How to muzzle an attack dog by underground

Parliament must have been quieter these past three years. Although we have treated to some his classic quips from the debating chamber, he has been, let’s say, neutered by his new job.

I am talking about New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters, arguably one of countries finest political orators and controversial characters. In order to form a coalition government after the tight 2005 election, Winston was offered the ministerial posts as a treat for getting tied up with Labour for a term. He has been well behaved, sat when told, shook hands, and never pulled on his leash. It appears he has been well trained since his tail-wagging-the-dog days in the late 1990’s coalition with the National Party.

Many cynically thought that offering Winston the Foreign Affairs job was a ploy by Labour to keep him out of the country and out of the way. You could see the benefit of keeping him out parliament if you wanted to rule without effective opposition.

People were also concerned with sending someone like Peters overseas as our representative. Peters’ NZ First Party has a history of using race politics to attract votes. People were concerned that a politician with a history of giving Asians a hard time would be representing the country at APEC and shaking hands in China. I remember my disgust at receiving a pamphlet a few years back with grotesque statistics on Asian migration. If you can distort facts well enough you can argue anything. And racist policies appeal to some people. And a desperate party knows that. Especially in election year.

So with NZ First languishing below the 5 percent threshold (which might i add should be scrapped, it came as little surprise that the party resorted to its old tricks. And considering Mr Peter’s position, it is also i little surprise that lapdog Peter Brown did his bidding. In comments that Enoch Powell would have been proud of, Brown ripped into Labour and National for letting too many Asians into the country. Although Peters’ has backed his deputy, it is perhaps suspicious that it were Brown and not Peters making the comment. It appears to me that whilst New Zealand is setting about becoming the first western nation to sign a free trade agreement with China, it is best not to have a foreign Affairs Minister declare that New Zealand has too many Chinese.

Was Winston aware of Brown’s intended tirade? I would say so. I would think he probably orchestrated the comments. As the party suffers below the threshold, these are the sort of comments that will save the party. As Winston was not in the position to make the comments, why not let Brown boost his profile and boost the parties support amongst its aging voter base.

Will it work? A Herald online poll asks readers whether they think Brown’s comments are racist. Currently it sits at around 50% -50%. I think Peters will win Tauranga anyway (I think Bob the builder is bowing out of politics so not running against him this time). As for the parties support, I think the small parties may suffer again like in 2005, as the two large parties get the lions share of the media coverage. They will receive votes from those that want to keep the large parties in check, but as the party has promised to negotiate first with the party who received the most votes, right-leaning NZ First supporters may opt to vote for National instead to keep Labour from remaining in power. No doubt many were disappointed to see there vote effectively go to Labour last election. As it stands, I don’t see them getting 5%, but Tauranga will see them back. Still early days.

Regardless of the result of the next election, much is to be learnt from having Winston as Foreign Affairs Minister. Let the party that wins the next election take note: Send the entire NZ First Party overseas!


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