The Winston Peters Comeback

Only Winston Peters could say the hardest word in the political lexicon – “Sorry” – by implying that his mistakes were really due to his performing to a higher standard than others. That is the only meaning that can be taken from the ‘apology’ contained in his reported email to New Zealand First party members: ”We acknowledge that we made mistakes. In keeping our eyes on the big picture, we failed to appreciate the importance of the details. We allowed our opponents to create a perception of wrongdoing, when in fact, no offences were committed.”

Got that? His mistake was to fail to stop others from saying that he’d done something wrong, when he really hadn’t. Not exactly a sackcloth and ashes exercise, is it? Yes, they were out to get him but he ‘failed’ to stop them from doing it. It won’t happen again, Peters promises. However, as this Dominion-Post report points out, the mistakes ran a whole lot deeper :

Mr Peters spent most of 2008 defending revelations that his party had channelled large donations through secret trusts to avoid disclosure.

This culminated in controversy over a $100,000 donation from expat businessman Owen Glenn towards Mr Peters legal fees.

At first Mr Peters denied the donation happened and once it became public denied that he knew about it.

The tricky thing about such a legacy is that if New Zealand First wishes to get back into Parliament, the party will not qualify for parliamentary funding, and will therefore have to rely on donations. A genuine apology from Peters will need to address just how he plans to go about being totally be transparent in future about the donations he will now need more than ever, to return to Parliament.

There is plenty of time for him to do so. The next AGM for New Zealand First is not until the end of August. (Presumably, Owen Glenn will not be on his calling list.) That aside, the encouraging thing for Peters is that there is a major political issue out there tailor made for his talents – namely the Auckland Super City proposal. National and Act can only thank their lucky stars that Peters has been missing in action during the early stages of this debate, because the Super City proposal is a Peters godsend. It offers the prospect of the same sort of rich white guys that he fought in the Winebox era pillaging Auckland’s resources, even as they slash the democratic rights of the same ordinary battlers that Peters has always pledged to defend. If Peters can’t get 5 % in a 2011 election campaign when John Banks will be poised to become the Overlord of Auckland, then something will have gone seriously amiss with the Winston Peters charisma machine.

Oh, and did I mention retirement savings, an ageing population and an under performing health system, and a government that will looking to privatise state assets during its second term? All issues that Peters is perfectly positioned to exploit. If the real Peters didn’t exist in the next election campaign, we would need to invent him, because the 2011 election will be fought on his kind of platform. But then again, the media and Winston Peters always have had a pretty weird relationship of co-dependency.


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