NZ First leader Winston Peters appears to have been
reincarnated as Aunt Daisy.
He is on his "Commonsense Roadshow" and determined to live up
to its name.
At a public meeting in Whangarei, he gives out power-saving
tips. Turn off your hot water heater except for two hours in
the morning and at night. He guarantees you'll never have a
cold shower. Hot water rises, he says.
At a rest home in Whangarei, he tells them how to get rid of
head lice. His father shaved all the children's heads. In
Blenheim, it's how to fix a toaster. In between his handy
home hints, Peters rails at his enemies.
John Key is responsible for all manner of evil from dirty
politics to calling an early election. The early election has
made Peters' life difficult. He likes to hold his campaign
meetings the old fashioned way -- on the street, soapbox
style. In early spring, the weather is inclement.
The street corner is cheap. There are no venue hire or power
costs. The other reason he likes it is that it invites
hecklers and random passers-by.
"You get a heckler, and all of a sudden you've got a show."
He gets them to shout things like "Amen" and "it's common
sense" and they do.
His nemesis is Conservative leader Colin Craig. Craig's crime
is that he has policies in common with Peters. Peters can't
bring himself to mention Craig by name, calling him the moon
landing and chem trail guy.
In Blenheim, Peters accuses Craig of "dog whistling" to get
votes by picking up policies such as restricting foreign land
buyers and "one law for all". He says this without a trace of
irony. It's not dog whistling for him, "because we have a
proven track record".
Kim Dotcom's crime is that he is a foreigner who is rich and
funding a rival small party. Peters says he should never have
been allowed in, and not just because of his various
"How did he ever survive the body mass index test?" The crowd
roar in delight.
He has words for the left as well and their big spending
promises. "Like money grows on trees! The country will go
In the next breath, and again without a trace of irony, he
sets out his own promises: GST off food and rates, pots of
money for rail and buying back state assets. There are tax
cuts for businesses to compensate for lifting the minimum
wage to $17 an hour "and everybody will be better off!"
Outside the Motueka Museum on a Wednesday morning he ends up
with about 60 people and four seagulls. When the gulls scrap
overhead he says they remind him of the Act Party.
"All squawking, no substance and any moment now something bad
is going to drop on you."
This is how Peters picks off his 5 per cent of voters, one at
a time in long days of travelling the rest homes and soapbox
meetings across the provinces.
You won't catch Peters kissing a baby. His constituency is at
the other end of town. His campaign is to the soundtrack of
quietly puffing nebulisers, Amens, nostalgia, humour and
righteous fury. He scaremongers too.
He tells those in Whangarei that it is the "Cinderella
province" -- forgotten and woebegotten.
He speaks of a rumour Northland rail is for the chop and
warns the seniors in Motueka that if they are not vigilant,
super will be cut.
He harks back to a New Zealand of the 1950s and 1960s when
everybody had a job and immigrants didn't take them. "We're
not anti-immigration up here," he says. "Crikey! I'm half
He talks of Holyoake, Rowling and Nash, the Great War, the
Great Depression. He promises them the past as they remember
it in the future.
Afterward they tell him he looks younger than on the
television and line up for photos. An Austrian man called
Alfred says he's young but he'll vote for Peters because
"you'll keep them honest". An older man in a cowboy hat
stands by him for a selfie.
At the end of his rest home visit in Whangarei, a woman asks
how he managed to stay out of the dirty politics stuff. He
flashes that grin. "I wear tennis shoes, and I make sure I
keep ahead of sin." They chortle in delight at his
nonsensical common sense.
- By Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald