In some ways, there’s little to tell New Zealand First, other than let Winston Peters be himself. Peters has been (along with Helen Clark), New Zealand’s most successful MMP politician he has survived and run good campaigns every time except in 2005. He needs to remember to play the charming rogue a little more often, rather than the grump, but otherwise his political persona is fine. And, more than any other party, it is Peters’ political persona that the party depends on.
Peters is never going to change anyway but he should definitely keep the prickly relationship with the media. There is huge dislike of the political media among the public, who see them as preening, shallow, and egotistical. Seeing them getting a good old slapping from Peters is great fun. Hell, after that fantastic interview with Paul Henry in which he mocked Henry as a failed National candidate I could almost have voted NZF myself, if only I didn’t detest their conservatism.
A note of caution: don’t let the public see New Zealand First’s refusal to state a preferred coalition partner as a risk or danger (like they did in 2005, when Peters played around with blue and red cellphones) Play it the way Dunne does: you’re offering moderation and stability, not uncertainty.
Peters should run in Tauranga and put more effort into it this time. 2005 was a wakeup call. Peters cannot assume the loyalty of Tauranga, he has to earn it by getting out on the ground there and doing the hard yards. He will feel it’s beneath him but Peters should take every opportunity to put himself opposite Bob Clarkson, to show Clarkson for the idiot he is and hammer him into the ground.
Policy-wise, NZF should run as conservatives with values, as they always have done. Support better public services and a higher minimum wage, along with sensible tax cuts, not tax cuts for their own sake. The specific policy planks should be different from those either major party will use. Lower interest rates through reforming the Reserve Bank would be a good platform to run on this year, as would an expansion of free primary health services (building on NZF’s free GP visits for under sixes). A third plank for NZF (three is the ideal number of major policies to run on) could be restrictions on foreign-owned companies expatriating their profits. Forget about running anti-immigrant, that faithful old dog won’t hunt anymore, and law and order didn’t pay off in 2005, it’s unlikely to do so this time.
The polls are picking up; there’s no reason to think NZF can’t win 5% and Tauranga.