New Zealand First's Winston Peters was the only
minor-party leader to avoid stating a preference for who should
be the next Prime Minister during last night's political debate
- and Conservative leader Colin Craig sought to use that
Mr Craig, who hopes National's John Key will win the
election, said it was the biggest point of difference between
his party and New Zealand First, which are both gunning for
voters with a conservative lean.
Voters deserved to know which way Mr Peters was leaning, Mr
Internet Party leader Laila Harre agreed: "It concerns me
that Winston is still not making it clear."
Mr Peters, who may hold the balance of power after the
election, would say only that the voters will decide the next
He said the so-called rock star economy was actually on the
"If this is as good as it gets, then it doesn't matter who
the next Prime Minister is.
"A vote for New Zealand First is a vote for New Zealand First
and not for any other party."
The Campbell Live debate was more of a timid discussion
around the dinner table at Auckland's Grand Harbour
Restaurant, as subjects traversed the Maori seats, the
minimum wage, and tax policy.
Each leader was asked who they wanted to be the next PM. Mr
Craig, United Future's Peter Dunne and Act's Jamie Whyte all
said Mr Key, while Ms Harre and Greens co-leader Metiria
Turei opted for Labour's David Cunliffe.
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said he was not
fussed and could work with either, as long as the
relationship helped Maori.
Mr Craig took a dig at Mr Peters: "Every single person gave
an honest and direct answer except one ... People are looking
for a safe pair of hands, and for people they can trust."
Mr Peters retorted that the Conservatives had simply stolen
all his policies. "Imitation is the sincerest form of
After the dinner, Mr Peters said it would be irresponsible to
lay his cards on the table without "all the facts".
"This has been the most astonishing campaign ... and I
believe in the next 16 days there's a lot more to come yet."
He did not think he would lose any votes over it.
Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics was mentioned only when Mr
Peters said he believed the "explosive" claims in it were
"The left wing didn't write the emails. The National Party
did. We need to restore political integrity."
The parties argued over the Maori seats, which Mr Flavell
said was a hot topic every election, when issues of "kai on
the table", tertiary education and home insulation were more
Mr Peters accused Mana Party leader Hone Harawira of
destroying the Maori seats' integrity in a "deal with the
German [Internet Party found Kim Dotcom] who should not be
here in the first place".
The dinner started with the leaders talking about what they
thought was the most important issue.
Mrs Turei said it was child poverty, while Ms Harre said it
was young people and helping them into education, training,
or work. Mr Dunne said it was about helping families and
parents, while Dr Whyte said it was a dynamic economy,
fuelled by a low company tax rate to drive investment and
Mr Flavell said family violence was a big issue in three
Maori electorates, and Whanau Ora, the health, education and
social services programme with a Maori focus, was his focus.
The leaders took a moment to giggle at Dr Whyte, who was
embarrassed a few weeks ago when he revealed he did not know
what Whanau Ora was.