Peters “plotting to eat Labour’s lunch”

Another very good insight into the NZ First party and congress by Branko Marcetic at The Spinoff: Winston Peters is plotting to eat Labour’s lunch. And it’s working

The New Zealand First Party tends to be more associated in the public mind with mobility scooters and rest homes than Tinder and flatting. So as a 27-year-old, I wasn’t exactly the typical demographic most people imagine when they think of NZ First members. And as a non-native-born New Zealander, the party’s anti-immigrant bent would hardly suggest its conference as the place I would choose to hole myself up for most of last weekend. But in order to get a proper sense of the party and its members, it was very much worth it.

It was very much worth it, this is some of the best political reporting I have seen. Marcetic has dug beneath the hubris.

All around the conference in south Auckland, there was a palpable sense of excitement. After the electoral wipeout of 2008, followed by clawing back over the 5 percent threshold in 2011 and improving further in 2014, there was a general feeling the party was destined for even greater heights this year, buoyed by electoral trends in the rest of the world. Party members milled about, chatting excitedly.

They have good reason to be excited at this stage of the campaign. The article gives a good insight into the party membership. And then it looks at The Man.

The leader’s 40-minute paean to the working poor, declining middle class and a country buckling under the devilish hat-trick of unsustainable immigration, political correctness and 30 years of neoliberalism, capped off the two-day event. It was as pure a distillation as you’re ever going to get of Peters’ multi-decade success and survival in politics, and his current resurgence.

Peters understands the travelling medicine show aspect of politics, and added a performer’s touch – even a sense of festivity – to his speech.

Unlike other party leaders, Peters clearly has no interest in appearing what the media tends to view as “stable” or “reasonable”, but so often comes across as staid and dull. Like Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, he’s aiming to channel the anger of the ordinary working person, and aim it at venal politicians who “work for the few, but not for you”.

The net result, not unlike with Trump, is that even if you despise Peters, you’ll watch his speech because you know it will be entertaining. How many neutrals would willingly subject themselves to an address by Andrew Little or Bill English?

Who?

As I’ve written about previously, Peters’ speech – and indeed, the party’s focus as a whole – seems designed to target the disaffected section of the public that would have once flocked to Labour, but is uninspired by today’s iteration of the party. Hence it was Peters paying tribute to the ordinary working Kiwi and launching repeated, angry broadsides against neoliberal economics – an attack he pointedly stressed for the media – and hence the party’s members are pushing for policies at times swiped from the first Labour government.

Compare this to the approach of the Labour Party, which seems headed toward another crushing electoral result. It’s not hard to make the case NZ First is animating voters that might have once gone for Labour by projecting an untrammelled anti-neoliberal message.

I think it’s too soon to call a crushing defeat for Labour. They have just announced  reasonable fiscal policy that has been reported fairly positively. But did many voters take any notice? Grant Robertson fronted the announcement with Andrew Little tacked alongside.  If the election is decided on perceptions of leadership Labour may well be crushed.

Labour’s campaign to date has lacked any real alternative vision to rally potential voters to its flag. Unlike Peters, who is angrily painting a picture of a country in decline and offering as a solution the rollback of neoliberalism, Labour’s “Fresh Approach” slogan all but implies that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong.

As one op-ed charged, the party is essentially “promising not to change too much”. Meanwhile its policies, however well-meaning, are often overly complicated, failing to excite the ordinary Kiwi voter, and contrasting with the popular, universal benefits the party enacted under Michael Joseph Savage and Peter Fraser.

The lack of excitement about Labour policies is not just the nature and complexity of the policies, it’s not just the struggle of little to appeal, media and probably many voters turned off Labour some time ago and it will take something special to turn on a beacon of hope for them.

Perhaps NZ First’s resurgence won’t end up being as dramatic as it now appears. A lot can change in two months, including Labour’s poll numbers. But as Labour scrambles to capture voters’ imagination, it may yet ask itself how the party of workers allowed an ex-lawyer from Auckland’s St Mary’s Bay to steal its shtick.

It’s remarkable that Peters is appealing more than Labour to the battlers and the disaffected.

NZ First’s resurgence is real, but is it sustainable for the next two months?

Peters has done well as portraying himself as a political maverick, even though that image is debatable.

But when it comes to the business end of the election voters will look more closely at what effect an enlarged NZ First might have on Government.

New Zealand voters have tended to back stability and incremental change only. Many have warmed to NZ First, but they may baulk at the possibility of chaos.

We will find out in just over two months what the voters think, and then a week or few after that we will see what sort of coalition government we end up with.

It is interesting to see that after attending NZ First’s congress Marcetic is looking most on how NZ First will impact on Labour and not National.

Maybe after eating Labour’s lunch Peters will try to scoff National’s dinner.

NZ First congress from the inside

This is one of the best political party insights I have seen – a journalist became a paid up member of NZ First and observed the people and the policies from the inside of their congress in the weekend.

Branko Marcetic at The Spinoff:  I joined NZ First and went to their conference to find out what they’re really up to

To its supporters, NZ First is the only party that truly gives a damn about the average Kiwi, and its policies are born of fairness and common sense. To its detractors, it’s a hotbed of racism and intolerance that threatens to bring Trump-like authoritarianism to New Zealand.

In an attempt to cut through the noise and get a sense of what the party truly is about in 2017, I decided to immerse myself, and look at the party as an insider. I paid the $10 fee to join the party, and signed up to attend the conference — my first for any party — as an observer. The intention was not to indulge in “gotcha journalism” or attempt to lampoon other attendees, but to engage with and better understand the men and women that make up a party so often defined by sensational headlines.

The weekend gave me an insight into a party that is almost universally expected to hold the balance of power come September 24.

Despite the party’s association with anti-foreigner sentiment, immigration was rarely touched on across the weekend. In fact, if there was a prevailing theme weaving through the various speeches, discussions and debates at the 2017 conference, it was a steadfast opposition to neoliberal economics, a belief that New Zealand had gravely erred in the embrace of deregulation and globalised trade since the days of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.

If you want to get an excellent insight into the NZ First party the whole article is worth reading.

Peters aside there are a lot of people who believe in the party and what it stands for.