Eminem's 2002 hit, Without Me, should be Winston Peters' theme song. "Guess who's back? Back again? Winston's back. Tell a friend." Honestly. Just when you thought you could write off the old warhorse, wish him well and consigned to pasture, he's back.
Mane tossing, hooves polished and trotting out all the trite old political tropes that so endear him to a certain type of voter. When I interviewed him before the last election, I was dreading it. He can be hectoring, badgering and downright incomprehensible at times and is no fan of journalists.
His party was down in the polls and whenever that happens to New Zealand First, it's invariably the media's fault. I really did wonder whether we'd last the allocated hour together.
But Peters didn't get this far in politics without knowing how to turn on the charm and it was the Silver Fox who turned up that day. He was thoughtful, considered, softly spoken and in a way it felt like he was giving a valedictory speech. It didn't wash with the listeners though. Nor did the Sergeant Schultz "I know nothing" approach wash with the voters either.
Having been a coalition partner of Labour's for the past three years, turning on Labour didn't prove to be a particularly effective tactic, and New Zealand First was tipped out on its collective arse with just 2.6 per cent of the vote. But now, in the absence of any real opposition, Shady's back and there might just be enough frightened, fed up New Zealanders to breathe life into a party that really should be a museum curiosity.
A Reid-Research poll released in May that asked "Should Winston Peters return to politics?" revealed the vast majority don't think he should. But that wasn't the real story. The really big news was that 19.6 per cent thought he should. Seriously?
That shows what an appalling job National is doing as the party of opposition in Parliament. I do feel for Judith Collins. It would not spark joy waking up each morning and going to work to lead the National Party. The party that Winston called a pack of sex maniacs has fallen so low it's hard to know where to begin to repair it. It may well be a case of having to destroy the village to save it.
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An excoriating piece from Matthew Hooton in the New Zealand Herald this week pointed out all the many opportunities an opposition party should be taking to hold the Government to account: its failure to deliver on mental health, the fact we are the lowest in the OECD when it comes to vaccinating the population against Covid 19, the waiting list for public houses, the million dollars a day being spent on motels for the homeless, the rising house prices, the rise in gun violence despite the gun buyback programme, the bizarre Boomer's Bike Bridge to Birkenhead – the list goes on and on.
And yet instead of taking the Government to task and refusing to let the Government hide behind the Covid excuse, National caucus members spend their waking hours dreaming up new ways to humiliate themselves and the party. No wonder Peters put down the fishing rod and cranked up the party again.
Again, Eminem comes to mind. "This looks like a job for me, so everybody, just follow me, because we need a little controversy, it feels so empty without me." It's tempting to write off New Zealand First supporters as cranks and the weird uncles at family weddings. But there are a lot of mainly older people who are finding the modern world bewildering.
They don't believe they're racist for sticking to New Zealand instead of Aotearoa, and the Ministry of Transport instead of Waka Kotahi, and when that nice Mr Peters, who's a Māori, agrees with them, they feel validated.
They don't understand why hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on bike lanes when they're in agony waiting on hip operations. They don't have $50,000 to take advantage of the feebate scheme for electric vehicles. And so Winston is speaking their language. This should be an absolute wake-up call for the National Party as if any more were needed. Because if New Zealand First is the answer to who will oppose Labour, we're all in trouble.
• Kerre McIvor Mornings, Newstalk ZB, 9am-noon, weekdays.