New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has spoken out about the plight of the blue-collar worker and getting over defeat, as his party earns more breathing time to pay back hefty loans
The elusive ‘W R Peters’ has extended the due date for more than $180,000 of loans to New Zealand First, as the party’s leader Winston Peters appears to be making the case for another tilt at high office.
In the dying days of the 2020 election campaign, a W R Peters in Whananaki lent New Zealand First $60,000, with a further $120,186.57 following closely thereafter (Winston Raymond Peters, as the veteran politician is formally known, has a retreat in the Northland settlement).
The initial loans were due to be repaid this year, on October 6 and November 2 respectively. However, a new Electoral Commission return filed by New Zealand First in late October has bundled the two loans into one, with an interest rate of 2 percent and a new repayment date of April 20, 2023 (in what may or may not be a coincidence, a total solar eclipse will take place on the same date).
The combined value of the loan has also increased to $183,716, reflecting interest charged to date,
The new return means that (barring early repayment) Peters’ financial ties to his party will extend into election year, providing further evidence for those who believe he plans to yet again run for office after being voted out of power.
Emerging from the wilderness
After a period of relative silence in the wake of his party’s election defeat, Peters delivered a speech to New Zealand First’s annual conference in June where he ducked questions about his leadership plans and instead took an array of pot-shots at a “cancel culture where anyone who asks legitimate questions is belittled as a colonialist, a racist, a bigot, a chauvinist’’.
Peters issued a press release in August warning about the “imminent Delta variant disaster”, just days before the country went into another lockdown, and has since made a number of media appearances to criticise the Government’s Covid response.
One of those interviews backfired considerably, with Peters forced to issue an apology to Mongrel Mob figure Harry Tam after incorrectly tying him to two women at the centre of Northland’s Delta outbreak.
New Zealand First has registered 3.3 percent and 3.4 percent in the most recent TVNZ and Newshub polls respectively, compared with 1 and 1.5 percent at a similar time after the party’s 2008 election loss (it re-entered Parliament at the 2011 election with 6.6 percent of the vote).
Taking part in an Electoral Commission webinar to mark the 25th anniversary of MMP, Peters this week appeared to make a pitch for the enduring relevance of New Zealand First.
Speaking about how the electoral system had led to a Parliament which more closely reflected its country, he said there was “one disturbing development … dare I say it, the silence of the blue-collar worker, male or female, in today’s MMP environment”.
“Sometimes, as every farmer, as Jim [Bolger] knows, you can do all things; plant all the seeds and get everything right, and all of a sudden you get a massive rainstorm or hailstorm, and it’s destroyed. That happens, well get over it and get back in the race.”
– Winston Peters
“How many ‘diversified MPs’, in inverted quotes, have any real understanding of the blue-collar worker, or what poverty smells, tastes and feels like? Sometimes it shows.
“Well, understand that the real issues are for them, and their hopes and dreams are theirs and that all politics is local and sometimes in the home – how many understand that?”
During a discussion about the 5 percent threshold, Peters said that when things went wrong for a party, it had “better have a good look in the mirror yourself … rather than at everywhere else”.
“In 2020 we had the Covid election. Well, sometimes, as every farmer, as Jim [Bolger] knows, you can do all things; plant all the seeds and get everything right, and all of a sudden you get a massive rainstorm or hailstorm, and it’s destroyed. That happens, well get over it and get back in the race.”
Bolger, who with Helen Clark also took part in the webinar, jumped on the remark as a suggestion Peters was preparing for another run, saying: “Now people will take that and take note of that, Winston, that last comment of yours.”
“No, I didn’t mean it that way,” Peters protested. “I just mean that life’s like that, sometimes it’s not fair.”
“I know what you’re saying, but others will interpret it differently, my friend,” Bolger replied, laughing.
Peters declined to comment on either the loans or his future plans when contacted by Newsroom.