Winston Peters will be wondering why he has let his political legacy be destroyed by not simply declaring donations that came from legal sources and being open in his role in soliciting them. All those MPs and other hangers-on who have ridden on the coat-tails of one of New Zealand’s most successful politicians* must be quietly eyeing up their future post-NZF. Because this is the end of the road. Barring some miracle at his hearing tonight, Winston will be damned by Owen Glenn’s evidence. Clark will sack him as a minister either tomorrow or, more likely, when the Privileges Committee report comes back (he may be a liability but Clark will err on the side of due process) and Labour will complete the process of cutting its ties to NZF. Electoral doom awaits a tarnished politician whom neither major party will work with.
The irony of this is that National has behaved just as dubiously in respect to electoral donations but, unlike New Zealand First, National has managed to stop details of their activities coming to light. The Hollow Men emails show that John Key was heavily involved in fundraising for National. The million were funneled through the secret trusts to hide the identities of the donors, among whom are thoguht to be some contraversial characters and industry groups that received policy favours in return. Key himself was probably one of the larger donors via those trusts. Maybe the blow-torch of two months of media focus would bring some of the details of those trusts to light but that seems unlikely to happen.
Will this hurt Labour? I don’t think so. So, Owen Glenn might have asked Mike Williams if a donation to Peters’ electoral petition would suit Labour and Williams said ‘yes’, so what? Even if Mike Williams did pass that on at some point to others in Labour, Clark was still in the same position when she asked Glenn if he had made a donation to NZF and he said ‘yes’ while Peters said ‘no’ – she knew the evidence was conflicting but she had to take her minister at his word. The only way that this really hurts Labour is that all the journos are myopically focused on it – Labour would rather be debating policy. National on the other hand, needs to keep the media focused on anything other than its policies, its secret agenda, and its infighting. The media will undoubtedly continue to play along.
*[as much as I detest the xenophobia that is strong in NZF, I would argue in terms of policy successes Peters comes behind only Clark and Cullen as the most successful MMP-era politician]