THE COUNTRY'S next prime minister could be decided by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
A new poll has cast Peters as kingmaker. The 65-year-old left parliament after 30 years as an MP when he lost in Tauranga to Simon Bridges and New Zealand First failed to pass the 5% party list MP threshold in the last election.
The Horizon poll of almost 2000 intending voters shows the often-controversial MP could have the power to decide whether National's John Key or Labour's Phil Goff leads the country after the 2011 elections.
In 2008 New Zealand First captured just over 4% of the vote, but the Horizon poll, conducted from November 16-22, shows the party is back in the game with 6% support.
In the same poll National recorded 34.7% support, Labour 28.3%, the Greens 7.9%, Act 2.6%, the Maori Party 1.2%, Jim Anderton's Progressives 1.2%, United Future 0.2% and other parties 1.6%.
We're not going to get too worried about this poll just yet, as it is so far out of step with other polls, even allowing for its rather different methodology. We do hope however that it doesn't give Winston Peters momentum leading into election year. We'd also question the accuracy of a poll that gives Jim Anderton's Progressive Party 1.2% of the vote when Jim Anderton is retiring, the party has ceased to exist in everything but name, and Anderton himself has instructed his supporters to party-vote Labour in 2011!
Interestingly, the Labour Party bloc-voted against the motion to censure; whether or not that had anything to do with Labour needing NZ First's votes to pass its ETS before the 49th Parliament rose is open to speculation. But how else should NZ First's support be reconciled with Peter Brown's less-than-effusive speech in the Third Reading debate in September 2008 when he said:
New Zealand First will support this legislation tonight. We will support the third readings. We say to the Minister, with due respect, that we think this is a move in the right direction. It is not completely right. There will need to be some amendments. I will not go as far as David Carter did when he said that this is not enduring legislation, and give the impression that it will fall over in a matter of months. I do not believe that. But I believe it will have to be addressed on a number of occasions to get it right, and I know that before agriculture comes in, before transport comes in, there will be quite some discussion. It will have to go through Parliament and get the seal of approval. In essence, New Zealand First is supporting this legislation because it has the framework there.
So we pose this question: if it was a choice between Peters and another three years on the Opposition benches, what way do you think Phil Goff would roll? Does he have the “whatever it takes” mentality of the former Labour leader, or does Peters represent a line in the sand which he will not cross. John Key was unequivocal about Peters prior to the 2008 election. Whither goest thou Phil?