While most MPs were whiling away the week working in Parliament, NZ First leader Winston Peters was wagging with intent.

He was stealing an early march on the campaign by taking to the regions in a big bus.

It is his 'Nationwide Campaign for the Regions Bus Tour' - a title which is not exactly catchy but accurate.

Peters is trying to spread the magic of his Northland byelection win further afield.


He is even using the same tricks - a bus with his smiling face on the side and 'follow me' printed on the back. It has Pied Piper overtones as well as advertising his social media accounts.

His Northland bus was dubbed 'Force of the North.' Asked what this bus was called, Peters replied "it starts with V. Take a guess."

Viper's nest sprung to mind but Peters likely preferred Victory.

First he took Northland, now he wants to take Whangarei. So he has called in a second piper in the form of Shane Jones.

Both National and Labour have taken Jones' joining NZ First as a hopeful sign for their own chances of a support deal with NZ First.

Labour leader Andrew Little claimed Jones was a friend of Labour. The trouble for Little is that being a friend of Jones' is not exactly an exclusive gathering.

Jones is a friend of everybody bar the Greens, and of late he has even softened on them.

Despite being such bosom buddies, Little this week ruled out doing a deal in the Whangarei seat by telling Labour supporters to vote for Jones instead of Labour's candidate.


Little had done that for Peters in the Northland by-election but in a general election the party vote is in play as well and electorate campaigns are one way to harvest that party vote.

All Labour candidates will be told to target the party vote first. Adding extra messages risks complicating that fundamental message - and Labour can not risk complications.

It may not have helped anyway - the combined Labour, Greens and NZ First votes of 2014 would not be enough for Jones to take the seat.

It is why Peters and Jones are focused on targeting the conservative voters rather than the left. The belief is that Jones will attract some voters from the right of Labour, but those numbers are slight.

The real strategy is to tack into empty waters - slightly disgruntled but inherently conservative National voters who want to see a rocket put up National without upsetting them altogether.

Hence Peters traipsing around the regions where NZ First believes, with some grounds, those voters are low-hanging fruit.

So when Jones launched his Whangarei campaign, the issue he focused on was not housing or child poverty. It was "narco-criminality" and "filthy lucre" and "smashing the gangs" which "spread menace amongst God-fearing ordinary Kiwi families."

It was a song to resonate with the more conservative voters in the North where crime and drugs are a major concern - and which National has had nine years to bring to heel with few signs of success.

Jones is a welcome return to the political scene, not least because he adds humour and vocabulary.

Already in one interview on The Nation he referred to 'cultural haematoma" and "mathematical exactitude" - the latter apparently a flash way to say "the truth."

In many ways NZ First is a better home for Jones. It is more forgiving of character flaws (and indeed, of big characters) than Labour. It will suit his particular style as well.

Where Jones may struggle is in the need to adhere to and preach some of NZ First's policies, in particular Maori issues and trade.

It has a one law for all policy when it comes to social services and Maori. It does not believe in the Maori seats.

NZ First also opposed the TPP and the China free trade agreement. When Jones was questioned about his statements of support for the TPP, Jones dismissed it as the actions of a humble public servant having to preach the gospel of his then Lord and Master, former Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

That is codswallop and Jones knows it - Jones' vehement support for the TPP predates his departure from Labour.

As for the Pied Piper, it might pay to remember there are different versions of the ending to the German folk tale - from utopia to elimination for those who followed the piper.

Nobody knows which version Peters is familiar with.