and parading were the stuff of snake oil sales persons as he pounded the ear drums of the mortified as they swooned at the thought of a crooked BNZ, Citi Bank, the IRD and of how the SAS surely murdered a NZ citizen because the truth was just too big to let loose on the NZ Political/Banking system.

    I’ve never swayed in my opinion that winston peters is a Machiavellian shyster, liar and common crook paid to protect a cadre of rich swine made all the richer for the sale of our assets.

  4. Ministers come and go. It would be interesting to know the names and faces of the hard core civil “servants” who sit in the dark and give the Ministers their daily briefings.
    It’s time to nationalize our assets. What’s above, on and below the land is owned by right by the people of New Zealand.

  5. Ben – nailed it. I recall Peters in the late 90s, going into coalition with the Nats. He didn’t so much “drain the swamp” as rearrange the water-lilies floating in it. With himself sitting on one of those water-lilies as Treasurer.

    Peters loves his baubles.

  6. Winston has always been anti State Asset Sales that is why he left National and set up NZF. The reason he ended up in coalition with National was, he couldn’t get the co-operation of Jim Anderton and the Alliance Party to set up a joint coalition with Labour/NZF/Alliance.

    The coalition with National turned to shite, when Shipley rolled Bolger, and coerced a number of NZF MP’s to shift over to National including Tau Henare, Winston has worked well with Labour as a coalition partner subsequently.

  7. I am sorry Ben but your article reads more like a hit piece to me and you don’t
    need a trained eye to see it.

    What about Winston being one of the main instigators in ending the absurd
    price monopoly of Telecom for 15years or more and the bying back of Wellington airport.

    You have not said a word about the Gold Card that is his hard won legacy.

    You know, even though that Card has only half the benefits of its counterparts
    overseas, it is still a God Send to those pensioners that were ‘the workers’ in their
    old age and meant to be some small recognition of 40+ years of service to our

    I used to be a union delegate for many years and in my experience since the
    late eighties onward I observed the Union bosses started to act as if agents of
    the Employer instead of their paying clients. ie it seemed as if it was their job to
    sell/convince ‘the workers’ of the employers wishes instead of genuine
    representation of their members. A bit like you seem to be doing here.

    Then again,with Jonky gone,I suppose it is the start of the election campaign
    and we can expect more of the same to come.

    The MSM here I doubt will learn the lesson of the ‘Trump Effect’.
    ie; The more they bashed the man the more his popularity soared.

    The MSM is dead.The world has awoken.


  8. If the “left” wants a chance in this election, they’re going to have to work together, the greens and labour don’t have enough votes, they will need NZ1st to get a majority and judging by the way NZ1st did in the last election theres a good chance they will outperform the greens in this coming election. Sort it out. A coalition of the labour, greens and nz1st is clearly the solution to beating national. The people of NZ need unity strength and a common purpose in the political arena.

  9. ” The people of NZ need unity, strength and a common purpose in the political arena”

    The only way that is going to happen is when we have a strong, principled Labour party that turns its back on the current economic stranglehold and puts the interests of the poor, working poor, debt dependent middle classes and working people and the real welfare of children and the elderly and the independence and sovereignty of this country at the forefront of everything they do in government.

    The Labour party is supposed to be about Labour and the protection and advancement of that constituency and recognition of its contribution to the country and heavy load that kiwis are having to lift to create huge wealth for the few.

    The Labour party must lift its membership, donations, and appeal right across the country making it clear without doubt what it stands for and a plan to get there.

    Aiming for 30% and hoping Winston props them up is not going to achieve real change or deliver a government that has authority.

    Labour must get mass appeal and strong grassroots support to be the government of real hope and change.

    Winston has never supported real Labour policies or a change in the economic direction that we have now that is destroying New Zealanders lives and rights.

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