Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Conversation That Didn't Happen

From time to time, I have musings on politicians and the sport that they play. I opine on their moves, tactics, and strategies. Other times, such as with Michael Wood, I make an about-face, after having expressed a strong opinion declaiming him as the most stupid candidate to have ever lived by a wide margin, and then stump all my readers by apologizing to him.

It is a fickle world, this politics thing. And I admit that from time to time I am fickle in my opinion of those practitioners.

My thoughts this afternoon centre on Winston Peters. On this subject, I am at a loss: I don’t know whether I have come to praise him, or simply bury him. Like Mark Anthony, to whom I have often been compared, I don’t know whether this will be a criticism of Winston’s actions, or a eulogy to his political life.

Ah, fuck it. I’m cutting to the frigging chase. If you want to read literary shit, then go read Rob Hosking’s stuff. And if you’re a pinko commie liberal, then fuck off and don’t bother commenting on my blog, because I don’t give a shit what you think.

But before I digress, I will say this. I don’t think Winston made a good move today. Other commentators have suggested it was suicidal.

Suicide is a conscious act. I don’t think Winston deliberately chose to do what he did today. I agree, the effect will be fatal for him, and agree for the same reasons as Aaron.

But here’s what Winston should have done. If I’d been advising him—and I have advised him before, but almost exclusively only after a couple of bottles of wine and/or Johnny Walker—this is what I would have told him.

“What you should say, Winston, is not that you’re going to sit on the fence. That would be fatal. That would piss people off. That would bring back memories of 1996 while you make up your mind. And don’t go telling them that you’re going to do go with the biggest Party, because then you’ll just sound like Peter Dunne. And while Peter Dunne can get away with sounding like Peter Dunne, because like you, he has great hair. Not as wavy as yours. Indeed, while I’m wondering about Peter Dunne’s hair, it doesn’t seem as great as yours. It’s not really natural, that wave. It’s kinda fucked up, in a way.

“But what you want to achieve in announcing coalition intentions is several things, Winston. Firstly, what voters want from you is a commitment to a political party. Get off the fucking fence. Tell them what you fucking think.

“Secondly, Winston, you want to put yourself in a position of influence. You’re 60, now, Winston, and this is your last shot at a position of influence. So make it good. Be reasonable for once. Make yourself the statesman that was seemingly eluding you during all those late-night boozefests when you were last in Government.

“Thirdly, Winston. Make a decision that will redeem yourself for the instability that you brought to MMP. If you can present yourself, and carry it off, as the harbinger of decisiveness, of influence, and of stability, then you will retire on a very fat, government-sponsored pension, with all the grog you can manage. Sound like a good idea?”

Winston, at this point, of course, would scowl, take a swig from his tumbler, and say to me: “Ah, Insolent.” And he would give me that winning smile. “You still haven’t told me who to go with.”

At that point, I would return my winning smile, run my fingers through my not-as-grey hair, and respond: “You’ve only got one choice, Winston. It’s National.”

“But won’t that lose me a whole lot of angry supporters who hate National?” he will ask.

“You will piss them off if you say you’re backing nobody, and then back National afterwards, Winston. But this is why you back National. It’s a winning formula. Think of it like this, Winston.

“What National needs is a coalition partner. They aren’t going to get that from Act. But they need a strong partner, in the middle. That’s only going to come from Labour’s existing support base. You’re the only one who can deliver it.”

“But why would they vote for me, and New Zealand First, if they know that I’m going to support National? Why not just go direct. You know, cut out the middle man,” Winston asks.

“Who would ever describe YOU as the middle-man, Winston? Not me. And don’t interrupt. Listen up. What you say is, that National is going to be the largest Party in Parliament. That’s clear from the polls. You say that National, on the basis of being the largest Party in Parliament, deserves to be the main Party of Government. That’s reasonable. Rational. People will believe and understand that. Makes you sound almost like Peter Dunne.”

“I don’t like Peter Dunne,” Winston says. “Something spooky about his hair.”

“We’re not going into his hair again, Winston. Keep focused. Listen. You say then, that the second biggest threat affecting this country—the biggest threat being that Helen Clark remains Prime Minister for another three years—is if National DOES have a hidden agenda, and has the power to impose it.”

“But won’t that look as if I’m trying to wag the dog?”

“No, Winston. You say that the worst possible thing that could happen is if Labour has another three years. That National has the best policy formula of the two Parties, and that National is your preferred partner. But here’s the rub. Are you listening, Winston?”

“Yes. Still smarting about Peter having nice hair.”

“Forget about Peter Dunne. You say to the country that you’re not going to be in Government. You’re not going to implement your own policies. Instead, you’re going to provide confidence and supply to National, and you are going to make sure that National goes no further than they have promised.”

“Why would Labour voters go for that?” he smirks.

“Because, Winston. What many Labour voters fear is National having a radical agenda. You rescue them from that fear, by stating that you’re not interested in the power. But you are there to moderate, to keep them in check, to ensure they go no further than they have said they will go, and it clarifies where you’re standing.”

“And what do I get out of it?”

“Winston, for fuck’s sake! You’re miles behind in Tauranga, you’re not going to break five percent at this stage, Helen hates you anyway… this is your one chance. This is make-or-break stuff for you. Wrestle some Labour voters off Helen, redeem your own legacy, and you’ve achieved something worthwhile for the country."

“And what else?”

“And if you do that, I’ll deliver you the Speakership, and a knighthood when Don reintroduces them,” I say slyly.



Anonymous said...

You know, for a complete arsehole, you do write some funny stuff very well. Keep it up, old boy.

Anonymous said...

You assume National will lead in the polls, that error could leave NZ First committed to supporting Labour.

His best course was to oppose certain policies of National and Labour - thus offer a limit on both governments. By choosing not to be in any coalition, his policy positions are now centered around what he denies them doing.

I suspect, even on his worst bad hair days, he knows that those who want across the board tax cuts want him to side with National. Tax cuts deny him the means to spend. Yet he cannot stand in the way of this tide. So he is stuck with obstructing.

Blocking National/United or National/ACT/United selling off parts of the power companies and such.

He is walking the threshold. He cannot offend the pro National (anti-union and PC) or pro Labour (anti big business and foreign interest)
side to his nationalist centre, if he is to survive.

He chose the right approach, but has not yet understood that it involves a new form of policy formulation.

The other man with notable hair is already there, albeit with minor musings rather than serious policy points. Winston needs to grab major issues (not Family Commissions and marijuana decriminalisation) and make himself important to the next three years.


SPG said...

Great blog! Enjoy reading your thoughts. Take care.

Insolent Prick said...

No, Anonymous. I'm not assuming that National is the going to be the largest Party. I'm assuming that National's policy prescription, as outlined, is far more palatable to NZ First voters than Labour's liberal agenda.

The reason NZ First voters won't vote National is that they are concerned that more radical elements--the so-called secret right wing agenda--will take National further than it is promising. Winston has the one chance to attract Labour voters who want tax cuts but don't want to lose social services, if he vows to ensure that he will back National to deliver those tax cuts, but prevent them from cutting services.

In doing so, he creates stability, consistency, and holding the governning party to account without being seen to wag the dog.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that you posted this after he made his statement

Anonymous said...

NZF has a problem backing tax cuts "and" opposing cuts in services.

Winston has served as Treasurer and knows that means borrowing of 7 billion dollars, rather than the 3.5billion (+ whatever they cannot find in spending cuts) of borrowing National intends.

He has already said that National's programme is not affordable. If he then says, tax cuts can be afforded without any cuts in services - he earns a place in the flip flop hall of fame.