Why I voted for Winston Peters

20:31, Oct 31 2012

Am sure I'll forever regret admitting this but, well... I voted for Winston Peters. There, I've said it. Would've put my hand up earlier had it not been for so many family members and good friends spluttering over his return to Parliament (and wondering aloud what idiot could ever have given him a second thought, let alone their vote). Well, this idiot will now try to explain. Just wanted to let the heat die down a shade before I came clean.

Let's go back to that November election. National were going to win at a canter, we all knew that. Labour were about to be ransacked; the Greens were looking strong but inexperienced. Folk with any social democrat-type leanings were resigned, well before polling day, of being represented by an immature and wet behind the ears opposition. Not only would National win, it seemed they'd win so well there'd be nothing left to keep them in line.

Of course, I voted for Phil Goff as my electorate MP. That was straightforward enough. He's been, and still is, a conscientious parliamentarian, full of goodwill and good judgement. But the party vote? As much as I worried about where the Government was about to take us, I was even more worried about the inability of the opposition to stop them. There were no real shit-stirrers among them; no mongrels at all. That's why I voted for Winston.

It's true; I never expected so many of his loony tune colleagues to come in on his coat-tails. Still, I'm glad he's there. Peters is one of those politicians who's probably more effective in opposition than he is in Government. He's what so many of his opposition colleagues aren't: antagonistic, provocative, not afraid of anyone and able to sniff out a dodgy political agenda with a peg attached to his nose. It takes one to know one.

Let's be clear on this; I'm no admirer of Winston Peters' politics. Some of his ideas and thoughts are abhorrent, particularly when it comes to Maori and immigration. But given we're being led by a party just as obnoxious, it seemed only fair to ensure there was someone equally filthy and as bloody-minded in the opposition. The bigger obstruction he could be to John Key's mob, the better. Sometimes you have to fight like with like.

Can't say I'm regretting my vote. In fact, if it wasn't for Winston and Russel Norman over the past few months, the opposition benches would've seemed pathetically weak, and at a time when there's been so much opportunity to prosper. Say what you like about Peters but he knows his way around the chamber. He's embarrassed the Prime Minister over Dotcom; battered National over youth pay and education. He's been the sharpest arrow in the opposition quiver.

More to the point, his profile only seems to have highlighted David Shearer's shortcomings as Labour party leader. At a time when Labour are in desperate need of personality; of being led by someone with the plausibility of a Norm Kirk, a David Lange or a Helen Clark, they've instead found themselves with a Bill Rowling or a Geoffrey Palmer. Good people; worthy politicians, of course. But they simply don't win you elections.

Which is why I'm happy to see Winston in the opposition. Relax, he won't succeed in introducing any of his party's wacky ideas but he will continue to be a royal pain in the arse for the Government. Well, someone's got to and it might as well be him. The more time he can spend raising merry hell in the house, the less time the Government will have to push through some of its smellier proposals. Yes, true; it's a dirty job. But someone's got to do it.

» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.
» Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardboock.

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