PM’s weakness good for Peters

29 Jul

By Matt McCarten

Herald on Sunday, July 28, 2013

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Three politicians had big wins this week.

What was in Prime Minister John Key’s head when he refused to rule out Winston Peters being his main man next year? Maybe all the grovelling to Peter Dunne to get his GCSB bill passed was stressing him out and he wasn’t thinking straight.

In the past two elections, Key promised he would never serve alongside Peters and if his party didn’t back him, he’d resign on principle. Since then his allies’ fortunes have imploded, and our Prime Minister’s steely principles have changed.

Key saying he’s now open to a coalition with NZ First gives Peters the relevance he seeks. Until now, NZ First has been lumped in with Labour and the Greens as a junior player. Can you imagine Peters coping with being junior to a Green, let alone Metiria Turei as deputy Prime Minister? Me neither.

Key’s capitulation means Peters holds the cards as to who will be Prime Minister after next year’s election. Peters also celebrated his party’s 20th birthday this week at his favourite cafe, the infamous Green Parrot.

Do parrots crow?

Hone Harawira didn’t crow but he certainly was strutting his stuff in court all week.

The political classes were spitting at his unparliamentary behaviour in getting arrested with Glen Innes protesters.

Harawira spent the week in the dock after shining his car headlights at women sitting atop local homes to prevent moving trucks dragging them away. Protesters asked Harawira to do that after locals claimed police had assaulted them in the dark during previous melees.

Many readers may doubt that. I believe it because months ago a carload of scared young people turned up one night when I was working late at my office. They claimed they had fled from the Glen Innes housing protests after police assaulted them. Others had been arrested. A young woman showed me bruises and I was shown their car with a smashed window.

Police turned up shortly after and parked outside, and the youngsters were scared to leave my office. When I went outside, the police car drove off. Knowing that, I’d want an MP shining a light on me when protesting house removals at night.

Even though he didn’t have to, the judge let 16 local women tell their story about the evictions. They spoke about losing their homes, where they’d lived for generations, to developers. It’s not ethnic cleansing, but what term should we use when poor brown people are expelled from their homes so mansions can be built for people who are not poor, nor brown?

The chattering classes rail against Harawira being a protester. Really? We forget our history. Almost every Cabinet minister in the first Labour government had served prison time for protesting. Arrests of prominent individuals such as Lucy Lawless, for exposing important issues, should be badges of honour.

Harawira got convicted as expected, and left the court to go straight to Thursday’s anti-GCSB bill rally – where he was treated like a rock star. He told me it was an honour to pay a $500 fine if it highlighted the struggle of the poor that was being ignored. Walking the talk, man.

The other winner this week was Kim Dotcom, who was the star speaker at the anti-GCSB meeting. Hundreds were present, and Bomber Bradbury of The Daily Blog streamed it live to 4500 others.

A TV3 poll released just as the meeting started showed 52 per cent said Dotcom was telling the truth when he said the Prime Minister knew about him earlier than he has been saying. Only 34 per cent believed Key. It’s telling that our clearly miffed Prime Minister sneered that Dotcom was only drawing attention to himself so he wouldn’t get extradited to the US.

Does Dotcom count as a politician, though? Joe Carolan, our premiere protest organiser, quipped that if Dotcom wanted to stay and overturn the GCSB bill he could fund his own Pirate Party. With all the computer geeks and nerds, he’d easily pass the 5 per cent threshold.

Imagine having to negotiate coalition options with parties led by Winston Peters, Hone Harawira and Kim Dotcom. Pundits heads would explode. Remember, you read it here first.

(Matt McCarten is National Secretary of Unite Union. His weekly Herald on Sunday column are a commentary on social and political issues in New Zealand. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unite Union.)


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