Swinging voters, swinging dicks

Winston Peters came out swinging over the weekend as the contest for swinging voters (and the contest for media attention) hots up, and Andrew Little hit back, calling Peters a blowhard and a swinging dick.

Peters in an interview on The Nation on Saturday

Patrick Gower: Yes, well, Labour’s internal polling, which has been leaked, does show actually New Zealand First heading above the Greens, and in fact, eating into Labour’s vote big time. Is this what’s causing these attacks on you, in your mind – the fact that they’re panicked, both Labour and the Greens, that they are scared of how much vote of theirs you’re taking? 

Winston Peters: Well, what you’re hearing is a failure to accept that this is a democracy, that we’re going into an election. It’s what the people say that actually matters come the 23rd of September, not what they say, what I say – what the people say. And yet you’ve run these alternative— the leader of the opposition.

You’ve run, for example, Andrew Little as being the leader of the opposition. Now, just three more points down – and this is dramatic – and Mr Little doesn’t get in. So why are you saying those sorts of statements? And why are you persisting with this sort of first-past-the-post mentality?

Let me tell you, there’s a huge change in the air. Not just here, but in other countries. But it’s in New Zealand as well. And politicians are going to have to respond to it. People out there are sick and tired of being told, ‘Look, all this is fantastic. The economy’s going great,’ when out there they know it’s not for them going great. And they know we can do far better.

Patrick Gower: What polling are you talking about where if Andrew Little drops by four points, he’s not the leader of the opposition any more? Is that your own polling? Where is this coming from?

Winston Peters: That’s the poll you had last night.

Patrick Gower: So you’re saying if the Labour Party drops a little bit more and New Zealand First goes past them, you are, what, effectively the leader of the opposition in this country? 

Winston Peters:  No. Well, no, I’m just saying to you— Look, this is a political show. And I’d expect you to understand – and without being critical of you, personally – but if you go from 26 down to 22, that’s it. Andrew is not in Parliament. So why would you make these statements that he’s the next leader of the country? Or the leader of the opposition?

Little is the official leader of the Opposition, and will be up until the election.

But he is vulnerable. He is standing on the Labour list only, and if Labour’s party vote drops to somewhere in the low twenties (depending on how many electorates Labour wins) Little is at risk of not making it back into Parliament.

In a weekend where Peters and Metiria Turei battled for the most media attention (on last night’s TV news Greens led NZ First) Little tried to get some coverage as well.

NZ Herald: Labour leader Andrew Little slams ‘blowhard’ Winston for doubting his re-election chances

Labour leader Andrew Little has dismissed NZ First leader and potential coalition partner Winston Peters as a behaving like a “blowhard” and a “swinging dick” after Peters doubted Little’s re-election chances.

Peters said yesterday that Labour’s vote could fall as low as 22 per cent, which would mean Little, a list MP, would not get back into Parliament.

He made the comment after a leaked poll by Labour’s pollster UMR showed Labour had fallen to 26 per cent and NZ First had risen to 14 per cent.

Speaking to the Herald this afternoon, Little responded strongly.

“Listen, Winston is a very colourful character in New Zealand politics and he’s got some principles too.

“But he is a blowhard and this is blowhard politics.

“In the end this election isn’t going to be fought on the basis of swinging dicks it is going to be fought on the basis of what party has demonstrated that they are listening to the real concerns of New Zealanders.

Listening to people who turn up to political meetings doesn’t seem to be doing Little any good.

The real concerns for Little must be that he has generally failed to impress people as Labour leader and the current Leader of the Opposition, and that NZ First may be surging in popularity (according to the UMR poll).

Despite all the try-hard blowing, I think this all may give an indication of Winston’s actual aim.

In an interview with media yesterday Peters talked about “great political upset coming” and said:

“We will be, most definitely, the Government.”

NZ First won’t be the Government if they go into a coalition with National, they would only be the junior party (it’s hard to imagine an upset on a scale of National’s support halving and NZ First support trebling).

Winston’s best chance to be Prime Minister is if NZ First’s vote increases substantially, Labour’s vote collapses, and Little misses the cut.

This means Labour would be left leaderless for coalition negotiations, and due to party rules unable to select a new leader quickly. That would put Peters in a very strong position – with perhaps enough clout to become Prime Minister.

That would also likely require the support of the Greens, in coalition or from the cross benches.

But will voters be prepared to deliver this sort of scenario?