This weekend saw the New Zealand First conference, which was surprisingly entertaining. I’ve always quite like New Zealand First as a true centrist party. Slightly conservative, slightly socialist, not liberal but still with a heart towards the less well off - particularly if they’re elderly or come from Northland.
Winston is the great campaigner and he has started his election campaign one year out on the second anniversary of the coalition he helped form.
His role as king maker has always rubbed people up the wrong way. They don’t like the tail wagging the dog event though every coalition has a dog wagging tail. For the National Party, that was the Maori Party who made the Nats do all sorts of things in social spending and introduce Whanu Ora. Tail wagging dog is the price of MMP and always has been.
And New Zealand First has mitigated many of Labour’s policies as Winston pointed out. As they would have if they went into coalition with National. And I don’t think National would have avoided having to agree to the Provincial Growth Fund either
But the criticism that has always followed New Zealand First is that it is a one man band and when Winston goes the party will fold. But Shane Jones seems there for the long haul. Ron Mark is still rattling in his cage. Tracey Martin is a determined woman. And Jenny Marcroft is slowly mitigating the baby boomer conservatism and bringing the party into the present.
We saw that when the New Zealand First Youth wing managed to influence the leaders on festival drug testing.
The question has always been is New Zealand First a sideshow or the real deal. Well, they’re much more than a sideshow as they’ve proved time and time again and probably will into the future.