The prospect of power seems to be going to Winston Peters head.
It’s good, even essential, for politicians to be ambitious. It’ doesn’t look so good when they appear to put themselves above democracy.
3 News reported: Peters: NZ First will decide 2017 election
At a glance that looks like a poor headline. Up until now voters have decided elections.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says he will be more powerful than ever by the next election and will decide the next government.
Obviously Peters wants to hold the balance of power after the election and play National off against Labour, trying to use more power than the voters have given him. He may think he is due more power after the voters left him fairly powerless after the last three elections. But i a democracy parties don’t accumulate power credits that they call on in one hit.
Mr Peters’ first job of the day was to hurl criticisms at the media – “your polls are crap”, “stop this nonsense” and “you ask some stupid questions”.
And yet the media keep flocking to feed the beast.
Mr Peters also launched an attack on the Greens, saying it cost the Left last year’s election by attacking Labour, adding the Greens will be irrelevant by 2017.
His memory is different to mine. The Greens wanted to work closely in the campaign with Labour and look like a united option for Government, and Labour turned up their nose at that.
Internet-Mana scared voters away from the left.
While some vote for NZ First to stick one up National the fear of Peters overplaying power almost handed National a majority on their own.
But the biggest culprit of the Left losing last year was Labour.
“Every Green voter knows they can’t make it,” says Mr Peters.
That’s stupid talk. I think in general Green voters have more passion and belief than others – especially Winston voters.
“I expect us to do better than we’ve ever done before by miles.”
Votes are earned, not expected. It looks like Peters’ success in Northland has gone to his head.
Mr Peters also vowed to grow the party membership by more than 10,000 members, or he’ll resign. Moments later, he did a dramatic U-turn, claiming he didn’t say that.
“Maybe I didn’t hear it properly.”
He seems to only hear what he wants to hear. Maybe he didn’t think it through before making a rash promise.
Politicians need to be ambitious, but if they look too cocky, if they look like they want to overplay the power that voters give them, and if they make claims that they don’t mean then it can make enough voters wary to cause an electoral backlash.
Peters will be loving all the attention he gets at his party’s conference, but that looks like it’s going to his head and over inflating an already large ego.
One of Peters’ aims is to out-poll the Greens to give him more coalition negotiating power than the Greens.
Greens co-leader James Shaw tweeted: “Dreams are free.”
“James has been in the game five minutes,” says Mr Peters.
And Peters would hate to have to play second fiddle to a five minute leader.
Another of Peters’ aims will be to be in a position to play National off against Labour. If National and Labour end up close, within a few percent, then Peters may get away with it.
But if National retain a healthy margin over Labour and Peters negotiates baubles of power with Labour over National – and Labour will be more desperate to lead the next Government, then whatever gains NZ First might make this term will probably evaporate, and then some.
If Peters loses credibility again, alongside Labour, then it risks being a one term Government and if that happens it would likely be the end of Peters political career, effectively if not actually.
One thing is certain – there will be many more things in play than Winston Peters come the 2017 election. One thing will be Peters having to divide his attention between holding his Northland electorate and campaigning nationally.
Then there will be how well National weather their third term, whether Andrew Little and Labour manage to look competent, whether Colin Craig is silly enough to through a few more million dollars at an ambition that is now surely futile, whether a hacker feeds Nicky Hager ammunition for another campaign impacting book, whether Kiwis embrace the idea of a new flag identity, and other things we don’t know about yet.
Much of Peters’ success is being seen as anti-power, the maverick fighting against powerful odds.
If Winston promotes power hunger and power monger to much it could backfire on him and New Zealand First.
Democracy has a way of dealing to politicians who play power above the people’s preference.