It seemed a good idea. Support Winston Peters in the Northland byelection to give John Key a bloody nose.

It would save the embarrassment of coming third and show Andrew Little's ability to work with Peters. So Little dumped on Labour's own candidate.

The young Labourites cheered. Finally, a leader with smarts. It's MMP in action, they cried. It's pragmatic politics. Labour must hold its nose, look the other way, and back Peters. If that's what it takes, that's what we do.

The old hands weren't so sure. Dumping on your own candidate didn't seem right. And Labour's support for Peters embarrassed them.


They also knew that giving Peters an opportunity, any opportunity, would not necessarily develop to Labour's advantage.

This week's Herald-Digipoll survey confirmed their worst fears. Little is polling below Labour's previous leaders, David Cunliffe and David Shearer. Peters is breathing down his neck. Key remains on 51 per cent as preferred Prime Minister.

Peters has emerged the victor with a soapbox. It's he who beat National in a safe seat. It's Peters who is giving Key a contest. It's he who is news.

Little has crowned Peters Leader of the Opposition. It's hard now to see what Labour has gained.

Peters took their support, brushed them aside and now eclipses them. Such is his power and ability.

He's now not pinching National's votes. He's pinching Labour votes.

And Peters shows up Little for what he isn't: charismatic, quick-witted and exciting. He grabs media attention and capitalises on it.

Little strikes me as a good bloke but being a good bloke is not what Opposition is about. It takes mongrel and rat-cunning. That's the lesson Peters is giving Labour.


The Northland byelection is old news. Peters is still very much the news.

We have forgotten Little's brilliance in conceding the race. The news now is a poll with Little below Labour's last two leaders, who were dumped.

Little's woes are only beginning. Having backed Peters, he now must deal with him to make Government. But Peters will keep the cards that Little handed him close to his chest until after the next election.

And pity the poor Greens. Labour has never returned their love. And now Peters has shunted them aside.

Despite my best efforts, I am none the wiser why the Official Assignee has been using her powers to have private investigators question my friends and colleagues.

I have emailed Minister Paul Goldsmith. He has promised to get back to me in "in due course ... in the near future".