The Strange Case of Winston Peters and Mr Hyde

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IT IS DIFFICULT to know whether Winston Peters’ constitutional brinkmanship will harm or hurt his NZ First Party. If nothing else, it proves he still has the ability to put himself in the centre of the political frame – if only for a single news cycle. And, that, in a nutshell is his and NZ First’s problem. Like Dr Jekyll’s restorative potion, the efficacy of Peters’ political medicine declines with overuse. Every time he takes on the character of Mr Hyde it grows harder to break free of his clutches. Looking into the ugly face of Peters’ destructive alter-ego, as Jacinda Ardern was forced to do only yesterday (16/8/20) afternoon, is not an experience she will be in a hurry to repeat.

Would he really have pulled the pin on the coalition which he, more than anyone, had pulled together? Would he really have informed the Governor-General that he and his party had lost confidence in the Prime Minister, and that, consequently, she no longer commanded a majority in the House of Representatives? And, if so, to what end? Because, as the PM reminded the journalists gathered in the Beehive Theatrette this morning – with just the faintest hint of a grin – that would have precipitated a … general election! And isn’t that where we all came in?

The ultimate futility of Peters’ gesture’s notwithstanding, it would certainly have placed the Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy, in a pretty pickle. Her pickle jar would be nothing like as uncomfortable, however, as Peters’. If the G-G bowed to his demand for Jacinda’s majority to be tested in the House, then he would have convince both Judith Collins and David Seymour to back his No-Confidence motion. And, if she didn’t, then he would look like a fool – and a treacherous fool at that!

Not that either National or Act would have had anything at all to gain by unseating New Zealand’s enormously popular prime minister. At best, they would gain themselves a few more weeks before New Zealand’s electoral law put an end to their fun. And then? Oh dear! The voters’ retribution would be swift and terrible. Bill English’s 20.9 percent would look like the good old days! Act’s hard-won fight to breach the 5 percent threshold would have all been for nothing.

Obviously, they wouldn’t have agreed to participate in Peters’ political suicide pact. Which the NZ First leader must have known even as he made public his thinly-veiled threatening letter to the PM. So, if his threat was never credible, why make it? Why remind both Labour and the general public of just what a volatile, irresponsible and generally unreliable political force NZ First always ends up becoming? Why reduce his party’s already negligible chances of re-election to the vanishing point? What was the man thinking?

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Perhaps there was never any real intent to pull the pin. Perhaps he was actually relying upon the PM to do exactly what she did. Why else include the date of 17 October in his letter, if only the 21 November date would do? Peters certainly lost little time in “welcoming” the PM’s decision:

“New Zealand First is pleased that common sense has prevailed. We were concerned that the Covid outbreak had the effect of limiting campaigns to an unacceptably short period until overseas and advance voting begin if the General Election was held on September 19.”

Ah, yes, “common sense”. How could we have forgotten Winston “Handbrake” Peters and his inexhaustible supply of common sense?

Except that there was nothing even vaguely resembling common sense attached to Peters actions over the past 48 hours. What was on display, for all those with the wit to interpret it, was a stunt.

The NZ First leader understood his coalition partner well enough to know that she was bound to meet the electorate half-way between 19 September and 21 November. There was simply no way Jacinda was going to be seen giving in to the demands of either himself or Judith Collins – so it had to be 17 October. Not that the near-certainty of the PM announcing a one month extension was going to keep Peters quiet. Not when there was an opportunity to whip-up a full-blown constitutional brouhaha; a media-titillating bagatelle; out of which he could step triumphantly as the stern guardian of New Zealand’s democratic traditions. Or, something like that.

From the perspective of the PM and the Labour Party, however, Peters’ stunt must have looked like the act of an ageing and increasingly reckless circus sharpshooter. A complicated trick, undertaken in front of a live audience, and featuring a loaded gun with an unreliable safety-catch. The bemused audience may never have realised the danger it was in, but the sharpshooter’s fellow performers did. They’ve all seen how badly things can go wrong, and who always ends up paying the price.

For the Prime Minister and her Labour colleagues, Peters’ Mr Hyde-act may have finally worn out its welcome. In the guise of Dr Jekyll, the NZ First leader is everything a party could wish for in a coalition partner. As Mr Hyde, however, he is a frightful companion. Those who have read Robert Louis Stevenson’s cautionary novella already know how the story ends. If Peters’ fellow performers decide not to wait around for his battered old rifle’s safety-catch to fail – who could blame them?

More bluntly: if Peters’ cynical display of faux constitutional outrage isn’t enough to persuade Jacinda Ardern to dispense with NZ First’s services as a coalition partner, post 17 October, then she is not the shrewd judge of the electorate’s wishes that everything she has accomplished to date proclaims her to be.

A Labour-Green government, without encumbrances. Now, that would be the very best kind of October surprise!

 

21 COMMENTS

  1. I understand the bloodlust of the right, who would eat their own grandfather if he was served up with the right chardonnay, but seeing the so-called Left pile into the feeding frenzy makes me sick to my stomach. If it were not for Jacinda herself, I would not want to vote for a party that seems to attract this element.

    • AAARRRggghh! I have just now seen Winston calling for govt “heads to roll” over border testing “failures”. Damn, I am so disappointed in him. He’s now effectively working with Ms Collins to unsettle the govt, and Madame in turn has a renewed gleam in her eye. Seems Chris T. was right after all.

  2. I’m looking forward to him doing it again shortly but this time, he’ll follow through.
    Election 2020 in 2021!

    • Now that El Comandante Heir Generale Winston Peters and Ron Marks have stepped into the breach, they’ll be getting more airtime! And most probably an increased Covid NZ Defence Force, Miliary Election Campaigning Fighting Fund from whats left of the $60b budget!

  3. “Would he really have informed the Governor-General that he and his party had lost confidence in the Prime Minister, and that, consequently, she no longer commanded a majority in the House of Representatives?”
    In the context of the article this looks like this must be what he said in his letter, but I couldn’t find it when I googled the letter.
    https://www.scribd.com/document/472594090/Letter-to-PM-Re-Election-Date-2020#from_embed
    It would seem that there is a lot of faith in the govt. and health service getting on top of this outbreak and preventing another one.
    D J S

      • You can infer anything from anything on that basis. It says nothing about informing the G G about anything. Only about making the position of the party set out in the letter public.
        D J S

  4. Chris you must be aware Winston is one of the oldest long serving politicians in parliament and has endured many shit-storms the media has thrown at him and has won the label of being “the come back kid” so it will be the same this time because the centrist among us all are just a little worried at the current direction of the modern youth “idealist” section of the Green Party which I joined in 1998 when it was formed but now hate the direction is has taken which has lost its core beliefs to save the environment against climate change and toxic poisoning.

    Winston had taken on the policies of the old Green party and setup the RONI transport policy “Rails of national importance” of saving NZ rail and balancing rail again with less road transport and he fought to lower electricity cost for the consumer, and pushed for all Government buildings to use environmentally friendly ‘woolen carpets’, among just a few public issues Green party turned there back on.

    Don’t count Winston :the comeback kid out”

  5. It’s all very amusing, Chris, but in the real world there is going to be an October ‘surprise’* that will demolish most of the globalised economic system. And the ‘idiots’ who pretend things are going to return to how they were in the past, or even continue as they have in recent days, won’t have a leg to stand on.

    * Not a surprise at all, really, since people who have been keeping their eyes on resources, pollution, environmental changes, overpopulation and fraudulent money creation have been waiting for collapse to occur for a number of years, and have been surprised that ‘the powers that be’ have been able to stave it off for such a long time. But not this time -the rot is too deep, and has done too much damage.

    Of course there is the possibility that the October surprise will occur in September, just to keep everyone on their toes!

    ‘Japan’s economy suffers record slump after Covid hit’

    ‘Japan’s recession has stretched to nine months after the world’s third biggest economy suffered a record-breaking drop in activity of almost 8% in the second quarter of 2020.

    Falling household consumption was the main reason behind the contraction, with the postponement of the Olympics and weak demand for Japan’s manufacturing goods additional drags on growth.

    Although the 7.8% quarterly reduction in gross domestic product was the steepest decline since comparable modern records began in 1980, Japan has performed less badly than other G7 countries during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Official figures released by the government in Tokyo showed that action taken to combat the spread of the pandemic had taken its toll on consumer spending but business investment had held up relatively well.

    By comparison, the UK economy shrank by 20.4% in the three months to June – comfortably the worst performer of the G7 group of industrialised nations. Of the remaining members, the US contracted by 9.5%, Germany by 10.1%, Italy by 12.4% and France by 13.8%. A flash estimate put Canada’s decline at 12%’

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/17/japan-economy-suffers-record-slump-after-covid-hit

    ‘Household finances in UK weaken as jobs gloom takes hold’

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/aug/17/household-finances-fell-sharper-in-august-than-july-amid-unemployment-fears

    ‘The ‘V’ Is Over – Empire Manufacturing Survey Slumps In August As New Orders Decline’

    https://www.zerohedge.com/political/v-over-empire-manufacturing-survey-slumps-august-new-orders-decline

    ‘India’s invisible catastrophe: fears over spread of Covid-19 into poor rural areas
    Country is entering a dangerous new phase of rising infections in small towns and villages with limited access to healthcare’

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/aug/17/indias-invisible-catastrophe-fears-over-spread-of-covid-19-into-poor-rural-areas

    ‘Global report: alarm over Covid case rates in 19 European countries
    Countries cross threshold for cumulative 14-day totals, with Spain particularly worrying’

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/17/global-report-alarm-over-covid-case-rates-19-european-countries

    ‘Rolling Blackouts Expected Today For 3.3 Million California Households’

    https://www.zerohedge.com/commodities/rolling-blackouts-prolonged-heatwave-and-fiery-tornados-sends-california-brink

    Etcetera, etcetera….

    • Read the letter linked above Snow white. He didn’t ” do it”. His letter was perfectly mild and reasonable and any of us might have written it.
      D J S

  6. Excellent Post @ CT.
    It’s my opinion that peters , perhaps not so metaphorically, was given a plush arm chair, now sliding about on the deck of a sinking ship, from which he could wield his Machiavellian spells upon us while the benefactors of neoliberal machinations who put him there have made off with our stuff and things.
    The Cook Islands/Citi Bank/ Paradise Conspiracy/bnz scam was a spanner in the works but winnie was in there like a Terrier on a mouses nest to nip in the bud and to deflect and dispel any inquiry with the old ” Right! I’ve been in there, sniffed around, nothing to see here, move along. ” tactic which, it can’t be denied has tanked our economy from what it certainly could have been and sent many fellow AO/NZ’ers into the streets of a little city built on financial logical fallacies. A city that’s nothing more than a plaything for the deviant riche.
    But now? That’s gone. The neoliberal deep state is soon to drag peters out of his arm chair and throw him overboard along with the other rats who’ve already made the jump.
    Crooks like fay/richwhite/gibb/heart etc, to name a few, are gone. They’re done, plumped up with our money and without a doubt hoping to Christ all this silliness will simply blow over and go away.
    Can someone close to peters ask him what it was, exactly, that he was talking to don brash about while taking tea outside that cafe in that infamous photograph? A photograph I first saw here, on TDB.

    • Chris this is in support of Winston as today we have another border incursion that Winston had warned us of on 13th. Good work Winston.
      HISTORY;

      Winston was tipped off on 13th Aug and the infected worker was sick on 11th and was tested for Covid 19 and the positive results come back on 16th and he was quarantined to Jet Park that very day.
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/122479855/coronavirus-one-covid19-case-under-investigation-not-linked-to-cluster
      Coronavirus: One Covid-19 case ‘under investigation’ not linked to cluster
      Brittany Keogh12:49, Aug 18 2020

      Winston was telling the truth, Government should apologise to him for dismissing his warning he sent on 11th August.
      https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/winston-peters-claims-current-auckland-covid-19-cluster-linked-quarantine-breach
      Winston Peters claims current Auckland Covid-19 cluster could be linked to quarantine breach
      THU, AUG 13 • SOURCE: 1 NEWS

      Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has claimed the current Auckland cluster could be linked to a breach in New Zealand’s quarantine system.

      Four people from one South Auckland family tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday, with that cluster growing to 17 today.
      New Auckland cluster linked to quarantine breach, Winston peters alleges
      Play Video10:01
      The Deputy Prime Minister said he was informed following a tip-off from a journalist. Source: ABC Australia

      Mr Peters said he was given the information by a New Zealand journalist, who he said was “usually very reliable”.
      “It wasn’t an official, I found out from somewhere else, but I think there’s been a breach inside our quarantine system,” Mr Peters said in an interview with Australian news channel ABC.

      He said while “a lot of the conversation and a lot of the narrative is speculation,” the country should know “the exact details of what happened”.
      “I think, when that comes out very shortly, in a matter of maybe less than a day, we’ll find out that was the case, but you don’t always find out from your officials, you don’t always find out from the experts -it’s something you sort of find out by contact with other people,” he said.

      Mr Peters questioned New Zealand’s stringent measures to contain the virus at the border after the outbreak.

      “We went hard and we went early, but the question is, did we go hard enough and ensure that the policing, that the scrutiny and the quarantine was as tight as it could have been? And we need to know that,” he said.

      Auckland, where the initial four cases are based, went under Level 3 lockdown at noon yesterday. The rest of the country is currently operating under Level 2 restrictions.

      A further 13 people were announced to have tested positive for Covid-19 today.
      Prime Minister’s office unaware of Winston Peters’ claims Covid-19 outbreak came from quarantine breach
      Play Video02:02
      The Deputy Prime Minister made the claim on an Australian news channel. Source: 1 NEWS

      He said an investigation into the potential breach “should have been done by officials a long time ago. Hours and hours ago.”

      Mr Peters said they will find out the results of the investigation by around 2pm tomorrow.
      Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s office told 1 NEWS that they did not know what Mr Peters was referring to with the claims.

      The Ministry of Health told 1 NEWS in a statement, “Dr Bloomfield was asked about the source of the outbreak at the stand up today and said that was something we were still investigating.”

      Hence; My vote goes to labour and NZF.

    • Yes countryboy started to wonder if the Cook Islands Winebox thing was smoke and mirrors – there seemed to be something like that going on a little while ago and I thought – what? Lust (for money, tax evasion and ‘smart’ deals) never sleeps I think – one should remember the trickster temptation in most of us. Auckland – deviant rich – were we supposed to be a milder Macau or such?

    • Country Boy you are – The Rt. Hon. Winston Peters is not a “ neoliberal advocate “ , and neither is the NZ First Party. Open your eyes and pay attention to what “ Sir WP “ says, my fellow voter

  7. Ooh yes a new Coalition with the corners cleaned out to remove the fruit that has gone off and sits rotting in the corner. Into the compost with it, where it gets turned into a useful product for elsewhere. I wonder where that would be? Grand-standing is done in stadiums, stadiums are expensive, and we need to put our efforts into building a strong, resilient, caring, practical (and fun-living) country.

    Now that would be worth celebrating, we don’t need to fight ‘Them’ on the beaches or to use a stadium; we could pay a farmer to use some of his land and have a NZ Woodstock – all sitting 1 metre from each other. A new clap could be invented to show levels of enthusiasm; and NOT the SOS – 3 quick taps, 3 slow, 3 quick. We could all sing along with Freddy Mercury or one of our wonderful musicians something like ‘We are the Champions’! Think positive, act straight and Bob’s your uncle!

    • The Chinese will be planing for taking more control of our Government when Green Party open up the love boat to the world.

    • We’re not trying to sell used cars. We want support parties that can fit into Labours stratospheric orbit.

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