Several months ago, a copy of a New Zealand First internal memo was leaked to the New Zealand Herald.

The undated, one-page document was written by one of the party's advisers and forwarded to Winston Peters. At the time, the memo seemed pretty innocuous. But as the election campaign has progressed, it has become more germane.

The memo argued that NZ First had to find some way of standing out in an over-crowded political marketplace. It suggested Peters indicate he and his MPs would sit on Parliament's cross benches after the election and vote independently, rather than being part of a governing arrangement.

New Zealand First would consequently sound "virtuous"; voters would "find it refreshing to hear a party stand back from naked power-grabbing".


That is all fine and dandy. And Peters has frequently talked during this election campaign of sitting on the cross benches to keep "honest" which ever of the two major parties ends up governing.

The memo, however, went on to say statements about going to the cross benches should last only up to the election. Afterwards, the party might well revert to preferring to be in government.

Is Peters trying to hoodwink voters? To be fair to him, his public statements have left open the option of being part of a government.

What the memo highlights is that New Zealand First can be a very different proposition before an election and in subsequent post-election negotiations than afterwards.

Peters tends to be pitbull before and pussycat after, once he has got his backside on the leather seats of the ministerial BMWs.

That is one major reason National may actually prefer to have to deal with him rather than Colin Craig.

Peters has a track record of competence as a minister. He is a realist. His party would bring stability to a governing arrangement.

Craig and his Conservative colleagues may be less demanding when it comes to extracting concessions and ministerial posts. But they may well turn out to be far less stable.


Peters has demonstrated how tough he can be before election day by indicating he would not only be talking foreign ownership and immigration in post-election talks, but poverty and unemployment levels would also be on his agenda.

Peters' hard line is designed to widen his appeal and woo voters away from Craig.

With NZ First registering at more than 8 per cent in the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey - and Craig still to make it across the 5 per cent threshold - Peters is the one calling the shots because voters know he is the only party leader who can really deliver the goods. That is unless Craig hits 5 per cent in the polls before election day - and thus give would-be supporters the confidence they will not be casting a wasted vote.

Peters' priority in the final week of the campaign is to ensure those voters who still have doubts and convince them to swing in behind NZ First - handing him an even larger number of seats in Parliament to make the real difference in how the economy is run and the country managed which he has so long been promising.