Mike Hosking: Peters' Twitter rant shows a politician in survival mode

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Mon, 25 Nov 2019, 3:15PM
Winston Peters is facing threats to his political legacy. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Mike Hosking: Peters' Twitter rant shows a politician in survival mode

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Mon, 25 Nov 2019, 3:15PM

The Winston twitter attack on Friday was of course a smart move. Despite all the commentary around his foundation issues and whether it drags the rest of the government in, or potentially down, the real prize for Peters is, of course, survival.

You can only be the tail that wags the dog, the kingmaker, if you actually survive the election. And your role as kingmaker is pure crap-shoot. It's happenstance, you have no way of controlling the outcome. It's sheer luck.

So what we know at the moment is his party is in poll trouble. Both major polls have him below the threshold, which as we are at pains to point out each time we talk about this stuff, doesn’t mean he's toast.

But it does mean he's got his work cut out. And the thing about MMP is it's not about mass marketing; well, it is for the major players, but for the minors it's about warming up the base and keeping them warm.

Unlike the Greens, whose support these days appears largely baked on, the Peters support ebbs because it’s made up of various factions. Rural or provincial, people like farmers and gun owners, the elderly, those who are of a conservative bent who thought he would go with National, and of course the bewildered who simply love Winston and still hold dear to the thought that it's him and him alone who keeps us all honest.

For the hard core, the foundation, loans, donations and all the noise that goes with it will make not a jot of difference. As aghast as the commentariat may be ,the fact Peters now has over 30 years of largely electoral success tells you all you need to know about his ability to shuffle and dance in a way that keeps the minimum number of voters required entranced.

As has been pointed out, it’s a Trump trick. Social media for the politicians is a direct and mainly effective route to the punter. All he has to do is find five out of 100 who latch on to his grievance. The unfairness of the media, the bias. All he has to do is drop a few suggestions that they don't know what they're talking about and they need a lesson in electoral law.

What he's up against, unfortunately this time, is of course the fact he's in government. Doing all this from the other side of the house is easy. He now has a record to defend and relationships to balance.

And he's running out of options. He's increasingly tied to Labour, and if Bridges had a half pound of smarts he'd rule him out and have him stuck with Labour. So he's got to defend his record, distance himself from his coalition and tell you life's not fair, and the media are out to get him.

That’s quite a trick, a lot of saucers there. And history tells us it's come unstuck before, and the other bit is of course the legacy.

He's not around a lot longer, he needs party that survives, he needs a succession plan. Which is why he's in trouble and hoping Twitter is a help if not the answer.