For two years now, New Zealand First has slunk along at 2-3% in the polls, occasionally rising if one their Members of Parliament manages to get an Act of Parliament through or support significant legislation. It has not been the same since it decided to support Labour’s quest to end the nine year National-led Government.
Yes, Winston Peters is getting old and people are certainly wondering why he does not simply announce his retirement and be done with it. His detractors will be hoping that the current stubbornly low polling translates into electoral oblivion on 19 September 2020. Despite all of the many detractors Mr Peters and the New Zealand First party have, it is important to note that there is no clear cut centrist alternative should New Zealanders decide that New Zealand First is finished in September.
Whilst Prosperity Party exists, it is not ready for Parliament by a significant margin. The party, which was started by Helen Peterson was formed earlier this year to provide an alternative moderate voice in the political spectrum. Even if it did run a good campaign and get warmly received by voters disgruntled with New Zealand First, it is facing several challenges that are not of its making. For and clearly foremost is the 5% Party vote/1 electoral seat hurdle, which is a formidable jump for any out of Parliament party to attempt. Second, running on limited resources and lack of name recognition, it is still building up its basic regional networks and structures. This is not likely to be ready by September.
Whilst New Zealand seems to be experiencing a possible tectonic shift in politics at the moment, it is still too conservative for the Green Party. Mr Peters may have made a mistake attacking it a week ago by calling out their lack of experience. He knows that he can rely on New Zealand’s senior citizens to turn out at the polling both to support a party that despite some progress being made last decade in terms of turning it into a 21st Century organization. He knows that most are just wanting someone who will protect their pensions, ensure that their communities are safe – developing a green economy; housing; education; foreign policy and the environment are someone else’s problem.
I am an ex-New Zealand First voter as I believe that the party is hindering the socio-economic reforms necessary to enable New Zealand to address inequality. The party had a very good policy platform whilst I was a member. However a combination of adversity to a capital gains tax/wealth tax/land tax or other measure that would enable the investment necessary in our social welfare safety net, and it back tracking on the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership, has led me to believe that levelling the playing field for those with lesser financial means, and ability.
Despite my loss of confidence in my old party, I do not believe New Zealand First to be an entirely spent force. Anyone who has followed Mr Peters and his uncanny knack of getting the party revived again and again, and believes this must surely be it, need only look at history. This is the party that was evicted from Parliament by voters who chose to that a donations racket involving New Zealand First and Sir Owen Glen was true. The Police found no wrong doing had been done, but it was not enough for the public. This is the party that no one other than party members believed would be back in 2011, but they were – 8 Members in all.
Winston Peters and his party will probably be back. Whether it is on the back of an electorate seat or by getting 5% of the party vote, only the voters in September will know the answer to that. But the voters who remember Labour in the 1980’s and National in the 1990’s taking the country apart with deregulation probably do not yet trust either enough to govern alone.