MUST READ: NZ First is a right-wing party. Always has been. Always will be.


THOSE VOTERS PLANNING to vote for Winston Peters should know they’ll also be voting for a National-led Government. NZ First’s recent actions make it very clear that the party will to do everything it can to secure a victory for the Right on 17 October. If NZ First’s contract with the “Bad Boys of Brexit” hasn’t persuaded the doubters that its fractious sojourn with Labour is over, then Peters’ threat (backed by National and Act) to precipitate a constitutional crisis if the election date wasn’t advanced, should have been more than enough to convince them.

Peters has built his political career on NZ First’s political ambiguity. Supposedly, his party is equally comfortable with the prospect of governing alongside either of the major parties. The last three years have proved all such claims spurious. NZ First is a right-wing party. Always has been. Always will be.

Why, then, did Peters throw in his lot with Labour and the Greens?

The simple answer is, because he has been deeply and repeatedly wounded by National’s mistreatment of him.

National’s bad behaviour goes all the way back to Jenny Shipley’s deliberate destruction of the National-NZ First Coalition in 1998. Ten years later there was the Right’s vicious campaign to drive Peters and his party out of Parliament. John Key played a crucial role in the demolition-job of 2008, but he had plenty of help. Right-wing business leaders, publishers, editors, and journalists, all of them weary of Clark’s long reign, were determined to prevent a repeat of 2005. Peters had to go – no ifs, no buts, no maybes. Nine years later, in 2017, there was the leaking of Peters’ NZ Superannuation over-payments. Although Peters failed to prove it in court, few doubt that National was, once again, responsible.

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That’s a lot of bad behaviour to forgive.

The other factor which weighed heavily in Peters’ 2017 decision to throw in his lot with Labour, was the latter’s almost comical unreadiness for office. The NZ First leader must have struggled to believe his luck. Here was a group of very young and very inexperienced politicians, who could easily become putty in his hands. After all, Michael Cullen, Mike Munro and Heather Simpson could hardly sit beside Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson at the Cabinet Table – could they? For a man of Peters’ shrewdness and political experience, a Labour-NZ First coalition promised to be a doddle.

And so it might have proved, had Brenton Tarrant and the Covid-19 virus not intervened. It’s always the things politicians don’t see coming that take them down. The Christchurch Massacres and the Covid-19 Pandemic thrust New Zealand’s young prime minister into dramas which the Spirit of History might have written especially for her! If she had ever been anybody’s catspaw (yes, I’m looking at you Grant!) she was nobody’s now. Instead of looking like Jacinda Ardern’s wise old grandpa, Peters peevish interference, and his constant grabbing for the handbrake, cast him, disastrously, as her wicked uncle.

And then there was NZ First, itself. A strange amalgam of Tory paternalism, right-wing racist bigotry and radical economic nationalism. Like nitro-glycerine, NZ First is extremely volatile and hard to handle. Shane Jones’ love affair with his own verbosity. Ron Mark’s love affair with the military. Tracey Martin’s love affair with Oranga Tamariki. Sometimes, miraculously, it all seemed to work. More often than not, however, NZ First comes across as a shambolic and ever-so-slightly shady collection of political eccentrics.

That’s nothing new, of course, the party has always been eccentric. Except that, in the past, Peters’ charisma and energy was there to steer his creation out of trouble. It’s 2020 now, and the years have taken their toll. The NZ First leader has had problems with his health, and, not to put too fine a point upon it, Peters is looking old. In 2020, steering NZ First out of trouble will not be so easy.

Hardly surprising, therefore, that the new breed of diplomats populating the US State Department had little difficulty in identifying the vulnerability of an ageing politician anxious to secure a respectable political legacy. From the perspective of Donald Trump’s gangsterish administration, Peters’ problem was easy to diagnose. What they were looking at was a once unbeatable mob boss on the way out. An old man surrounded by subordinates more interested in what’s going to happen when he’s gone than in what he wants them to do now. Someone in dire need of a little extra muscle. No problem. If there’s one thing the United States isn’t short of – it’s muscle!

When the moment comes, Washington will not be slow to put in a good word for the man who has done more to bed-in the USA’s new “Indo-Pacific Strategy” for containing China than anyone else in Jacinda Ardern’s uncomfortably pinkish government. From “Foggy Bottom”, Winston Peters and Judith Collins will look like a political match made in heaven. Regardless of whether it’s Trump or Biden who wins the presidential election, over the next decade the US State Department and the Pentagon have some very big plans for little New Zealand. As legacies go, Peters could hardly hope for better than making Aotearoa safe for America.

The late Bruce Jesson, alongside whom I co-edited NZ Political Review back in the 1990s, was convinced that Peters and NZ First could be relied upon to take up arms against the neoliberal revolution unleashed by Labour’s Roger Douglas and carried forward by National’s Ruth Richardson. While the former Social-Creditor and staunch economic nationalist, Terry Heffernan, was writing the party’s policies, Bruce’s optimism had some basis in reality. I was never so sure. It seemed to me that the true purpose of Peters’ flashing white smile was to distract New Zealanders from the darkness it lit up.

Sure enough, as the 1996 election approached, Heffernan was replaced by the former National Party MP, Michael Laws. By the time the voters started trekking to the polling booths, NZ First’s and National’s policies had become eminently compatible. When Peters announced that he was throwing in his lot with Jim Bolger, Bruce was shocked. I wasn’t. Furious? You bet! But not shocked.

NZ First is a right-wing party. Always has been. Always will be.


  1. Yup, and Chrisfran O’Trottervan and the Wage Slave Labour Party are also right-wing… how’s that QV and no CGT you hypocritical dinosaur?

  2. Winston First IS a right wing party Chris and indeed the decision last time was a forgone conclusion as a flipping of the bird to National.
    However, let’s be clear. Winnie is interested in whatever brings the greater glory to Winne.
    He would happily sign a deal with Labour again this time if it gave him the most “baubles of power”.
    I am not proposing that anyone vote for him. In fact I have my fingers crossed that both him and these so-called Greens will be gone this year.
    But let’s still be realistic about Winnie. His political leanings have almost no weight when he is offered a bigger trough by a potential coalition partner.

  3. Little bit simplistic, NZ First / Winston Peters is old time National, – before the 1984 neo liberal consensus. That’s why they have always had a problem with post 1984 National AND Labour. Essentially they are nationalists, both economically and ideologically. And they have had to work with either, and that explains the political ambiguity.

    It could be said broadly that Jim Anderton and New Labour / Alliance had the same problem. At a time when NZ was swamped by capitulating party’s and MP’s , these two stood out as the only viable alternatives for those who abhorred the neo liberal consensus.

    It could be said that greed got in the way , couldn’t it Chris. And that now we have the neo liberal virus well and truly embedded in govt dept’s and being the darling of small business, – let alone the foregone conclusion of large corporations. What happened in Hitlers Germany with the small party’s who opposed Nazism, Chris?,- they were swept aside by industrialists, groups like the Thule society and other powerful vested interest groups leaving no opposition.

    Even the so called right wing social democratic partys, all fell before the powerful vested interests of the time. Admittedly , we had no brownshirts, no brawling street-fights between communists and right wingers, no roving para militaristic groups , no Versailles treaty and punitive economic conditions,…

    But we DID have deregulation of core entity’s, we DID have anti democratic legislation passed which was clearly against the public’s will such as the Employment Contracts Act 1991, the banking industry , the Reserve Bank Act , the selling off to foreigners of essential public Utility’s for rock bottom prices ( which generations of New Zealanders paid for in taxes) the removal of tariffs which destroyed industry’s and created mass unemployment,…not to mention the destruction of the MOW and such entities as NZ Rail,…

    It is easy to forget with the passage of time just who actually were there at that time opposing all this.

    And really ,.. the only ones left were Winston Peters and Jim Anderton.

    Both from opposite sides of the political spectrum but both united against what they saw was a penultimate attack on the New Zealand way of life.

    ALL individuals and political party’s make mistakes. But to tar and feather an individual or party and forget to mention the contributions and the courageous stands they made in former days is wrong. There was,… quite a few years back an article I read that showed that under Rob Muldoon , and his govt ,… that they were more to the left then , …than the Green party is NOW.

    That is how far we have traveled to the far right.

    So in going in to bat for Peters and NZ First, – and Jim Anderton, I would just like to try to balance things out some, and recall past times.

    Simply because, at that time,… there was NO ONE ELSE who was doing any of the opposing of neo liberalism. None whatsoever. But don’t worry ,… I will be voting Greens and Labour. But that doesn’t mean to say I’m going to shit all over those who at least tried to oppose neo liberalism for current political expediency’s sake and herd ‘pile on’s’.

    And as far as I can see to date?

    There aint no one, – either Labour or National left in the field that is opposing neo liberalism.

    Not one of them.

    Bob Marley- don’t worry about a thing

    • Thanks for that WK
      I can only copy it. Not a matter of agreeing; what you have pointed out are the historical and contemporary facts.
      When a politician is the only one who does and consistently has stood alone in championing the policies and the ideals that you yourself consistently idealise , but you can’t bare to support him you have to depict him as a liar. So you can pretend he does not really intend to advance the policies he alone and in a minority party states his intention to advance.
      After the last election he said this…”

      Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism, not as their friend, but as their foe.

      And they are not all wrong.

      That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible – its human face. That perception has influenced our negotiations.

      We’ve had to make a choice, whether it was with either National or Labour, for a modified status quo, or for change. In our negotiations both National and Labour were presented with that opportunity.

      Working together, cooperating together, for New Zealand.

      We choose a coalition government of New Zealand First with Labour.”

      You can’t prove or disprove anyone’s intention when they don’t have the power of control , but in a democracy the best you can do is to vote for the one party that at least says it intends to do what you believe to be right and necessary and in your country’s interests.
      D J S

    • On this one we agree wild katipo.
      Winston is a child of the 50’s and 60’s the halcion days on egalitarianism in NZ. The best of times, created by Savage and Fraser, enhanced by Holland and Holyoake. Muldoon battled against change to protect it. Lange and Douglas destroyed it and strode off into the neo liberalism we have today. Winston seeks to return to those halcion days (as did Jim Anderton) and will go with who ever best suits on the day, Labour or National the die hards on both sides see him as a traitor because he is willing to do a deal which he believes will deliver.
      Now on his supporters, the boomers, they too grew up in those “best of times” he is their representative in the house of representatives. No other party is truely concerned about the boomers indeed most are devising tax schemes to their disadvantage. HE WILL SURVIVE.

    • Very salient, thanks I agree. Let’s not forget history, and even very recent history….we would not have Jacinda as leader if Winston chose otherwise and she is certainly no one’s cats paw she has well proved herself, by herself, not to be… and it is not crisis that has made her, rather she was able to prove her metal in the most trying times… most others did not… just look around at her fellow world leaders. I am sure Peter’s is not standing in the shadows knashing his teeth over that. And he has very good points about the Pacific nations that we have been too slow to support.

  4. Oh, and here’s some thing we never EVER get to see these days…

    National party PM Rob Muldoon, – and his wife, – mentor of Winston Peters, showing real class, egalitarianism and not one jot of fear.×800.1e19g9.png/1473291395090.jpg

    Compare that to the wimps, Chinese sell outs and scumbags in the National party today and you’ll get the drift.

    • Agreed 100% Wild Katipo.

      Winston has always talked at Party meetings that the National Party is now selling our country and he intends to reverse this. He said this strongly at the 2017 rally at Gisborne in front of a packed almost three hundred folks in the ‘Cosmopolitan club’ hall, this was true, as we were there and heard it for real.

      How is that RIGHT WING?????

  5. Winston has shown he does not care who he walks over to try and curry favour with the rednecks by calling for the gunman to be returned to Australia at a time when so many are hurting

  6. I am old enough to remember a very young sleazy looking Peters fronting Muldoon’s re-election campaign.
    As you say Chris:

    NZ First is a right-wing party. Always has been. Always will be.

    I would love to see it as a has been…

  7. Basically my thoughts are the same.
    The first thing that must be remembered is that NZ First is not a party that was formed by a people who came together with common ideologies – as did National, Labour, ACT and the Greens.
    NZ First was formed by Winston Peters as a reaction to changing personalities and policies within his own party (National) that he could no longer tolerate.
    He was, and still is, essentially a Muldoonist and his support comes mainly from conservative former National supporters who abhor the way National has sold out to foreign interests and free market principles.
    The fact that it has lasted longer and been more successful than other similar ventures is testimonial to Winston’s great charisma, political skill and ability to play on public opinion.
    NZ First was born and will die with Winston.
    Once Winston decides enough is enough, NZ First will quickly die without him as did Jim Anderton’s Progressives, United Future and the NZ Party (Bob Jones).

    • Yet Bob Jones ‘NZ Party’ was foundered solely on the premises of dethroning Rob Muldoon and the Keynesian consensus that NZ had adopted for at least 60 odd years. The plant was Roger Douglas of the Labour party ( and sitting board member of the London based Mont Pelerin society ).

      Once Bob’s party had divided Nationals vote, he consigned his own NZ Party to the political dustbins of history. It is a travesty tantamount to neo liberal partisan ship to not mention that fact.

      New Right Fight – New Zealand. Against the political New Right.

      Read this and learn.

      • I didn’t know that Douglas was in the Mount Pelerin bunch. Explains where he got his nifty ideas that have served him so well.

        • Yes, and he was more than just a member, he, along with Ruth Richardson, – were both active board members.

          And BOTH were in the key positions of Finance Ministers in both Labour and National. So it didn’t matter which party was voted in, – the neo liberal consensus was fixed.

          Nice bit of subversion going on there for the sake of their London based overlords, the Mont Pelerins.

  8. What a brilliant and lively post Chris T. I think you are a word Banksy, and have illustrated NZF brilliantly.
    What you expose with your bright spotlight illumination is uncomfortable stuff for the rest of us. Just thinking of us being a USA position in the South Pacific, is how Guam has been treated by them during the Covid-19 pandemic. They were in lockdown but a USA ship turned up, and upset the lockdown. You can’t call your soul your own once you are under the thumb of the super-powerful I think.

  9. NZ First are socially conservative and have utilized nationalism (racism) when needed to garner votes – however, economically they fall well to the left of Labour. It is NZ First that pushed for the rapid increase in the minimum wage and it is NZ First that argued for re-nationalizing partially privatized state assets. For these 2 key policies alone NZ First stands out and the impact of its minimum wage policy will be a direct lift in living standards for hundreds of thousands low skilled and low payed NZ workers of all racial backgrounds. For all their flaws (they have plenty as the article highlights) in terms of concrete policy they have done more for the working class then empathy or kindness, without policy, ever will. The Labour party’s overriding fear of being labelled anti-capitalist is the handbrake on trans-formative economic change not Winston Peters.

    • NZF are the only Party who represents the ‘aged community so you all pundits (exept for Wild Kitipo) missed the difference between the partties policy’s, so to you folks who want NZF gone the question comes up “who willl stand 100% for the aged community as they are a large voting group and need a solid voice to represent their health and well being too ?

  10. Peters was once seen by many as the elder statesman of NZ Politics but he’s destroyed that notion in recent months along with any hope he had of leaving behind a reputable legacy.

    The killer blow has been the blatantly obvious cynicism and vested interest he’s displayed since polling came out during the later part of the first lockdown that showed his baby (NZF) were history. The same poll signaled the end of Slime-on Bwidges. Since then Peters has done anything and everything to desperately try and gain traction and relevance. That even included undermining and shitting on his own Government that he is Deputy PM of. That was the end of Peters and NZF right there. His desperation and true colours were on the table for all to see. Many punters were prepared to believe the allegations about him and the NZF foundation etc etc were a hit job and just political revenge but Peters own desperate conduct made that all irrelevant….just like NZF and the man himself.

    Peters has proven he’d burn his own Government if there were a few votes in it for his party. With friends like that…….

    The best and most important thing he’s ever done is……choose Labour back in October 2017 but that had SFA to do with what was best for NZ. It was revenge and what was best for him and NZF.

    • “That even included undermining and shitting on his own Government that he is Deputy PM of.”
      Winston is not a member of the labour party JF. He is the leader of a different party and there is an election campaign in progress .
      D J S

  11. A good article Mr. Trotter. Love the ‘flashing white smile to distract the darkness’. Perhaps also applicable to Obama. Trump with his cosmetic false smile tries it unsuccessfully. For some reason I’m reminded of the song, ‘Never smile at a crocodile’.
    I had briefly thought about a party vote for NZ1st given Labour’s impending landslide victory until a friend remarked that Winston is good for entertainment value but little else. Thought about a party vote for the Greens but gifting (or is it grifting) over $11 million to a private school where the fees are up to $43,000 a year?
    No-Two ticks Labour is the only way to go.

  12. Tracey Martin’s gobsmacking collusion with the incompetent heartless mongrels who run Oranga Tamariki will not go unpunished.

  13. WTF Chris!? He put Labour into government twice and he’ll probably do it again if the price is right.
    Its a mistake National wont make twice if theyre in with a coalition ‘shot’.
    As usual, I wouldn’t be righting him off just yet. He’s got this habit …

  14. He’s neither right nor left. He’s a conservative and will use nationalism to further his interests.
    What Winstone is focused on is anti-liberalism, and that covers both right and left.
    That is why he has been successful. our political parties in Labour and National are so closely aligned right of centre.
    But you cannot define NZ political parties that easily, as economically they are both extreme right, but on social policies they are left right of centre.
    This is why commentary on left and right wing politics in NZ often fails to make sense, because they fail to distinguish between the different spectrum of left and right and the other dimension of conservative/ authoritarian/totalitarianism vs liberal across different policy platforms.

  15. God what a joke.
    Winston is not an anti neo liberal or against the free market. He is a conservative tory and the ” party left me i didn’t leave the party.
    He showed the fraud he really is when lied about getting rid of neoliberalisim then would not support the necessary tax reform advocated by Cullen at great expense to the tax payer that would have made a start in making the system fairer and sent the message that a real restructure of the economic settings was well overdue after 36 years of imbalance.
    A vote for NZ First is a vote for Judith unless she falls short and is no where near Labour after October 17th

  16. Wasn’t it 1993 when Winston held that rally at some horse racing track up in the north and said that we(then)were the last generation of NZers to own our own homes and we’d better get used to our kids and grandkids being terminal tennets to an increasingly absentee landlord class based from offshore and how the nation would be that much poorer for it.
    Oh how he was criticised for blowing dog whistles for rednecks and how he was reeling in the lowest common denominator by the media of the day for saying such things.
    I was in my early 20s at the time and it was only with the passage of time that you could see the man was on the money on that issue.

  17. winston peters is a link within the human centipede that is our face to arse to face to arse politic.
    The real issue is that our politics is so fucked it’s beyond the comprehension of most.
    peters is a grubby little link in a dirty little chain and we suckers keep falling for his schtick like schmucks.

  18. You can say that Bruce got it wrong about Winston Peters and New Zealand First, but you should also put it in context. Within the colonial regime of the time, Peters and his party were the only ones criticizing the Labour/National drive towards the neo-liberal globalisation of the New Zealand economy, and Bruce saw them as our best chance. I tended to agree. It is just that our best chance was not good enough. Bruce’s mistake was to see hope within a regime that has none to offer. If he had lived another twenty years, I am sure that he would have revised and corrected his rather too optimistic view of the possibilities for the regime of colonial capitalism. You have had the benefit of longevity Chris, but while you may have forgotten very little, you seemed to have learned nothing in that extra time. You are still telling us that Labour, the colonialist party par excellence, the party that gave us Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble and turned our country over to global capitalism, has the will and the ability to rescue us from the mess that it has created.
    That is so wrong. Bruce’s mistake was forgivable. Yours is not.

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