Rachel Smalley: The mysterious Winston Peters

Rachel Smalley,
Opinion old,
Publish Date
Thursday, 11 September 2014, 12:00a.m.
Winston Peters at the TVNZ Leaders Debate last week (Getty Images)
Winston Peters at the TVNZ Leaders Debate last week (Getty Images)

Another day, another poll and the latest Reid Research poll shows that National could govern without New Zealand First, but only just.

The Nats are on 46.7 percent and so with the help of its existing coalition partners - United Future, ACT and the Maori Party - they could form a government. The Conservatives are just shy of the 5 percent mark, while New Zealand First is one better - up a smidgeon and on 5.9 percent.

Throughout this campaign New Zealand First 's popularity has continued to baffle me, because the almost 6 percent who support Winston Peters don't know whether he will work with the left or the right or sit on the cross benches. He simply refuses to say. It's very Winston - keep everyone guessing.

But I'm confused by this tactic and always have been. Because if you support Winston, surely you must have a preference. Surely you either lean to the left or to the right and you have a preference as to whether he teams up with Labour or National. Or maybe you want him to sit on the cross benches and create merry hell. It perplexes me.

Most people who support a party do so because they like that party's policies. So if you support Winston, it's all a bit murky. Do you want to know what tax rate you'll pay? Or whether, as Labour has promised, you'll get free doctors visits if you're over 65? Does it bother you if a capital gains tax is introduced, or if the retirement age goes up?

So what is a vote for Winston? If you vote for New Zealand First, why are you doing so? What do you want Winston Peters to achieve for you? How is he going to represent what you want, when it's unclear exactly what he'll do come polling day?

Perhaps you have a theory. Perhaps you can enlighten me. If you support Winston Peters - and even if you don't - perhaps you can tell me what a vote for Winston Peters equates to. And if you had to bet the house on it, what do you think he'll do after September 20?