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March 11, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Politics (Left) – It Started with a Teacup

In the run up to the 2011 General Election, the New Zealand First party was registering four fifths of fuck-all in polls until that fateful cuppa between John Banks and John Key. Winston Peters leapt into action, as enthusiastically as his wise old legs could carry him. he accused the Prime Minister of saying that core NZ First voters were dying, activating his grey base of voters and thousands of other New Zealanders who envisaged a left government being carried over the line by the party.

Alas, for those hopeful voters, the numbers didn’t work out on the night, but we did see an unexpected eight NZ First candidates take seats in our house. Unfortunately, it seemed that this outcome was just as unexpected for those NZ First candidates who found themselves strolling the halls of power.

Since then we’ve seen NZ First’s Asenati Taylor go wild on Twitter, Brendan Horan pushed overboard by Peters, and Richard Prosser explode into international media in a racist terrorism rant. It makes you wonder who will fall off the rails next and continue the NZ First trainwreck (perhaps notorious public pisser, Andrew Williams?)

Sadly, the NZ First clusterfuck doesn’t exist within a vacuum. The way they came to Parliament raises questions about our MMP voting system. It has to be accepted that we, as voters, got what we deserved. 147,000 people voted for NZ First  and the proportional number of MPs were delivered, but very few people knew that an ex-weatherman was going to become an MP when they cast their vote. Party lists are totally transparent, but with Peters the only visible face in the media during the campaign there are bound to be droves of New Zealanders wishing the old FPP system could have increased scrutiny for each and every MP entering Parliament.

The problem goes beyond this. NZ First’s presence in this term of parliament has serious implications for a change of government in 2014. Current polling suggests it is unlikely they will have support over the five per cent threshold at the next election, but the same was the case in 2011. Peters cannot be written off so easily. If NZ First scrape below 5 per cent, there will be 100,000 or more wasted votes, which could be a crucial difference between a Labour government and the status quo. If Peters does return, he is liable to cause havoc during coalition negotiations as he did in 1996, and if a deal is struck the party will be an unstable coalition partner.

So, what does this mean? Labour and the Greens can try to force NZ First out of Parliament, but do so at the risk of votes cast for
NZ First being wasted. The other option is for Shearer, Turei and Norman to bring Peters in, develop strong relationships, and try their hardest to ensure that he and his party will be reliable in government. Failure means another term for National, or a very short-lived government led by the Left. Of course, being a chain smoker and an MP since the beginning of time, Winston could drop dead in the Backbencher at any moment. The only thing that is certain is that with Winston, nothing is certain.

 

Carla Marks

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