Punt on Peters not so pointless as NZ First makes poll progress

It must be an election campaign when you walk into a crowded dining room at the Canterbury Jockey Club on Saturday and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters catches your eye with a hearty wave.

Tucked away in a corner of the dining room, and fittingly underneath the photo of a past champion, Mr Peters is sitting with a group eating his lunch.

Not to miss an opportunity to hear an update from the hustings, Taking the Pulse strolled over and received a very warm handshake and the customary smile.

But Mr Peters had plenty to feel happy about on Saturday at the New Zealand Cup Meeting.

After campaigning in Dargaville on Friday, he flew to Christchurch at the last minute to be at a charity event for children being held in the city on Saturday morning.

After the event, the former racing minister headed out to a cup day overflowing with potential supporters.

While chatting with the Pulse, Mr Peters was accosted by a beautifully dressed young woman asking if her mother could take a photo of her with the him.

"Of course," he said. "Him too," he said pointing at me. Quickly shifting sideways as it was obvious that the star attraction was not the Otago Daily Times political editor, Mr Peters beamed as the photo was taken.

"How is the campaign going," the Pulse asked. "Much better now," he responded.

After giving a not so flattering critique of the country's major political reporters and outlets, Mr Peters said he had been campaigning throughout the country speaking on small community radio stations, giving addresses at community halls where up to 300 people attended - and receiving good feedback, although he would say that.

He had spoken on Northland Radio and radio in Oamaru and was feeling good.

"I'm going to bust this campaign apart," he said.

An older punter leaned across the table and said to the Pulse that Mr Peters was the best racing minister the country had ever had.

Asked why he thought that, there was a bit of a silence before the punter said: "He attended every race meeting and socialised with everyone."

It is not totally out of the realms of possibility that Mr Peters and a few MPs might sneak into Parliament after the election.

A Roy Morgan poll out on Friday put New Zealand First at 4.5%, about the same as the party polled at the last election with Mr Peters mired in controversy about donations and funding.

The poll result has given him a place on the TV One minor party leaders debate on Wednesday.

Other polls have New Zealand First on the rise, but below the level of support indicated by Roy Morgan.

Prime Minister John Key said he was not nervous "in the slightest" about a Peters comeback, the Stuff website reported.

"Firstly, Roy Morgan is always extremely volatile. They are much more volatile than the other polls ... they have us at 53 and Labour at 26 so that's also a pretty big spread.

"If you accept Roy Morgan numbers, we'd win the election outright."

Looking across all the public polls that had come out recently, New Zealand First was about 3% and that would be where he expected the party to be, Mr Key said.

Mr Peters has ruled out a deal with most parties, including Labour, but Labour does not seem to be ruling out a deal with New Zealand First. But should his party get to 5%, it will return with seven MPs giving Mr Peters a powerful position - even if he only sits on the cross benches.

The MPs Mr Peters would take into Parliament with him if New Zealand First reached 5% of the party vote are Tracey Rodney, Andrew Williams (former North Shore mayor), Richard Prosser, Barbara Stewart (former MP), Brendan Horan, and former long-serving Christchurch city councillor Denis O'Rourke.

Mr Key will be trying to keep publicity away from Mr Peters by ignoring him. Saying he was worried, or expected Mr Peters back in Parliament after November 26, would add credibility to the high profile MP.

If I was a betting man, I would be thinking about a place bet on New Zealand First getting past the 5% margin.



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