Chris Luxon should’ve ruled out working with Winston Peters. He’ll regret not doing it. Everyone, in the end, does.
But Luxon’s probably missed his window. It’s probably too late now that Peters’ party, NZ First, has hit 5 per cent or above in three polls in a row. At this rate, he’ll get even higher on election night. Polls become a self-fulfilling prophecy for minor parties because voters feel reassured that their votes won’t be wasted so they start piling in. Short of a disaster, Peters is almost certainly in the next Parliament.
The trouble for Luxon is that Peters in the next Parliament looks a lot like Peters in the next Government. On the Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll out this week Act and National only just scrape together the required 61 seats between them to form Government. If either of them drops even 1 per cent, they need Peters.
That’s bad news.
The country can’t afford NZ First. We need to borrow another $20 billion. NZ First is expensive. In 2017 the price they charged Jacinda Ardern for putting her in government was $3b. They called it the Provincial Growth Fund. It was actually a slush fund to spray around the regions buying goodwill for NZ First in the next election. Covid meant it didn’t work. The money was handed out so fast and so sloppily officials didn’t even keep proper notes.
We can’t afford the drama NZ First will create. The party will stop any of the reforms this country desperately needs. Peters is not a reform politician. He’s a nostalgia politician.
He would much rather take us back to his halcyon days of 1975 than make the changes necessary to supercharge us into being a competitive First World trading nation in 2035.
Peters is weirdly obsessed with Rogernomics. Those reforms happened nearly 40 years ago. Most of us understand they saved the country from bankruptcy.
Many of us either know or suspect we are probably at the point of needing another round of reforms to save us again. The country’s on the decline big time. Life’s becoming too unaffordable. Education standards are declining. Crime is increasing. Race relations are souring. National debt is climbing. The public service is blowing tens of thousands of dollars on parties and lobsters on credit cards.
Voters see the problem. Sixty-one per cent of respondents told the TPU poll the country’s headed in the wrong direction. Only 24 per cent think it’s headed in the right direction. That is a mind-blowing massive message. In December 2021 - about 18 months ago - it was 42 per cent-46 per cent wrong vs right.
We mostly agree we need a big turnaround. I don’t trust the guy still suffering PTSD from the last round of reforms would cope. Or allow it.
Which could leave change-minded voters pretty cross after just one term of a National-led Government.
And then there’s the David Seymour thing.
Winston doesn’t like David and David doesn’t like Winston. A lot. Enough for Act to pay for billboards warning voters against Winston. That’s an own goal from Act. Winston’s so dashing on the billboard and the ‘Don’t Get Fooled Again’ message is so ambiguous (is it talking about Winston or Labour?) that it actually looks like a billboard for Winston.
But the spat is so ridiculously heated that it makes it impossible for Luxon to accuse the left of being a coalition of chaos. The left looks positively head-girly compared to the nonsense going on between National’s potential coalition partners.
Voters aren’t stupid. They’ll see an Act-NZ First coupling for the disaster of nothing doing it would be. Act would probably spike NZ First’s plans out of snobby principle and NZ First would probably spike Act’s plans out of spite.
The Nats probably thought they were clever not ruling out Winston. It gave them options. It gave them insurance in case their vote fell. It gave them negotiation leverage over an increasingly cocky Act.
But actually, it’ll give them a headache. Or worse, Winston in Government. Which they will regret. Everyone, in the end, does.
Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive, Newstalk ZB, 4pm-7pm, weekdays.