A man bows as he shakes the hand of New Zealand’s first leader Winston Peters during a walkabout on the grounds of Parliament.
Warwick Rasmussen is a Sunday Star-Times news director.
OPINION: The only surprising aspect of Winston Peters’ wandering through the parliamentary occupation this week was that it hadn’t happened sooner.
But what was his endgame? Yet another tilt in parliament? An attraction to attract attention?
The veteran politician had been in the limelight for the better part of 18 months, since the 2020 general election, and let’s not forget how huge the fall has been.
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He went from Deputy Prime Minister and most experienced politician in the country to ordinary citizen Winston Raymond Peters in the blink of an eye.
His First New Zealand Party won only 2.6% of the party vote (75,021 votes). The eternal kingmaker had lost his hold on the crown.
He did not even have a farewell speech in parliament, while other less notable MPs bid farewell in front of their peers, families and friends.
But rather than step down gracefully, Peters began to reappear around September last year, railing against ‘radical leftist bull dust’ and speaking of the ‘silent majority’ who had been ‘deliberately ignored by mainstream media “.
The seeds were well and truly planted for yet another comeback.
On the day the first protesters arrived, February 8, Peters showed tacit support for the movement. On a radio broadcast the next day, he said, “There are countries in the world that say warrants are no longer warranted…and I’m beginning to think they’re right.”
From there, he went into Full Winston mode, creating a “them and us” narrative, carefully telling anyone who would listen to all the “ordinary Kiwis” caught up in the protest, despite 94% of New Zealanders aged 12 years and more who I continued my life and I was double vaccinated.
But Peter never cared about the 94%; it’s the 5 or 6 p. 100 that will help him return to Parliament. On that, you can bet he’s laser-focused.
He won’t let contradictions and past statements, such as his stance on mask-wearing, get in the way of what he wants.
He had done the sums and knew that a meander in Parliament Park on Tuesday among protesters would attract a lot of attention and be worth the risk (politically and, perhaps, health-wise, as the venue was later considered a Covid-19 Place of Interest).
His visit without a mask, posing for photos and shaking hands as if in campaign mode, was a surreal sight.
(His explanation for not wearing a mask was that most masks were ineffective. If so, why not wear one that was effective? After all, being in his 60s, he is at greater risk. that Covid-19 has a more harmful effect on him.)
Peters followed up with a few messy interviews, doing his best to grab the attention of any potential subscriber using tired buzzwords like “gaslighting,” “virtue signal,” and talking about how the media has been paid.
All of this may have emboldened protesters for a short time, but it must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Winston Peters/NZ’s first lifers – those 75,021 people who voted for him last night.
It seems Peters was willing to risk losing them for a chance to win new supporters, many of whom not only wanted to end terms but were also keen to end legally elected governments and were happy to threaten the Members of Parliament, the media and Members of the public.
What seems certain is that this latest irrational attempt at political relevance will not be the last before next year’s general election.