Adam Bennett 's Opinion

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Adam Bennett: Talk of deputy tiny sign of succession

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Winston Peters. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Winston Peters. Photo / Michael Cunningham

There's no doubting the strength of Winston Peters' brand.

In a Christchurch cafe near the venue of the NZ First conference over the weekend, he was greeted by name by an enthusiastic man in a Canterbury rugby jersey who wanted his photo taken with the party leader.

But as the pair posed for the camera, the man asked the MP: "You're National, right?"

"Labour?"

The incident underlines the question of whether the party has much mileage without Mr Peters, who turned 68 this year.

Mr Peters counters questions about his durability with characteristic bravado.

Asked about Conservative Party leader Colin Craig's claim his party would gain NZ First supporters as Mr Peters' powers faded, the NZ First leader said Mr Craig was "relying upon someone in their peak of fitness and life dying early".

However, he did make what may be a concession to the fact the party must at some point face life without him by yesterday revealing it will select a deputy leader "within a few weeks".

While NZ First has had deputy leaders before, it hasn't had one for some years.

Mr Peters, his MPs and party members are all reluctant to discuss who might take over when he steps down but the appointment of a deputy would surely provide some kind of answer.

Already at number two on the party list is Tracey Martin.

Ms Martin is likely to have some handy allies in the party hierarchy and membership given her mother and long-time party secretary, Anne Martin, was yesterday elected party president. But neither Tracey Martin nor anyone else at the senior or any other level of the party appears to have anything like even the potential to develop the abilities, experience and charisma of Mr Peters.

Mr Peters was yesterday adamant his party, which turned 20 this year, is "in for the long haul".

He is probably right. Social Credit, for example, still exists in some form today, 26 years after it last had an MP in Parliament under its own name.

NZ First probably has sufficient momentum, organisation and appeal to some section of the voting public without Mr Peters to endure, but it's hard to see it doing so as anything other than a slowly fading shadow of itself.

- NZ Herald

Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald. He joined the Press Gallery in 2010 after nine years as a business and finance reporter for the Business Herald and New Zealand Press Association. He has a degree in English Literature from Victoria University and a post graduate diploma in journalism from Massey University.

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