NZ First’s long predicted demise isn’t going to happen

Written By: - Date published: 8:15 am, August 6th, 2015 - 91 comments
Categories: Dirty Politics, Economy, national, nz first, Politics, winston peters - Tags:

I’d hate to count the number of times that political pundits have said that New Zealand First is dead for one reason or another. I’d really hate to have to find and read John Armstrong’s stash of them. He has been consistently wrong about the party for decades – probably because he has never managed to understand who they actually appeal to.

Like his “NZ First’s appeal to diminishing fan base spells doom for party“. Which looked like it had been written by a political dimwit rather than one of the better political analysts in the media. But I suspect that he has proclaimed the death of NZ First so many times that he has it worn into a groove in his brain.

But I watch people both inside NZ First and their supporters outside. That is why I know that the following statement by Armstrong is complete crap.

The party is marooned in a time bubble of the economic boom of the 1950s along with the suffocating social conformity of that era.

Its unwillingness to confront that myth of a better past will ultimately be the death of it as those who lived through those times and who gain comforting reassurance from Winston Peters’ pronouncements pass away.

Just to give John’s ridiculous rhetoric some context, I was born in 1959 and my parents at the time were 20 and had been working for a few years. They are 76 now. So effectively John Armstrong with his ridiculous rhetoric is talking about people in their 70s and above.

Now I have no time for NZ First and never have had. But I turn up at NZ First conferences as media these days to see what is actually going on. Perhaps John Armstrong should try it. Because NZ First isn’t likely to disappear any time soon.

Sure those conferences have a sprinkling of the septuagenarians and octogenarians who would have been working in the 1950s, but people older than my parents are pretty rare. There is definitely a grey tinge. but it is mostly the grey of people in their 60s or 50s. Quite a few in their later 40s and relatively few younger than that. But like all political parties

That is a demographic profile that is quite unlike most of the reporters who have been at the couple of NZ First conferences I have attended, they’d be in their 20s and early 30s. They also get played pretty well by various people at the conferences, and especially by Winston Peters.

But these youngish journos also lack crucial experience in reading political gatherings. I’m a veteran of at least 20 Labour party conferences starting in the early 1990s, and innumerable other political events on the left.

For me, the social clusterings and internal politics of NZ First are interesting to watch. A pretty vibrant party with quite a range of activists and characters. It is pretty clear to an observer who is experienced in party politics exactly why it is a particularly resilient party. Lots of tension between rampant egotists, a grudging willingness to work for common goals, and a long history of doing so. All signs of a long life party.

But this is where it gets interesting, because the people who turn up to conferences are not particularly representative of the people who vote for a political party. They are representative of the party activists, who at present have a strong tendency to be the people who were raised with little television. I’m sure that people will be able to figure out the reasons for that observation 🙂

Sure NZ First has a strong group of aged voters. But this is a party that has been running for 25 years. It had a strong group of aged voters back in 1995 when I first started running across their supporters when canvassing. That is why NZ First has a generic period of silence for their dead and departed. But you’d think that John would be able to do the demographic maths. Those first generation of aged NZ First activists have been replaced by people who can’t remember the 1950s. Just as their aged voters have.

But that isn’t surprising. At least half of the voters I have run across in the last decades who regularly vote for NZ First have been younger than I am. While they have no particularly strong memories even of the 1960s, they tend to have vivid memories of the 1980s and 1990s. Those conservative voters don’t have pleasant memories of the first Act government (mixed in with a bit of Labour) followed by a National government gone rabid on them – which is the way that they tend to view it. They sure as hell don’t want those kinds of mad dogs doing the same thing to their kids or their grand kids.

They don’t vote for Winston Peters or NZ First as much as they vote against the stupefying conformities of the present day. Which convincingly enough Armstrong then proceeds to demonstrate further down his article.

The majority of political thinking now favours the “investment” approach to getting people off the benefit through intensive management of circumstances that preclude an individual’s return to the workforce. The sharp drop in beneficiary numbers is seen as vindication for that approach, although a more buoyant job market has also been a major factor.

I’d say that it is more a “vindication” of the ‘screw the numbers’ approach that National has towards statistics. They simply use any excuse to drop people on direct full benefits by getting them to do a few hours a week, and then top up their incomes. This creative accounting means that foolish people can laud the falling numbers and fail to recognize that the overall spending on direct and indirect benefits (via the tax system) isn’t dropping nearly as rapidly. Nor that the grey and black markets for employment appear to be expanding rapidly because National has simply made it very hard to get on a benefit. But I digress..

Many of the people who vote for NZ First are largely conservatives who in the past would have been solid National party voters. Many of them or their kids got hurt by the kinds of daft fiscal fiddling that John Armstrong lauds.  They simply don’t believe in it. What they want their taxes to pay for is the support that it is meant to – for those in real need rather than for mates of the National party.

It is the same type of arsehole accounting crap that Act put up against NZ First in 2008 at the behest of the dirty politics crew in National, and that I predicted in 2008/9 would result in an bigger vote for NZ First after voters realised they had been tricked. That happened, and I’d expect it to keep growing as the conservative voters desert National. Conservatives who vote for NZ First tend to put a very high value on the type of personal moral certainties that NZ First exemplifies for them. They really don’t like the kind of duplicitous bullshit that National have displayed since John Key and the urban money grubbers took control.

I think that NZ First has a long future ahead of it, even after Winston disengages, as they keep eating away at National’s conservative base in the rural and provincial areas. The old alliance that is the National party looks increasingly frail in those regions these days.


91 comments on “NZ First’s long predicted demise isn’t going to happen ”

  1. Detrie 1

    Agree 100%. The fact too that both labour and national are both centrist parties will naturally keep these smaller parties in the picture. Peters is also a master at seeking out the disaffected. The elderly and those in the provinces are natural breeding grounds for NZ First voters.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      The fact too that both labour and national are both centrist parties will naturally keep these smaller parties in the picture.

      National is a hard right, authoritarian party. Labour is somewhat less right and less authoritarian. Neither could be considered a centre party.

      NZF actually is a centre party but is almost as authoritarian as National.

  2. JanMeyer 2

    Time will tell. Methinks that when Winston departs, the party will miss the cut if led by anyone other than Shane Jones. It’s surely an indictment on Winston’s leadership that after all these years – and much electoral and political success – the only realistic prospect of “life after Winston” is to parachute in another egomaniac. But if they do then I agree there is a solid constituency for the party to continue to represent.

    • lprent 2.1

      I don’t really see Shane Jones making it in NZF. He really doesn’t fit the style of the party.

      And I think that he would be too tainted, especially after taking a what can be viewed as a bribe “job” from National.

      I suspect that Shane is something that something that Winston dangles in front of the ever eager journos to keep them amused. It was instructive looking both at what went on in the stand-ups compared to what got aired on the idiot box for TV3.

      There were also several people in the conference that I think would probably make pretty good leadership material. Remember how high their *base* support is. It was ~4.5% in the 2008 election after one of the dirtiest smear operations that I have ever seen in NZ. That is a pretty good place to grow from.

  3. tinfoilhat 3

    I can’t see NZ First surviving very long after Winston decides to pack it in there’s no one else in his party with his political smarts and appeal, although who knows he might just continue for another 20 years.

    • lprent 3.1

      I don’t think he can go on for 2 decades. I disagree about the leadership. That is juts what gets shown on the idiot box.

      We are talking about voters who don’t believe much that they see on there. They have observed the difference between the TV fantasy world and their own realities. So they will as far as possible make up their own mind rather than listening to a stuffed shirt waffling crap.

  4. Paul 4

    I imagine David Farrar’s polling for the Nats and focus groups are showing that NZ First is eating into the Nats vote in the provinces.
    So a message has been sent out to its patsy, compromised and embedded journalists to attack and undermine NZ First.

    • lprent 4.1

      That detailed polling in the wake of the dairy price drops would be my bet for the recent rise in NZF bashing.

      NZF loves it, but I suspect that it is counter-productive for National.

      • dukeofurl 4.1.1

        The dairy price drop – and the rise in unemployment in those provincial areas- will lead national back to the ‘old system’ of primary industry subsidies.
        They may be creative about it after the backlash from the subsidy to Bluff Aluminium smelter but it will happen. It seems that many young dairy farmers are ‘underwater’ in the financial sense. NZ First is the party that will benefit from rural dissent ( that is until Dirty Politics starts moving against Winston again, as a follow on to Colin Craig)

        • Colonial Viper

          TPPA = no more primary industry subsidies

          • dukeofurl

            Its far more likely to be hidden.
            Comalco got a direct government payment last time but this time it seems like there’s a hidden subsidy from the state by way of a reduction in Transpower lines charges. Nothing will be announced but the Bluff smelter new arrangements are very baffling but would explain why all the other South Island power generators are in on the deal.

            You specialise in the digging out of the financial plain truths, maybe you could make sense of it.

    • Chooky 4.2

      @ Paul “So a message has been sent out to its patsy, compromised and embedded journalists to attack and undermine NZ First”.

      yup…and Susan Devoy is one such nact patsy ( thick as two short planks…and I suspect she has her goals set on becoming an Nact MP)

      …on Morning Report ( another Nact mouthpiece) Devoy was WARNING against racism and accusing Labour of being racist for its Chinese name list on the buy up of Auckland houses ( everyone …except maybe the Greens…knows this is a housing crisis problem Labour was trying to bring out into the open)

      ….and then Devoy made a reference to “Two wongs don’t make a Right”….which I think was one of Winston’s cracks…a veiled attack on Winston for being racist?…( and has Winston run howling to the Race Relations Commissioner for every racist slur made on him over the years…I think not)

      The Nacts are in over-drive alright!…running scared!…both over dairy prices and house prices for New Zealanders

      • Paul 4.2.1

        Farrar’s polling is seen by the inner sanctum of the Nats only, right?

      • marty mars 4.2.2

        “…Susan Devoy is one such nact patsy ( thick as two short planks… )

        Nasty stuff – I don’t think she is thick at all – why not give her a chance – that’s right she says things you disagree with – must be lots of short planks around you

        • Chooky

          @ marty mars….well you are a Greenie …right?…and the Greens agree with the Nact framing of the Labour Party bringing up the housing crisis in Auckland as “crude racial profiling”

          …when it is obvious to everyone connected with the real estate market that house prices in Auckland and other places in New Zealand are being driven up by Chinese overseas demand…as they are elsewhere, especially in Canada and Australia….and this stated by the Chinese themselves…this is not racism! …this is fact!

          …what Susan Devoy and you are doing is buying into Nact framing spin of racism and accusing anyone who points this out as being racist…it is not racism! ( so the conclusion is patsy or stupid or both)…and the accusation of racism is “nasty”..

          • marty mars

            I love my greens, sure – so the greens are nasty now for calling out the ineffectual and idiotic racist labour dog whistle???

            you stick with winnie I can see an alignment there for you…

            • Chooky

              @ marty mars…re “I love my Greens”( I think I used that phrase first long ago) …last time I heard you were Mana/Int…so who are you really?

              … actually you brought up the word “nasty”…so look in the mirror

              I didnt say the Greens were “nasty”…dont put words in my mouth

              …I said the framing and accusation of “racism” against Labour was “nasty”

              …and thankyou I will vote for who I wish… without your advice…I have been a supporter of the Greens for many years ….doesnt mean I cant criticise them…In the past I have voted Green ( donated hundreds to the Greens /worked for the Greens)…and voted Mana/Int ….and NZF…I may yet vote Labour again after many years

              You find the facts difficult I know ….but concern about huge buy ups of New Zealand housing and land is not a racist issue it is an issue of fact…which has been framed by jonkey nact as a racial issue

              ….and you buy into this nact racist framing?!


              • greens said it was racist you say framing and accusation blah blah against labour was nasty – so where have I got it wrong again???

                I don’t care who you vote for.

                • Chooky

                  I said nact framing of the issue as racist is wrong ( Susan Devoy is following this framing…she is wrong!…some Greens spokespeople have been following the Nact framing…and they too are wrong!)

                  …It is a fact that New Zealand ( and Australia and Canada) has a housing crisis and many of the existing housing stock is being bought up by Chinese…and overseas non resident Chinese….Shock , horror even honest Chinese say this too!


                  …therefore on your argument the Chinese are being racist against themselves…doesn’t make much sense does it?….really what they are doing is being honest about the facts and stating why there is a housing crisis in Canada and Australia and New Zealand..and why the Chinese are flooding the market and buying up existing housing stock.

                  …I remind you that you brought up the word “nasty”.

                  …you also said “you stick with winnie I can see an alignment there for you…”…why did you say this?…is it meant in a pejorative way?…are you calling me racist by implication?…are you calling Winston Peters racist? ( because if so, this is more nact framing….Winston Peters is not racist (or sexist) and gets on exceptionally well with Asian leaders and was an exceptionally good Minister of Foreign Affairs..maybe because he is no fool and they respect him?!…he doesnt sell out his own country!..just as they do not sell out their own countries)

                  • yes i thought your comment that devoy was thick as two short planks was nasty

                    • Chooky

                      well it is a common New Zealand rural term…my uncle used to say it often…dont take it to heart !…it is a wee bit humorous and Barry Crumpish or Dad and Dave..ish…”nasty” is all in your head

                      …. where have you been?…certainly not in rural NZ for very long, if at all…

                    • same old defenses there chooky – waste of time…

                    • Chooky

                      what “same old defenses”? …you are not making sense…again

                      however I have to agree with you … “waste of time”

          • Macro

            + 100 🙂

          • Anne

            Yes Chooky. Have frequently voiced hope for a Labour/Greens Coalition Govt. in the past but now I’m having reservations….

            • Chooky

              Anne I still hope for a coalition between Labour and the Greens….the Greens have some very good people and supporters…despite their most recent disappointing form adopting nact framing and attacking Labour

              …However I think every political party should have an expert/ spokesperson on Climate Change and environmental issues

              ..In this day and age Green and environmental issues should not just be the prerogative of one party is far too easy to subvert and corrupt…and any serious political party can not afford to ignore these issues …they should be a major platform and a number one concern as they were for Kevin Rudd in Australia

              I would like to see someone of the calibre of David Cunliffe head Climate Change issues in the Labour Party…it would make Labour a more rounded , wide appealing party.

              I am not sure who should lead on this issue in NZF….maybe Winston ?…it certainly requires someone capable of complex in depth thought on multiple issues surrounding the major issue of Climate Change and skilled communication.

      • Anne 4.2.3

        … and then Devoy made a reference to “Two wongs don’t make a Right”….which I think was one of Winston’s cracks…a veiled attack on Winston for being racist?…( and has Winston run howling to the Race Relations Commissioner for every racist slur made on him over the years…I think not)

        Straight out of the Judith Collins songbook.

  5. Sabine 5

    Well said.

  6. Lanthanide 6

    I think you’ve persuasively argued that there is a core constituency that NZ First services.

    But I don’t think you’ve convincingly argued that it is NZ First who will be *the* party that represents this constituency, particularly after Winston retires.

    • lprent 6.1

      I wasn’t saying they were the party to try to hit this constituency.

      It was the target for united future before they went completely into survival mode. The Conservative Party made a grab for it as well, right down to cloning large chunks of NZF policy. But neither of those parties are now upstanding. Possibly Craig might be if he can prove dirty politics.

      Nor are the Progressives, and their modern variant – the conservative right in Labour. They would love to get them as well.

      And then of course National doesn’t want to lose their votes.

      I just think that it is pretty demonstratable over the last couple of elections that NZF are the most successful at getting them and retaining them.

      • Lanthanide 6.1.1

        Sure, but this article is about a prediction for NZFirst’s continued good-health into the future.

        Most commentators however think a lot of the popularity comes from Winston. If he were out of the picture, although the constituency may still exist, NZFirst may lose the ability to harness them. I don’t think you adequately detailed how NZFirst would maintain this constituency going into the future.

        Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance, especially in politics (see: UF, ACT, Conservatives).

  7. Chooky 7

    Winston is not going to retire any time soon…He is a thorn in the side of Nactional…and is having too much fun …also he is a patriot, a politician passionate about New Zealand …. my bet is that he will be the coalition partner of Labour…as he has done very successfully in the past.

    I took my Mother ( a staunch Labour supporter) and her interested friend to a NZF meeting in a rural centre a few years ago…just for fun…The hall was absolutely packed, no standing room left in the hall ( we just squeezed in even although we were not late)..and later people were flowing out the double doors…It was packed with well- dressed farmer types…Winston was riveting!…had the Pakeha audience eating out of his hand…He really is a remarkable speaker…standing ovation

    I also know for a fact that some who have been active working for the Greens and their occupation is in things like bee keeping… alternate between voting NZF and voting Green…so watch out Greens!

  8. Colonial Viper 8

    As times get tougher, economic nationalism is going to make a come back in a huge way. Labour is too neoliberal to own that ground, so NZ First will. NZF will do fine after Winston, but a transition plan needs to be locked in place. No messy and destructive splits.

  9. dukeofurl 9

    The political commentary is right on.

    Right up to the 1970s the policy of both parties was full employment and they meant it , it wasn’t just aspirational talk from media advisors.
    This still has resonance as you can see its current bastardised form that National use : “Working for New Zealand”, meaningless of course but they have to have it.

    We can see some prominent former politicians who family life essentially existed because of the this policy of full employment, but strangely disavow it now.
    Michael Laws parents in Wanganui had typically for the period low skills, but both were able to work more or less continuously, indeed he went to university with no student loan over his head.
    Rodney Hides father had a small rural contracting business, which was protected from competition by strict licensing (this was in all areas from cinemas to hotels& bars), he too went to university without a student loan.

    The state was a large provider in housing, from developing the suburbs to managing the tenants, this was needed as the government policy didnt allow banks to source funds overseas, a major cause of the housing asset bubble, indeed currency controls meant the governments borrowing was met by the local banks forced to buy government bonds so there wasn’t much left for pushing up house prices.
    There would be many other areas that were organised for the main economic policy, full employment. This is the type of NZ that NZ First voters remember ?

    • Planet Earth 9.1

      “Michael Laws parents in Wanganui had typically for the period low skills” – his father Keith was rector of Waitaki BHS and then principal of Scots College, is that what you mean? I don’t think it reinforces your point.

      • dukeofurl 9.1.1

        You are right , I had thought Laws said his father worked in the local freezing works and his mother was a part timer in Wanganui shops , but it was Laws himself who did some time in freezing works.

  10. Charles 10

    “…they tend to have vivid memories of the 1980s and 1990s. Those conservative voters don’t have pleasant memories of the first Act government (mixed in with a bit of Labour) followed by a National government gone rabid on them – which is the way that they tend to view it. They sure as hell don’t want those kinds of mad dogs doing the same thing to their kids or their grand kids.

    They don’t vote for Winston Peters or NZ First as much as they vote against the stupefying conformities of the present day. Which convincingly enough Armstrong then proceeds to demonstrate further down his article.

    Many of the people who vote for NZ First are largely conservatives who in the past would have been solid National party voters. Many of them or their kids got hurt by the kinds of daft fiscal fiddling that John Armstrong lauds. They simply don’t believe in it. What they want their taxes to pay for is the support that it is meant to – for those in real need rather than for mates of the National party…”

    This is a very particular type of “conservative”, indeed. This description alone could also include many who vote National or Labour, so there must be a more defining feature – and certainly not just age, as you say.

    A specific socio-economic pocket of people, within a specific naturally and periodically re-occurring environment at their birth; an environment which re-occurs regardless of “the era”; and that environment is able to be somewhat constructively maintained into young adulthood; and a tendency for those young adults to remember values/strongly indentify with events their parents/grandparents lived; and somehow still able to do business/profitably exist while living older values in a modern world – but also pushing back against “stupifying conformities”.

    What more specifically differentiates the two voter groups: NZF vs. Lab/Nat? Both groups may be “family oriented”, but the description suggests NZF are a different kind of family to a Labour/Nat family.

    To the passing eyeball, what’s the obvious ethnic breakdown of people you’ve seen at NZF rallies? At the risk of throwing stereotypes around, it sounds like there’d be a big Pacifica population there: “Family-oriented progressive (pragmatic?) conservatives”.

    What about middle-class Pakeha Christians? (more Baptist/Presbytarian style than Catholic) They might also fit the description.

    Whatever it is, you’re right: aging and death isn’t going to kill them, or NZF.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      many NZF supporters appear to have previously been “old school” National and Labour supporters who find that today, they have more in common with each other than with the modern day iterations of National and Labour.

      • Charles 10.1.1

        Yes, but how old of an old school? Not the eighties/nineties “Decent Society” Iprent was referring to…. well, maybe a bit of the Muldoon stuff. But if you’re in your twenties now, like I say, they’d have to be “remembering” mostly a pre-Muldoon old-school they could never possibly have lived.

        Do these people favour culture over money, whereas the “Libs” and conservatives (NeoCons, whatever they’re called) have subordinated culture to the pursuit of money? Are they a naturally occurring type that would be more suited to a European theatre circa 1920 – 1950. If it were a shallow expression, they’d be an anachronism, but I think it (the motivations that predispose someone to an appreciation of a style of culture) goes deeper than that. They aren’t “remembering”, as such. For example, where could you find someone like this today, in real life…

        Let’s say you walk into a café and you’re served coffee/food, whatever, without paying first. You can order additional items and the bill comes at the end of service. This is a café, not a Bistro or restaurant situation. That order of service was informally adopted in the early nineties here, as an attempt of aping a particular culture just for the exoticism of the style, compared to our otherwise dour Tea shops/diners prior to that period. But mostly there wasn’t any real connection to the motivations that formed that culture. It’s pretty much gone from the scene since late 1990’s, except in some particular locations. Some proprietors will even demand a credit card before you order at some places… brutta figura!

        That connection/relationship between people that says the customer and proprietor have a relationship outside of, and greater than, financial transactions (neither is superior, each depends on the other, although roles and responsibilities are different) is what gets crushed by the “Libs” et al. chasing of fortune and social aspiration over all else. In the old days, it was part of the sentiment behind the argument that old money had with the nouveau riche. Is this what differentiates potential NZF people from Labour/Nat mindset? And what is that motivation in it’s simplest form?

        I can’t paint them romantically as “better people” either, even if “life would be better” if we hadn’t lost that aspect of society. I know what it can turn into, and be labelled, once taken to an historically negative extreme; and if you go back far enough, one blurs into the other. I’m not confident that a series of Right-leaning NZ governments over the past thirty years has eradicated it; perhaps those governments just gave the wider population an “easier” alternative to emulate.

        • Colonial Rawshark

          I think the “neocons” are a very USA style of pro-war, pro-corporation, domination by any means political mentality that we do not have here in NZ. Wolfowitz doctrine stuff.

          But if you’re in your twenties now, like I say, they’d have to be “remembering” mostly a pre-Muldoon old-school they could never possibly have lived.

          I think you may be missing the point a little bit here – look at Trotter’s latest write up on Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn’s campaign is attracting tonnes of 20 something 30 something and 40 something year olds who aren’t yearning for the “old school days” of Labour (because as you pointed out they never lived through them).

          But they are yearning for the values and the priorities that Labour used to stand for, and which they have come to realise are more important now than ever when they look at the austerity that their lives and their childrens lives have become.

          • Charles

            Trotter… shit, must I?

            So Corbyn is closer to a NZF type politician? And you say old NZ Labour are similar to current NZF is some ways?

            See, here’s the difference, using Iprent’s NZF tentative profile: NZF people can maintain a social status/class, and do not choose to exceed it for old cultural reasons. Did old Labour ever voluntarily “cap” their aspirational values? Were they even ever Socialists? Bourgeois Socialists, yeah that’s closer. But Bourgeois Socialists are aspirational (and then not, depending on circumstance and who you are) by definition. NZF are “conservative” in that they prefer to “hold position”, inside the status quo. They value the status quo, adjust for position as required, rather than climb the ladder. Their politics is oriented towards culture. B/Socialist oriented towards wealth and power. What do you think?

    • lprent 10.2

      I distinguish between conservatives and business “liberals” in the Nats. The libs seem to be strongly ascendant at present, which is why the party seems to be heavily focused towards a particular group in Auckland.

      …but the description suggests NZF are a different kind of family to a Labour/Nat family.

      Yes. To my eye, the most prevalent non-pakeha group were Maori.

      What about middle-class Pakeha Christians?

      I think that they seem to separate out into christian parties of the right, or for the more compassionate to parties like Labour or NZF. I know that there are a lot of Christians who preferentially vote Labour. I have no idea about NZF.

      • Charles 10.2.1

        In your opinion, what is the correct (or ethical) way for an individual to approach (or choose), a style/colour of politics?

        • lprent

          Make your own choices. People tend to resonate with a “frequency”.

          For me it was always about inane stupidity. I vote for the party and the politiciasns that has the least stupid ideas for the long term – is decades. Since the Nats have done little since I started voting that could be called anything apart from short term, they never got my vote.

          Generally Labour has had it almost by default. In the last couple of decades because Helen Clark was so good on political long/short term balance, that I was willing to volunteer for her despite disagreeing with her on a lot of areas.

          NZF do look backwards far too much.

          The greens have until recently been into Magical solutions. They did get my party vote in 2014 because they have been steadily getting the balance between what would be liked, and what is actually possible.

      • swordfish 10.2.2

        “Yes. To my eye, the most prevalent non-pakeha group were Maori”

        NZ Election Study analyses over the years suggest Maori – particularly rural and provincial male Maori – have been one of NZF’s core constituencies.
        (despite media caricatures of an entirely elderly, white, affluent support-base)

        Incidentally, this all takes me back to 2010…

  11. Stuart Munro 11

    I think Winston has been maturing a pretty good crop of newer MPs, they certainly compare favourably with the dregs and sweepings that hold ministerial positions under the Gnats. (Murray McCully should really try to return to his old job with Flight of the Conchords).

    The issues that created NZ First have if anything got worse – treacherous MPs selling out New Zealand – there is every reason NZ First should grow. A lot of folk counted the Greens out when Jeanette Fitzsimons retired – but they came back just as strong and just as principled. The support base is there, and the policy differences are evolving.

    What is not so clear is whether NZ First belongs in a coalition of the left, a determination that must be made well before 2017 if National are to be defeated electorally – unless the MSM suddenly begin reporting honestly.

    • lprent 11.1

      What is not so clear is whether NZ First belongs in a coalition of the left…

      It is an interesting question. I suspect that he’d fit more easily there simply because the economics work better. However there is a strong and pretty open antipathy among their members and possible supporters towards the Greens. Exactly why the vehemence is something that I can’t quite figure out.

      All I can say is, that the Greens had better pull finger on their votes. While I am pretty sure that most Labour supporters, members, and a lot of MPs would prefer to work with the Greens, if it comes down to gaining the treasury benches for all of them – then the bums on seats in parliament will determine the coalitions. Just as it did in 2005 when NZF and UF effectively excluded the Greens because they were short of a seat or two.

      • Stuart Munro 11.1.1

        For my part, if NZF can clean up the corruption and economic incompetence it could be fairly right without offending me grossly. But if their right whingery amounts to no more than economic freefall on top of ideological impositions I would not support then it cannot be distinguished from the incumbents.

        To attract my support NZF would have to become a vehicle for enlightened nationalism – building a better New Zealand – a task that governments have not addressed convincingly in recent times, preferring to let Treasury, like a crew of bailiffs, sell off everything of value.

      • dukeofurl 11.1.2

        NZ First mostly opposes the old style ‘hippy greens’- it seems that even the current green party has pushed these people out.

        As its currently the gentrified wing of labour ( better jobs and live in better houses) , NZ first probably has less problems with Greens

      • Charles 11.1.3

        “However there is a strong and pretty open antipathy among their members and possible supporters towards the Greens. Exactly why the vehemence is something that I can’t quite figure out…”

        I have a psychobabble theory on that. It revolves around what NZF values can become in the extreme, and what Green values can become in the extreme. An old war between two specific ideologies of the twentieth century that never got settled, (and now never will, thanks to everyone moving Right) and that neither party likes to be reminded about. While the present environment pushes parties to favour the Righter lean of their views, the fear of the emergence of the extreme “ghosts of the past” becomes less likely. But remove the favoured Right-lean (nat/ACT) from power, which is what we face next election, and which by co-incidence holds everyone else back from fighting each other… you have big, old, trouble. No one likes their old undies displayed for everyone to see. I’d name the potential problem directly, but it’s a nice day. Why start a war?

        Edit: ha! Adam further down the page has no such hesitations.

  12. Karen 12

    I agree NZF is not going to disappear. They represent old style conservatives that don’t fit into any other party – a bit like Social Credit used to be in the 1970s and 80s.

    Winston Peters modelled himself on Muldoon – appealing to the ‘ordinary bloke,’ playing to the kinds of prejudice beloved by talk-back, and belittling any journalists who challenged him. There will always be a section of the NZ population who love this, and this is not defined by age.

    The difference between the 2 men is that Peters has loads of charm and a devastating smile, neither of which Muldoon had.

    • ianmac 12.1

      It is intriguing how a few years ago the bile aimed at Winston and NZF Maybe that showed just how effective the Dirty Tricks brigade was especially in 2008. (I was tempted to vote NZF just to keep Key out.)
      Positions of many commentators have been modified and now transitioned into support. Seldom hear/read the previous bile. In Chess terms watch out for the black knight. He’ll be back.

    • Ergo Robertina 12.2

      +1 Karen. NZ First probably didn’t get enough credit for bolstering its 2014 vote, considering the large (wasted) vote that went to the Conservatives.
      Where the vote goes after Winston exits, I don’t know.
      Interestingly my mother voted Winston for the first time last year because she couldn’t forgive the Nats for allowing MPs a conscience vote on marriage equality, so I wonder how big a factor that was.
      Belittling journalists is a great example of how Winston taps into the small-minded petty side of the Kiwi psyche.

  13. Jenny Kirk 13

    Interesting analysis, Lprent.
    I also don’t think Shane Jones is in the picture … Winston is a hard worker in Parliament and he’ll have observed that Jones is not – I can’t really see him handing over the reins to someone who slacks.
    Ron Mark is my bet for next NZF leader – he’s much more rightwing than Winston. Am wondering if he’d take the NZF Party closer to the Nats in a coalition. That could be a possibility in the future.

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      I agree, Jones is most likely a flashy lure that Peters has been dangling out there for the journos to swarm around.

      • dukeofurl 13.1.1

        JOnes would have to bring some bacon to the party, like winning Northland?

        I cant see him be given the leadership free, and I dont see him wanting it hard enough to push over Marks and become a full time electorate mp.

  14. Tiger Mountain 14

    “The old alliance that is the National party looks increasingly frail in those regions these days.”–lprent

    as ably demonstrated by Winston himself in taking the Northland seat

    Future NZ, whose Northland candidate Joe Carr, authorised a full page print add endorsing Winston ahead of ‘Hoss Cartwright’ (as some called local Brazilian and beauty parlour owner Mark Osborne), is a Nat deserters party representing differences amongst the farmers basically

    years prior to the by election torys all round the North were muttering about Sabin, whose brutishness and dimwit were off the scale even for Far North Nat MPs

    to me NZ First is for people that are not keen on the Nats but could hardly if ever bring themselves to vote Labour or Green

    • Karen 14.1

      NZF is basically a party for disaffected Nats and right leaning Labourites, which is why I would like Labour and the Greens to get enough votes to not need them in a coalition or even for confidence and supply. While there are a couple of reasonable MPs in NZF, they are outnumbered by conservatives.

      • Colonial Viper 14.1.1

        Not right leaning Labour supporters – NZF won’t have a bar of free market corporate domination or asset sales; they are very suspicious of FTAs and would clearly vote no on the TPPA.

        On economic issues they are to the Left of Labour in that they support economic nationalism.

        • Karen

          Agreed CV. Should have said conservative, nationalistic Labourites rather than right wing, which is usually read as neoliberal these days .

          • Colonial Viper

            indeed…I think the ‘old school’ NAT and LAB supporters alike are migrating to NZF.

        • Chooky

          CV +100…well put ….”NZF won’t have a bar of free market corporate domination or asset sales; they are very suspicious of FTAs and would clearly vote no on the TPPA”

          NZF has been to the Left of Labour on these issues for some time….anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded or mischievous…

          …in fact NZF and the Greens hold very similar views on many things……including the fact that voters sometimes vote Green one Election and NZF the next …or split vote for both in the same Election.

          imo the Greens and NZF are in competition…which is counterproductive…they should both be in coalition with Labour

    • Tiger Mountain 14.2

      apologies; it is Focus NZ party in comment #14

  15. Jenny Kirk 15

    I agree Karen – I’d like to see Labour and Greens strong enough to get together so a left coalition government doesn’t need NZ First’s conservative support.

    I found an interesting comment on Facebook somewhere – which echoes what Lprent has been saying :

  16. Enough is Enough 16

    I wouldn’t predict their demise yet. However I see two problems with them;

    One. People LOVE Winston. He is a charismatic leader who has a strong loyal support base like no other leader in Parliament. I am not convinced that the party can maintain 5%+ without him.

    Two. Winston is pragmatic and has always said he can work with both sides. You also have to consider that Key will do whatever it takes to cling onto power. Again I have no confidence that given the choice, Winston would go into government with Labour/Green over National.

    I would prefer we did not have to rely on NZ First.

    • Draco T Bastard 16.1

      Just more reason why we need policy to be set by referendum.

    • dukeofurl 16.2

      You are assuming that in reality he will have a pure choice, national OR labour.

      That never happens. First he will align with the largest party who needs the smallest number of coalition partners. As this strengthens his position. Not for him national being able to play him off against ACT , Maori party etc. Where possible he will exclude other parties as has happened with greens- this is because it dilutes his power.

      Remember its never a choice soley of national or Labour. The numbers would almost never make it possible and maximise his influence

    • Colonial Viper 16.3

      I would prefer we did not have to rely on NZ First.

      LAB + GR alone adding up to 50% or 51%? How is that going to happen? Ideally you want to form a government which has a majority of more than just 1 or 2 in the House.

      Or perhaps LAB better start being friendlier to the Maori Party or Peter Dunne.

      • Chooky 16.3.1


      • Enough is Enough 16.3.2

        I don’t disagree with you and that is what is so depressing. And what I said does not mean we won’t rely on him.

        My point is it is an unknown gamble. We know with 100% certainty that neither Labour nor the Greens will form a government with National.

        However no one (not even Winston) knows what side NZ First will come down on.

        That is why I would prefer we did not have to rely on him.

    • Stuart Munro 16.4

      Winston’s refusal to commit probably costs him as many votes as his charisma wins him. My feeling is that as the depression bites things will come to a head – either a major party support will collapse or one of the minors will enjoy another day in the sun.

      Labour might want to think about approaching a depression electorate with neocons in their ranks – or they may do a Milliband, and prefer not to think about it. Little is a good leader for such an eventuality, but as with Cunliffe, much depends on the discipline of the troops.

      The Conservative NZF battle has yet to be decided but the victor can expect a bunch of seats in parliament. If the Gnats collapse – which given their screw-ups is reasonably likely – both may survive to drive each other crazy in the House. If Labour doesn’t lead the fight against Key their share of the spoils will be proportionately less.

  17. red-blooded 17

    Am I the only one who thinks Winston is a snake-oil merchant? His particular brand of bluster and bravado may help to fill halls, but it doesn’t make him a reliable political leader. Who else remembers the “Young Turks” he was so proud of in the Māori seats, who deserted him to continue propping up National after he left his alliance with them in the early 90s? Every since, he’s been staunchly anti the idea of having Māori seats at all; to hear him now you’d think it was part of his “one New Zealand” vision, when actually he just got his hands burned by having a group of MPs who felt more connected to each other than to his party and who didn’t tow the line when told to walk away.

    He may have been found to be officially not at fault in his party’s failure to declare donations during his last term in government, but he set up the lax structures and deliberately kept himself one step away, while still signing the declaration. At best, this was slack, at worst it was dishonest. either way, it was an embarrassment to the Clarke government.

    I’m not necessarily saying NZ First will wither and die without Winston, but I do think he’s the driving force in the party. Ron Marks doesn’t have the creepy charisma or the knack for a soundbite. As for Shane Jones; that would make them (and him) a laughing stock: run for leader of Labour, cuddle up with National and walk away into the newly-created fisheries job, then superimpose himself on NZ First? It might be his more natural political environment, but too bad – he’d be seen as tainted (and quite rightly so).

    • Colonial Rawshark 17.1

      but it doesn’t make him a reliable political leader.

      Winston has proven more reliable and longer lasting than most other ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ political leaders.

      • red-blooded 17.1.1

        “Reliable” and “long lasting” aren’t the same thing.

        Winston tells blatant lies, dodges the truth, looks to create conflict and division, misleads the public (remember “The only way to get rid of National is to vote NZ First”? How many people expected him to jump into bed with Bolger after that?). I repeat, he’s not reliable.

        • Colonial Rawshark

          I wouldn’t put money on which way Winston would go either. He is a guy who will work all the angles when he needs to.

          Has it occurred to you though that a large number of voters view Labour in a similar negative way, which is why they have polled in the 20’s for two elections in a row.

          And I think Winston is now legacy shopping. And if Labour understands what that means better than National does, Labour will likely get Winston’s support.

        • adam

          But red-blooded one thing Winston did when he jumped into bed with National was stop the neo-liberal onslaught in it’s tracks, with one piece of legislation. Free healthcare for the under fives.

          Love him or hate him – he does not bash the poor.

          Not my cup of tea. But there you go.

          • red-blooded

            And what about the Employment Contracts Act? One sweet gesture (which wasn’t as impressive as it seemed, as some GPs continued to charge an amount on top of the fee they were paid by the state) doesn’t make him a good guy. The Bolger government that he promised to ditch and then got into bed with got rid of teacher registration, pushed hard to bulk-fund schools, gutted workplace health and safety regulations, sold state houses, pulled back on things like building codes and inspectorates (hello, leaky homes!)… What do you call that if not “neo-liberal”?

            And in reply to the comment from Colonial Viper, yes, I am perfectly aware that some voters don’t trust or like the Labour Party. If this discussion thread was about the Labour Party, perhaps I might have mentioned that. As it’s about NZ First, I kept my focus on Winston and friends.

  18. adam 18

    Nice post Iprent.

    I’ve said here a few times that the conservative voice in New Zealand politics is hardly ever heard any-more. I grew up around a family who were farmers and urban. The Farming side of my family were on the whole conservative, they actually thought labour were fluffy, they liked Rob Muldoon a whole lot more.

    I liked them, I liked spending time on the farms, and orchards – I liked hearing their politics – I disagreed with it – but they were not nasty about the poor, and they felt a genuine distrust of socialist politics. Notice I did not use the word hatred, they distrusted it – they knew what worked and what would give them and theirs a good life, so they embraced it.

    One of the Uncles admitted to me he stopped voting for national after 1990, and had swapped vote to New Zealand first. I have to say this was a shock, he was a nat, and had been seen by some as a potential leader. He is a die in the wool conservative, he and I have rather daggered discussions – which usually end with Fascist and Communist being throw around. Funny as family you always go back for that argument though. And we always forgive each other.

    The odd thing, and I think you summed it up well Iprent, is my conservative uncle talks to me – however, he does not speak to his urban, national supporting brother. Those arguments were even nastier than mine with him. Actually bitter, vicious and at real cross purposes. I watched one argument in 1999, and whilst slogans like Fascist, and Communist can be laughed at when the heat of an exchange ends. Comments like retarded, unethical, dog, worm, naive, stupid, and a few I don’t want to write for ethical reasons have a tendency to sit with a person. It sat with my Conservative Uncle, I think it was the knife in the back he never expected.

  19. Observer (Tokoroa) 19

    I would like the three opposition parties to begin NOW putting out agreed policy. Put the policy out concisely, one piece at a time. Crisp, Clear, Necessary, Attractive Policy.

    I think there is enough similarity between NZ First, The Greens, and Labour to build a unified stance. National gets voted in, because it stands as a solid block …. as distinct from the Opposition which is like chipped flaky pastry without the Custard.

    They should avoid cliche such as neocon liberal, conservative, progressive, left or right. In any healthy party there will be people with diverging views.That divergence often leads to better policy.

    I cannot see The National Government being voted out (even though its back is broken by mismanagement. meanness, corrupt favouritsm and breath taking deceit).

    The Opposition has tripartite pride. And Loves New Zealand.
    But their strength can only be the strength in numbers.

    • Colonial Rawshark 19.1

      what they need to do is agree on and present on major policy areas of concern eg unaffordable housing.

      They can go to the electorate with agreement on what the main issues are and maybe 50% common policy. Leaving plenty of room for each party to sell its specific take on what else might need to be done.

      So best of both worlds. A united front in the eyes of the public, an active discussion on policy options, and each party still gets to promote its own take as the best.

  20. Colonial Rawshark 20

    I think the conclusion is that LAB and GR better start finding ways to work with NZF. Or the alternative: they should each find a way to increase their existing vote by two fifths so they can form a purely LAB/GR govt together. And, really, I cannot see it happening.

    • Macro 20.1

      Yes I agree here. I think the first proposal – Lab Gr working with NZF is the only real possibility – and despite what some say – there are many policies that are common to all three. Abolition of charter schools, climate change, parental leave, employment, regional development, railways, to name just a few off the top of the head. Obviously they will come with different viewpoints and colours but NZ needs them to work towards a common goal for the common good.

  21. ZTesh 21

    Richard Prosser, xenophobia, trashing the treaty….some things are just too unpalatable and they are an odious force in our politics.

  22. Draco T Bastard 22


    And a remit advocating a similar policy appeared at the conference. It called on the Reserve Bank to take over the entire money supply, saying banks would function solely as intermediaries in the lending process.

    Mr Peters said there were parts of the proposal which made sense and parts which did not.

    “It’s not Social Credit,” he said.

    “It is saying that the people’s sweat and equity count for something and that we should have a control on the issuance of money or that people should control that not private interests.”

    However an Epsom delegate Cliff Lyon said that the remit did hark back to Social Credit.

    That magazine does appear to be hard-right wing and obviously doesn’t like the power being taken away from private banks.

  23. Observer (Tokoroa) 23

    To: Macro
    To: Colonial Rawshark

    “…….and despite what some say – there are many policies that are common to all three. Abolition of charter schools, climate change, parental leave, employment, regional development, railways, to name just a few off the top of the head.”

    What do you think would be the reaction from Main Stream Media if the three Opposition parties presented as a policy unified, potent “parliament ready” Government ?

    Correcting the obscenity of unaffordable housing and unaffordable rents are an example of possible common policy. I also agree that this will not overshadow the goals of each of those very good parties.

    Their supporters I would think, would love to have them in power in the Beehive, and not sidelined as at present.

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