I don’t know what happened to my afternoon yesterday, but I found myself watching the livestream of Winston Peters’ speech.
I know. Who even am I?
I was standing by to hate it, hate everything he said, regular listeners will know I’m not a fan of this man. I was one of the first people in the media to rule him out last election when everyone said ‘you can never rule Winston out’… I did.
Partly because I thought his time was up, and partly because I wanted his time to be up, I couldn’t stand him.
But, and here’s the scary thing.. I didn't hate his speech. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. I think it'll strike a chord... he's dynamic as a speaker, passionate, and frankly it was refreshing to hear someone unafraid of the media, unapologetic of their own views, and unafraid to say what they think.
The Nats always sound chastened like they've been rehearsing it, or workshopping how to respond to the government. But Winston sounded gung ho.
He did his usual attack dog of criticising the government's lack of delivery and all its false promises.
The no new taxes rhetoric, the poorly costed EV announcement, the equally crazy bridge to nowhere for cyclists, the lack of law and order around gangs taking over roads. He criticized the government’s reliance on a strategy of fear and ‘hermetically sealing this country’ and how dangerous that is economically for us.
He spoke of our economy being too narrow, our productivity being anaemic, the eye watering amount of debt we’re racking up. He criticized the slow vaccine rollout, the spike in homelessness in Auckland and Wellington. He gave the media a serve – wouldn’t be Winston if he didn’t.. on giving universal favourable coverage to the PM, of not asking the hard questions – like what’s the Ihumatao settlement.
He asked why ordinary New Zealanders are not being included in the narrative anymore. Why anyone who asks a legitimate question is shut down for being either racist or chauvinist or bigoted or a colonialist. He said we’ve lost our social cohesion, our rich nation status is gone, we are the opposite he said, of what the PM said we'd be. He accused the government of enabling a wave of rights based activism. And he asked an important question - when was the last time anyone stood up and talked about the responsibilities of citizenship? He says we’ve set the bar so low now.
“A whole lot of do gooders who don’t know what they’re doing, have got control of the place,” he said.
So I think he struck a chord. But can he be trusted? Well, no.
He burnt his base by going with Labour… and can a 2 percent party like that ever make it back to the political table? I would've previously said no... but oddly now I find myself not ruling him out.
Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.
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