Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has left. Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is about to take charge. With media claiming the Government is in strife the onus is on Mr Peters to show who is boss and bring a bunch of loose cannons under control. And himself.
I think Mr Peters will be okay, if he can keep his tongue in check. He has been Acting Prime Minister in the past. The challenge will be keeping control of a bunch of Cabinet Ministers who seem to intent on stamping their mark, which would be fine, except the manner in which they appear to want achieve this is not so fine.
Shane Jones, Minister for Regional Development is one. His attacks on Fonterra, whilst probably accurate in terms of the allegations made, are unbecoming of a Minister of the Crown. Mr Jones, who joined the New Zealand First party last year and was given a high party list ranking for the 2017 General Election has drawn the ire of many in the party.
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is another. Mr Peters joined Mr Jones in attacking Fonterra, saying that Mr Jones’ comments are seriously accurate. Mr Peters might be the long serving serving Member of Parliament and have critical experience, but his volatility dealing with the media and naturally suspicious nature may make him a long term liability.
A third is Minister of Housing, Phil Twyford who was blindsided by the meth house scandal. He struggled to answer in a straight manner question posed by journalists about whether there would be compensation for those who were kicked out because the state houses they were in were thought to be contaminated.
And then there is Eugenie Sage, Minister for Environment. Ms Sage who had been unblemished until now, made a mistake in permitting a Chinese water bottling company to take land for developing a plant. Aside from being completely contrary to Green Party policy and principles, it has aroused significant anger among grass root Greens. Ms Sage will have also disappointed many people who thought that she was above the neoliberal politics of National and Labour. They would have been expecting her to decline the right to take land, just as she declined the application develop an open cast mine on the West Coast.
Six weeks is a long time in politics. All politicians know that one day they might be feted and celebrated for their stance on something and then the next possibly felled by an ambitious rival, they are suddenly on the outer. It might be hard enough as a Member of Parliament, but when one is a Minister of the Crown, the expectation of total transparency and the exercising of self discipline by the public is absolute. And with an Opposition still stinging from the election defeat and unified in their attempts to destroy this Government and put doubt in New Zealanders minds about this Government, any major failure in the six weeks that Mr Peters is Acting Prime Minister could have a long term repercussions for the Government of Jacinda Ardern.