Editorial: Greens' attack on Peters gives him another excuse to choose National.

Kingmaker Winston Peters.

Kingmaker Winston Peters.

OPINION: The Greens' attack on Winston Peters' "racism" has an air of desperation. The Green Party is haunted by the possibility that once again Peters will shut it out of a left-of-centre coalition, just as he did in 2005.  

So Metiria Turei launches an assault on Peters in the hope that this will boost the Greens' vote and give it more purchase in the post-election negotiations. The problem here is not that the Greens' charge lacks substance. Peters has long whistled the dog over immigration and ethnic minority issues.

The real problem is that it probably won't work, but will rather play into Peters' hands. The polls strongly suggest he will be the king-maker after the election. National's polls have dropped slightly and it won't be able to form a government with its little helpers in Act, the Maori Party and the Dunne Party.

The bad blood between Peters and the Greens is based on profound ideological differences, and Turei's attack will give Peters even more reason to go with National. That's probably what he wants to do anyway.

The master of populist mystification is a conservative at heart, and it would be a fitting end to his career to once again hold the Nats - the party that once rejected him -  to ransom. Peters' role is to help prolong the reign of a long-serving but clearly declining major party. He did this with National in 1996 and with Labour in 2005, and now it's National's turn again.

And of course he can again appeal to the spurious constitutional principle that the party with the largest number of votes should have first dibs on a coalition.

Labour, meanwhile, desperately fights against reality. Its polls are a disastrous 30 per cent and Andrew Little's personal polls are catastrophic. A politician reduced to saying the polls don't match what people tell him in the street is whistling in the dark.

For him to plead that Labour, the Greens and Peters all get on rather well is also simply to deny the  facts. Peters and the Greens will always detest each other at heart, no matter what they might say on selected public occasions.

Labour has clearly failed to gain public support even though some of its policies now offer a serious alternative to National's. Its recent package, which scraps National's tax cuts for the wealthy and substitutes more help for the poor and the middle, is a classic restatement of the fundamental difference of approach traditionally offered by the Left.

The trouble is that not enough voters seem ready to make the change. Peters no doubt senses this and will act accordingly, and nobody should think that his new deputy, Shane Jones, will be able to push Peters back towards Labour, Jones' old party.

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Peters will go his own way for his own reasons, as he has always done. It is truly dreadful that this erratic and unreliable politician, so skilled in politicking and yet so incoherent in serious policy argument, should once again be the lynch-pin in the MMP system.

But that is the brutal reality.

 - Stuff


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