Can someone in New Zealand First please take the internet off Winston? He's breaking it.
He's had a couple of flirtations with the net in recent days and they have gone very, very badly for him. One episode induced horror, the other mirth. Neither are emotions he'd likely have expected.
We'll start with the horror. That's about the most fitting response to the revelation that the New Zealand First Party was involved in photographing former party president Lester Gray meeting two journalists.
This was presumably done in a bid to prove that Gray was the source of the leaks dogging the party.
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How could New Zealand First justify that kind of action after initially claiming Gray had "mental health problems"?
Someone then made the decision to publish the photos. They appeared on Cameron Slater's new website.
Jacinda Ardern and Labour should be furious at this. This could give them all sorts of headaches as the major coalition partner heading into an election. Labour was clearly hoping to run a Goodie v Baddie campaign, where they pitch themselves as squeaky clean while accusing National of resorting to "dirty politics".
Well, that's going to be hard to do, isn't it, when Labour's bedmate is the party most flagrantly and apparently unapologetically engaging in dirty politics in cahoots with one of the central figures of Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics book.
This saga also has the potential to make a fool of Ardern who this week stuck her neck out for Peters by insisting that she does trust him after all. How badly would she want to take that back now?
Peters' second attempt at ruining the internet was far less questionable, but almost as much of a fail.
That Facebook Live. Eye-roll emoji. *shakes head*
Never again please. The logic was clear: if the media aren't telling the story the way Winston wants them to, cut them out and go directly to the fanbase. This strategy can work brilliantly. Just look at Trump's success with Twitter. But it only works to a point. Mostly, it reassures supporters — which is helpful — but not so much the unsure voters. For a start, unsure voters might not be signed up to Peters' Facebook page so might not have even realised the Q and A session was under way. Plus, they might not be as easily fooled by the charade of pre-selected questions.
But as clear as the logic might be, it ultimately failed. Because Peters and the media are yin and yang. His disdain for reporters is part of his appeal. There are plenty of his supporters who enjoy the theatre of his spars with the press gallery: calling a freshman reporter "sunshine", smirking, pushing, holding up a big NO sign. Not only does that interaction continue to cast Peters as the rogue he's portrayed himself as, but it also makes him look energetic.
Sitting behind a desk does the opposite. It makes him look old. He doesn't need that to be the image voters take into the booth on September
Peters can't totally ignore the internet and social media, of course. New technology is a firm part of the modern news cycle and how voters consume current affairs. He gets that. He's quoted as saying he's planning to bring the "heavy artillery" of social media to this election.
New Zealand First might want to think very careful about exactly what that means. Because right now the "heavy artillery" is misfiring or — as in the case with Gray — backfiring badly.