Interview: Jim Anderton, Progressive party leader

Progressive party leader Jim Anderton spoke with Herald political reporter Kevin Taylor.

You recently changed the name of the party for the ballot paper to Jim Anderton's Progressives. Why?

I think the Herald poll whenever it was [published July 29 - see link below] tells you why. I'm polling 1.5 per cent as preferred prime minister, fourth in the list way behind the others of course but nevertheless there it is. And the party's polling 0.4 or something or 0.3, so something like five times more people prefer me as prime minister who would vote for the party theoretically. But the truth as I know it to be is that most people don't know there's a Progressive Party.

So you changed the name purely for the name recognition?

Absolutely. Why wouldn't you? If five times more people know who we are with my name in front of it, what is there about that that you don't understand? It obviously shows you how hard it is to get a new party recognised.

Do you think Labour is more social democratic now than it was even in 1999 when you went into coalition?

Yes. And I think we have helped it to do that.

You've been putting out more releases lately on Winston Peters and whether he can be trusted and what he's said in the past and stuff...

It's like Nightmare on Elm Street 2. I mean do people have no memory cells? It's as though they suspend memory.

Is that one of your strategies though for the party - to attack Winston and to try and remind people of his past record?

To be honest I've got to the stage in my political career where I have, I think, the luxury of being able to say what I like as I see it... and that's what I'm going to do during this election campaign.

But in terms of what you say, is the strategy to highlight Winston...?

There's not a strategy, there's a number of strategies really. Like when our billboards come out you'll see that we are saying that Jim Anderton, Progressive, get things done. That's our thing - we're practical. It's a funny thing, in the government that I've been part of for six years I've become one of the go-to people, like a line-out, the go-to person. If you want to get the ball taken up, throw it to the go-to line-out forward and they'll take it up for you.

Are any of your Labour colleagues just a bit envious and like to get their mits on the organisations you have built up (Ministry of Economic Development and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise)?

I think in a way they thought at the time, well if we have to give Anderton anything in this area of economic development - because they were a bit worried I would try to be a counterpoint to Treasury and Minister of Finance which I never had in mind... now at the time I'm sure there was a concern that this could be a bit of a stalking horse thing for me personally. I know I had to fight to get it... so the attitude was a bit suspicious. But of course the proof of the pudding's in the eating and I guess that's the lesson of all this which is a hard lesson for smaller parties. I'm not fully satisfied that a large party like Labour has fully grasped the way to nurture a smaller party in the coalition arrangements, and nor did National either.

Have you been buried?

Not so much buried but the successes that we've had - which have been considerable - have been claimed by Labour when I think with... a bit more humility and I think political foresight we could have been given a position in terms of what we've accomplished that would have given us far more profile. Because in the end I can claim these things as a minister of economic development in a Labour-led government, but you don't see very often the word Progressive being used by Labour.

On present polling it will just be you returning and there'll be an overhang and really the party is obviously formed around you. Is this the last throw of the dice for the Progressives?

I'm going to give this a good go and see if we can get up two or three people. We are going to have 800 billboards around, we're going to have 50 candidates. We're going to give it a shot, so I wouldn't entirely dismiss our chances. But it's hard going, no question.

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