Mike's Minute: Is Winston Peters running this government?

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Thu, 13 Sep 2018, 8:34am

Mike's Minute: Is Winston Peters running this government?

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Thu, 13 Sep 2018, 8:34am



Is Winston Peters the political genius of our time?

It was with the comment that the Labour Party's workplace reforms were a "work in progress" that the penny dropped.

He is lining himself up to be the voice of middle New Zealand. He is lining himself up to be our saviour from the madness and extremism.

Most of us assumed he picked Labour because he hated National, and I am sure that, in part, played a role.

But there are two things.

One, Labour were willing to give up more than National. And two, with Labour, especially this version of Labour, you look, if you're Peters, like a centrist.

If you're with National you look like trouble. You look like a handbrake. You look like a killjoy.

With Labour you look experienced, settled, and professional. With National, you lose those attributes.

In other words, he's picked the weak link and run with it.

The workplace reforms are Labour's home-run policy. Of all the things they want to do, this is the big one. This is the one for the unions. The unions pull the party's strings and it's time for payback.

But the workplace reforms are going to be bad for the economy and bad for the country. We know it, Peters knows it.

As he has increasingly flexed his muscle on policy, it's become increasingly obvious the power he holds for a bloke on seven percent.

The big clue was the Andrew Little's three strikes repeal.

When Peters first questioned it Labour said, "we'll talk it through, it's not over".

Yet, as we found out several weeks later, it was over.

The same game is being played on workplace reform. It's out to select committee, it's come back unchanged, business is ropeable, and all of a sudden in steps Winston saying our support is not guaranteed and it's a work in progress.

Do remember the only reason to this point we even have a slice of the 90-day trials left is because of Winston, who stopped Labour killing the whole thing off.

No, he's not going to scuttle the lot. But would it not be a stroke of genius to scuttle enough to have business breathe a massive sigh of relief? And therefore start to view him as the sensible one among the nutters?

His leadership of the country must not be underestimated either.

If this theory is right he has, in his back pocket, wide acceptance he did a very good job as Acting Prime Minister.

And do not forget either the Pacific Islands refugee stance. Policy his way, without the Ardern consultation.

It looks increasingly that if he's not Prime Minister, he's a co-Prime Minster.

All he needs now is traction in the polls.

Ardern, of course, is going to have to deal with this. From Labour's point of view, they're being undermined, right in front of their eyes.

And that another card in the Peters' pack.

Given what we have seen of Ardern of late, when it comes to leadership, who would you back to blink first? Exactly.

As I write this, it all seems almost too clever. But what if it's not?