Peters: Conservatives 'won't make it'
HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND STACEY KIRK
Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has dismissed threats from Winston Peters that he would move to block any attempt to strike a deal with National.
Peters this morning ramped up the pressure on the National Party by warning if it tries to gift a seat to the Conservatives he may spoil the party.
For weeks speculation has been mounting that Foreign Minister Murray McCully will announce that he is too busy to serve as the electorate MP for East Cast Bays, and will withdraw.
If National did not replace McCully in the seat it would give Conservative leader Colin Craig, who has spent millions of dollars of his own money building the party, a chance to get a foothold in Parliament and possibly bring in other MPs under the coat-tailing rule.
Peters has given strong warnings that he would not allow a deal to happen, hinting at a spoiling campaign by running for the electorate himself.
"I've had a whole lot of people writing to me and calling up and saying 'why don't you have a go in East Coast Bays', it's an outrage. I don't think that East Coast Bays is like Epsom. I don't think they'll be told what to do in the way that the Epsom people have been told and have, to be honest with you, so contaminated MMP.
"MMP is better than this. But the electoral machinations of political parties is putting a bad odour on this aspect of MMP and we in New Zealand First, as you know uniquely, don't want a bar of it. We're not bound to any grouping," Peters told TV3's The Nation.
Speaking to media this afternoon, Craig questioned whether Peters would follow through.
"I think he did some similar sort of signalling last election, I think it's a game actually.
"I don't think he would, and I'm not at all worried if he does."
Asked where Peters would place in a race in the electorate, Craig was confident.
"Behind me, no question about that. Our polling is Murray McCully's got 30-odd per cent already, I've got 15 per cent and nearly 40 per cent undecided.
"I don't think Winston Peters would get anywhere near what I'd get."
Craig said it was unlikely he'd stand in East Coast Bays because he'd get beaten and wouldn't want to go through that.
Last week Peters began hinting at a tilt at East Coast Bays, saying that he may stand in an electorate if any parties pulled a stunt to "mess around" with the electorate.
"You've got political parties who think they can mess around with an electorate . . . They might do that [but] they might be in for a surprise in one of them if they do pull that stunt," Peters said in Timaru on Wednesday.
"We have the firepower to hit it on the ground with all the hoardings and the full hundred yards if that's the case."
Today at the NZ First conference at Alexandra Park in Auckland, Peters dismissed the Conservatives' chances if he took them on.
"It's hardly going head to head. I mean, we're experienced, we're qualified, we know what we're doing and we've got a record of winning. What's theirs'? Lost every campaign they've been in, but let's not waste any time talking about other political parties at this conference."
Asked if he could work with the Conservatives, Peters dismissed Colin Craig's chances.
"It's a non issue. They won't make it."
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