Cleaning out an old filing cabinet over the weekend, up popped a gratuitously offensive anti-migrant New Zealand First pamphlet from 2003 blaring "Whose Country Is It?"
It was a timely reminder that party leader Winston Peters' heir apparent, Shane Jones, really is a chip off the old block. His on-going targeting of Indian migrants over recent months could have been written by the same hand.
The notorious "Whose Country" rant was mailed, it seems, to every household in the country, funded by taxpayers through Parliamentary Services. It claimed "we are being squeezed out of our own country" by "hundreds of thousands of Third World immigrants".
Signed by the Rt Hon Winston Peters, it warned that "imported crime levels are soaring and so are the number of Third World diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/Aids". New Zealand "is now a soft touch for illegal immigrants, bogus refugees and asylum seekers whose bills are paid by taxpayers". Peters wrote that "deliberate ethnic, social and cultural engineering" was leading to the collapse of New Zealand society.
The cover was a montage of scary newspaper headlines, "Women caught HIV after sex with refugees", "Migrant kidney patient on run", "Migrant cabbies paid by taxpayers" and the like.
To New Zealanders' credit, this casual racism turned voters away from NZ First. The following election, its party vote nearly halved to just over the 5 per cent threshold needed to stay in Parliament, and Peters lost his Tauranga electorate seat. It's a lesson Jones should be contemplating.
With NZ First currently averaging less than 5 per cent in the published opinion polls, its Houdini survival move is to stand Jones in the Northland seat at September's general election and persuade Labour to do a deal such as Act has in Epsom with National, and direct its supporters to vote for Jones rather than Labour's Willow-Jean Prime.
At the 2017 election, National's Matt King beat incumbent Peters by just under 1400 votes. Like Peters, Jones is a local boy, but most commentators are predicting the apprentice is going to need the support of Labour and possible Green voters to retrieve the seat, and by so doing, provide the liferaft needed for the party as a whole if it polls under 5 per cent.
So far, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has ruled out any such deal, formal or otherwise. Jones's latest anti-Indian outburst – and subsequent backing from Peters on the eve of the first anniversary of the anti-Muslim massacre in Christchurch – can only make any such deal even more unlikely.
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Ardern is surely not going to put her name to anything backing Jones, and even if she did, Labour voters would still have to be persuaded to vote for the man who has dragged NZ First's trademark racist nastiness back on to centre stage.
Jones continues to deny he's being racist, claiming on Radio New Zealand that it's only the "younger generation … especially those who belong to Ngati Woke", who are upset. "When they hear speech that is not in the vein of a carefully nuanced and perfectly couched terminology, then they are offended and they reach for the mallet of xenophobia."
He, on the other hand, didn't "belong to the tribe of woke snobbery". In his words, "I'm a 60-year-old Croatian–Māori from Kaitāia, beer-drinking, plain-speaking, red meat-eating politician."