Policy is everything, Winston Peters said today. This should not come as a surprise. Before every election, he has refused to give any hint of Party support preference until after the vote. But it is highly likely that he has thought a lot about what he might want to do particularly as it has long been clear that his Party would likely decide the outcome. So what are his policies?
His priorities, his preferences and his principles have been clear since the formation of New Zealand First in 1993. He gave a good summary in this interview with Bernard Hickey before the 2014 election. Export-oriented economy, a reasonable exchange rate, a strong manufacturing sector, local processing for good jobs, and so on. They might be updated but they won’t have changed.
Unlike the self-centred image crafted for him by some of the bloviating egos in the media, Peters is a serious politician. New Zealand First is a principle, not just a name. In 1996, it was highly likely that he would go with National. Labour’s vote was only 28%, and earlier in the year NZ First had been ahead of Labour. And behind Labour stood the Alliance, who were still opposed to Labour at the time. This time it may be different, as Labour and NZ First certainly have a better policy fit, and Labour and the Greens have reached significant accommodation.
The tight time-frame certainly indicates that Winston is setting the agenda for the talks. As said above he has had plenty of time to think about what he wants and how to get it. We will know on Thursday.