The Winston Peters Factor: How The Media Have Resurrected His King-Maker status

The Winston Peters Factor: How The Media Have Resurrected His King-Maker status


Dr Michael Bassett* The election campaign is in its final, frenzied stage. I suspect most people have already made up their minds. Many have already voted. But our left-leaning media are increasingly frantic.

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The result looks like it is moving out of their reach and they are determined to make one last effort to get Chris Hipkins’ lamentable government back into office. Trouble is, the opinion polls aren’t fully cooperating.

When they confirmed a couple of weeks back that Labour seemed on the way out, the media started boosting Winston Peters. Lo and behold, Winston looks as if for the fourth time he might decide who leads the next government. We, the humble voters, won’t decide: Winston will.

This seems to be what MMP has reduced our democratic process to. Four times out of the last ten elections it looks as if an ancient throwback to former times, with ideas no more substantial than can be committed to the back of a postage stamp, is likely to decide the future of our country.

Not you or me, but Winston! The media are playing this up big time for a variety of reasons. Winston can be relied upon for a sleazy, reportable comment. His presence in the mix covers for the fact that the media want to ignore David Seymour and ACT.

Any sane person watching the minor leaders’ debate the other night could see that Seymour was brighter than the Greens’ James Shaw, and a whole league above the other two.

The commentators afterwards had been carefully selected. The billed spokesperson for the right, Janet Wilson, first picked Shaw as the winner, then changed her mind and pronounced to viewers’ total astonishment that it was the Maori Party’s Waititi! No matter which TV channel you watch, no matter whether you listen to Radio NZ or read the New Zealand Herald, Winston is flavour of the month. David Seymour and ACT scarcely exist.

Even Handed Media?

If the media were even-handed they would be looking at the question of how Hipkins could possibly cobble together a ministry in alliance with the Greens and the Maori Party. Chippy tells us a Capital Gains Tax and a wealth tax are off the table.

For both James Shaw and Rawiri Waititi they should be right in the centre of the table. Hipkins claims he is strong on crime. But Waititi wants to close the prisons and be soft on Maori who commit nearly half of all crimes in the country. Just imagine the discussions behind closed doors as efforts were made to sort out some kind of modus vivendi amongst that lot.

And since Hipkins would need to have a four-way coalition that also involved Winston Peters, the air within the negotiating room would be foul.

Straw Men and ‘Gotcha’ Moments

Why is no journalist writing about this, preferring instead to erect straw men to knock down as they work up unlikely tales about Chris Luxon’s problems with David Seymour and Winston Peters? Partly it’s because TVONE, TV3, RadioNZ, Newshub, Stuff and the New Zealand Herald are all in the hands of lefties. But, there are also potentially more headlines in harassing the most likely coalition of winners this Saturday.

Journalists lust after “gotcha” moments where a seeming inconsistency in answers on even the smallest of issues can be prised out of the right’s leaders

For my part, I’ve already voted. With confidence in the future, I ticked ACT for my party vote. David Seymour is a young, well-read, university graduate in engineering with nearly a decade of political experience.

He knows what works and what doesn’t. He’s streets better informed than either Chris Hipkins or Chris Luxon, and has as his deputy Brooke Van Velden, the only current MP with advanced qualifications in Economics.

Together with their close-knit team they’ll apply basic principles to working out our future direction and tackling the growing welfare dependency that is blighting the futures of so many younger people.

If only we could get a new government led by ACT and National we would have a good chance of restoring New Zealand’s reputation as a country of achievers. Let’s all do our best in the days that remain before the polls close.

This article was first published on

Author –

The Winston Peters Factor: How The Media Have Resurrected His King-Maker status

Dr Michael Bassett is one of New Zealand’s best-known political historian, authoring fifteen books, mainly on political history. In 2004 he won the Qantas Media Award for Best Political Columnist in New Zealand. He was New Zealand’s Minister of Health and Local Government between 1984 and 1987, and then Minister of Internal Affairs, Local Government, Civil Defence and Arts and Culture between 1987 and 1990. He spent ten years (1994-2004) as a tribunal member of the Waitangi Tribunal that deals with claims by New Zealand’s first settlers, the Maori. Between 2009 and 2013 he was a Board member of the Museum of New Zealand: Te Papa Tongarewa.

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