web analytics

The political strategy of Winston Peters

Written By: - Date published: 7:21 am, September 29th, 2017 - 13 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, labour, national, nz first, Politics, winston peters - Tags:

We are right in the middle of a balancing point. The New Zealand political order is in a formless and non-functioning state, yet when I walk outside our entire society is functioning as before. It can take a lot for national-level politics to actually affect the daily lives of people.

In a coalition government, the necessary compromises make that task even harder. For all parties but especially minority parties to affect any change, they need resolute strategy.

Good strategy corresponds not only to your objectives, but also to the way people work and the way the world works. That’s the fundamental Machiavellian proposition. Do what works. Don’t do what sounds nice but doesn’t work.

We rarely if ever in politics get to the heart of that proposition: How do people work? Mentioning Machiavelli, we might get images of long declamatory speeches from movers and shakers clothed in yards of sumptuous brocaded cloth.

Not here.

MMP feels like it has done away with our capacity to have any kind of strategy at a national level. This is so wrong, because on the contrary, MMP government puts high pressure upon every component to operate with the precision and designed purpose of a photocopier, page after legislative page, and all components know how they are essential for it all to continue.

Without a layman’s awareness of political philosophy, it is difficult to develop coherent strategy that gives such coherent political purpose. Agreement about values or philosophical principle are not necessary. For even if we disagree on philosophical propositions, active awareness of them exposes baseline shared interests. The debates around the formation of the Treaty of Waitangi disagreed over philosophical premises and conclusions. But they found sufficient agreement in a few important things. The Treaty of Waitangi is not as inspiring as it could be – there is for example no great optimistic preamble as there is to the U.S. Constitution. But once those gathered at Waitangi had thrashed those common interests out, they could begin the difficult process of compromising. Consequently, for all its flaws, our Treaty has been proven to deliver one of the best ethnically integrated countries on earth. A pretty good strategy benchmark for an MMP negotiation, in short.

Now take this little excerpt from an apology issued by Airbnb last year:

At the heart of our mission is the idea that people are fundamentally good and every community is a place where you can belong.”

That’s a good example of political philosophy driving business strategy. But there are competing philosophical options. What if people are not fundamentally good? What if any person really can’t belong to any community? If wrong, the strategy is corrupt, and entire success in doubt.

From what I am observing, Winston Peters is setting out the textbook questions and answering them as he goes in a refreshing manner: how should people interact with one another? How do they actually interact with one another? How do we account for the difference?

He’s not delivering an exercise in mere civility. The political philosophy he is displaying seeks to describe politics from the ground up, since it deals with mandate and the processes to exercise mandate, of law, rights, ethics, and morality.

Inside this little existential window, we have a moment to re-inform in our minds that space which asks: how should we deal with each other? And: how should we deal with each other if we are to have a common conception of what our place should be like?

Here’s a quote from U.S. Undersecretary of the Army Patrick Murphy.

Most Iraqis want what we do: peace, security, good-paying jobs so they can feed their family, and they like to play sports, too, like soccer, just like we do.”

In what way are those true? In what way are they not? What evidence confirms it?

Interrogating our political philosophies, and expanding the set that we can draw from, may help us better evaluate our expectations of ourselves, our allies, and our enemies.

It gives us a moment for those on the left, for example, to note that class is not the only source of our problems. Equality of power and wealth does not make terrible problems go away. They keep on coming.

But of those several options, we only hear two of them used regularly to explain human political behaviour: interest and class. So I have a pretty clear sense that Winston’s party represents something far more interesting than interest and class: it’s a layering of very complex realms of nostalgia and loss, regional belonging, how tensions between between city and country undercut the concept of inevitable progess, of pressured social stratas with precise cultural markers, of very complex Maori identity formations, of the deep social meaning of the 1950s and 1960s to current New Zealand identity – and he embodies it all intuitively and succinctly in who he is and how he works with people.

That kind of person would celebrate election night and strategise the results on the beach of the oldest settlement in New Zealand, the earliest sustained meeting ground of Maori and European: the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell, Bay of Islands.

What Winston Peters is doing in these interregnum days is enabling us to revisit political philosophy, and it is a powerful practise for the strategist. It helps us keep in touch with the long national and global game (and by game I mean the capacity to identify and disrupt patterns of broad causality at speed). Revisiting and refining political philosophy helps us do what works because it helps us identify the ways that people work, together.

The 4th century Roman biographer and political philosopher Plutarch wrote:

The life of a contemplative philosopher and that of an active statesman are, I presume, are not the same thing.”

To a degree. Statesmen, busy public servants that contribute to developing national strategy, don’t have to be philosophers.

But Winston Peters is showing that in order to be more effective, they need at least a working knowledge of political philosophy. He is making us focus on how people work. He is giving all sides the time to think deeply and seriously on such topics, because without it the foundations of our strategy may be skewed or altogether false, and in particular without it an MMP government will fall. Skewed strategies may then lead us to places inconsistent with the core values of our nation. This is the rare moment to name them. And ignorance of political philosophy within strategy will miss the purposes for which strategies were created in the first place.

Winston Peters is showing us that revisiting and refining political philosophy helps us do what works because it helps us identify and describe the various ways that people work. It’s a good moment to watch and learn.

13 comments on “The political strategy of Winston Peters ”

  1. North 1

    I don’t accept that Peters is going to burn his legacy of decades as a New Zealand political phenomenon to install the arrogant born-to-rule crooks who only weeks ago sought to destroy him.

  2. roy cartland 3

    Your tone suggests a bit of a philosophy shift, much like what the Guardian is claiming in the UK:
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/27/socialism-jeremy-corbyn-labour-conference

    This is the long game, the hardest thing to do in politics, but the worthiest. Like the Greens it’s changing minds and values, not just managing the immediate.

    If you’re right, it could be the beginnings of the change NZ desperately needs.

    • Carolyn_nth 3.1

      I do think we are going through a difficult period of change. There’s no way of telling whether it will result in a good change of direction for the many.

  3. Carolyn_nth 4

    What?

    A very “learned” piece, and nothing much I can relate to what NZ First is currently doing. Fine words but…..

    In the interregnum, the spinners keep spinning, the dirty politics practioners continue with their dirty deeds, the mainstream media is milking it all for arresting headlines, and amidst it all is a lot of scaremongering and game playing.

    Finding any coherent philosophy among all that – apart from the right will use any nasty, ruthless measures they can, because winning and gaining/maintaining power is all to them.

    Negotiations take time. For the rest of us, it’s watch our back time – NACT plotters and spin merchants never cease their plotting and spinning.

    Better to spend the time going fishing. And working on building stronger left wing flax roots networks, campaigns…. and a movement.

  4. cleangreen 5

    I know Winston and his word is his bold.

    He will get his main planks done before anything else.

    He wants to keep NZF well to fight again antil the country is fixed from the national nine year wrecking ball.

  5. AB 6

    “So I have a pretty clear sense that Winston’s party represents something far more interesting than interest and class: it’s a layering of very complex realms of nostalgia and loss, regional belonging, …, of pressured social stratas … of very complex Maori identity formations, of the deep social meaning of the 1950s and 1960s to current New Zealand identity”
    Well Winston has always operated out of a sense of NZ as ‘a people’, which is something more than a nation. But he also realises that if “Interest and class” get out of balance, then that “people” will eat itself, scrabbling over each other like rats in a hole. That’s why he likes to castigate “elites”. I don’t think this insight is peculiar to Winston, it’s pretty common currency among the left.
    What we can credit him with is a sense of a “people” that is somewhat more muli-faceted than others have. That’s because he is quite a lot older than any other political leader and has adult memories of the world before 1984, and he spans two cultures (Maori and Pakeha) as well as the urban and rural experiences.

  6. N.Z.F. has stuff it wants to do.

    Denis O’Rourke might be out of Parliament, but if New Zealand First’s “Railways of National Importance” programme goes ahead, you can thank him for conceiving the idea as a direct counter to National’s “Roads of National Significance”.

    If the Fighting Foreign Corporate Control Bill is revived and passed, thank Fletcher Tabuteau, the author of the Bill of Parliament which National, A.C.T. and United Future shot down at the first reading.

    Darroch Ball had a job and training bill that National, A.C.T. and United Future shot down at the first reading for youths not in jobs or schooling. It was not perfect, but no one else had such a Bill of Parliament ready to go. So unless you know of another Bill of Parliament that is going to do better, thank Darroch.

  7. Pete 8

    The mantra of New Zealand is nothing like, “At the heart of our mission is the idea that people are fundamentally good and every community is a place where you can belong.”

    The mantra is, “I am here for me and the only ones I trust are those who are like me.”

    • patricia bremner 8.1

      Rubbish Pete. A small self indulgent group are like that.

      The balance of Kiwis still rush to help others, contribute to go-fund pages, look for the best in others, and value their families.

      We still believe we can make a difference. And we will.

  8. mike 9

    Very good Advantage and timely. The complete Peters news conference, including the questions, bears out your points. Sneering and fashionable gossip just don’t cut the mustard, as he eloquently shows. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epVftEFurDg

  9. Thinkerr 10

    And maybe, just maybe, Winston’s reputation as having learned at the Muldoon school of politics will teach us that, despite many (prhaps many, many) faults, Robert Muldoon’s reputation has been worsened, in order to prop up neoliberalism as a beneficial alternative to the perceived horrors of semi-interventionist policy & strategy.

    Muldoon wasn’t perfect, but more & more I’m thinking how hard it must have been to be King Canute and stopping the tide of neoliberalism.

    Winston, too, says he is no fan of neoliberalism. I hope, whichever choice he makes gets us as far from neoliberalism as possible, and as quickly as possible. We need to get this country moving again, working, earning export dollars, paying fair taxes on our earnings, instead of cutting back on the things this country needs to make more tax cuts.

    • North 10.1

      God……you make me love Winston AB @ 6……and as far as it goes, with two votes for him in my (closer to 70 than 60) life to date, yeah I do. By-election and last week (electorate only). Well…….not to go overboard with the love at least I discern in him some planks, New Zealand planks, that I’m pretty much comfortable with. Unlike Key whom I knew as a fake from day one. On every metric. Served less time as PM than did Helen Clark. Could have served as long I guess but his naughty little ‘dick……head’ manners got in the way. That needs to be the subject of sweeping coloured lights from the Sky Tower. It will be one day. Hilarious how a guy can be whipped into line when faced with the choice of forking out or not forking out $25 mill’, or whatever half amounted to.

      Meantime I think Winston’s gonna go with Labour/Greens. He likes adrenalin that boy and why would he do his swansong with a bunch of fetid dirty politics bastards whom only weeks ago tried to kill him ? Looking back he was a consummate Minister of Foreign Affairs when in pact with Helen Clark. I mean we never threatened to declare war on North Korea did we ? Like Key.

      Good New Zealand governance can accommodate a Winston.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Twenty highlights of 2020
    As we welcome in the new year, our focus is on continuing to keep New Zealanders safe and moving forward with our economic recovery. There’s a lot to get on with, but before we say a final goodbye to 2020, here’s a quick look back at some of the milestones ...
    2 weeks ago

  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Better care for babies with tongue-tie
    Babies born with tongue-tie will be assessed and treated consistently under new guidelines released by the Ministry of Health, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today. Around 5% to 10% of babies are born with a tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, in New Zealand each year. At least half can ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison over
    The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison is over, with all remaining prisoners now safely and securely detained, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says. The majority of those involved in the event are members of the Mongols and Comancheros. Five of the men are deportees from Australia, with three subject to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Pre-departure COVID-19 test for travellers from the UK and the US from 15 January
    Travellers from the United Kingdom or the United States bound for New Zealand will be required to get a negative test result for COVID-19 before departing, and work is underway to extend the requirement to other long haul flights to New Zealand, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed today. “The new PCR test requirement, foreshadowed last ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • PM congratulates New Year Honour recipients
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has added her warm congratulations to the New Zealanders recognised for their contributions to their communities and the country in the New Year 2021 Honours List. “The past year has been one that few of us could have imagined. In spite of all the things that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • David Parker congratulates New Year 2021 Honours recipients
    Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment David Parker has congratulated two retired judges who have had their contributions to the country and their communities recognised in the New Year 2021 Honours list. The Hon Tony Randerson QC has been appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Year’s Honours highlights outstanding Pacific leadership through challenging year
    Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio says the New Year’s Honours List 2021 highlights again the outstanding contribution made by Pacific people across Aotearoa. “We are acknowledging the work of 13 Pacific leaders in the New Year’s Honours, representing a number of sectors including health, education, community, sports, the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Supporting seniors to embrace technology
    The Government’s investment in digital literacy training for seniors has led to more than 250 people participating so far, helping them stay connected. “COVID-19 has meant older New Zealanders are showing more interest in learning how to use technology like Zoom and Skype so they can to keep in touch ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago