Smiling Winston rides to the rescue
Cabinet deal is sweet revenge for leader of New Zealand First, reports David Barber
Monday 16 December 1996
There, as Deputy Prime Minister, was his protege, Winston Peters, propping up the National Party government that, to Sir Robert's dismay, sacked him from its cabinet five years ago.
Moreover, Mr Peters was holding the new Treasurer's portfolio, arguably the most important post in government, able to dictate financial and economic policy and write future budgets - equal to the power Sir Robert held as Minister of Finance.
It was a remarkable come-back for Mr Peters, sacked from the cabinet by Jim Bolger, the Prime Minister, for persistently criticising government policy in 1991 and expelled from the National Party's parliamentary group the following year.
Now, Mr Bolger and the Nationals are beholden to him and the rival New Zealand First party he founded for keeping them in office after the inconclusive general election on 12 October.
The new party's 17 MPs held the balance of power after the election, the first under the German-style mixed member proportional (MMP) voting system. After eight weeks of secret, tortuous negotiations they decided to form a coalition with the conservative Nationals, who have ruled for the past six years, rather than the Labour Party, the main opposition group.
It was a sweet deal for a party only three-and-a-half years old which, after the 1993 election, had only two MPs. In the cabinet announced yesterday, New Zealand First had five out of 20 members, three of them Maoris - Mr Peters, John Delamere, who became associate treasurer and Tau Henare, given the Maori affairs portfolio. The party won two other ministerial posts outside the cabinet.
Mr Peters had the added pleasure of forcing his former colleagues to drop many of the policies he criticised that led to his ousting from the party.
Having campaigned on their record of fiscal responsibility, the Nationals not only created thenew Treasurer's post, they christened it with NZ$5bn (pounds 2bn) of extra spending to meet NZ First's policy demands. Scheduled income tax cuts - a key plank of National's manifesto - were deferred to pay for them. They agreed to relax their inflation target of 0 - 2 per cent, ditch health reforms (including running public hospitals on profit-driven lines), to abolish a surtax on pensions and to lift a NZ$lbn sale linked to Maori land compensation claims - all National Party shibboleths until this week.
The turnaround was not all on National's part. Mr Peters' attacks on his former colleagues, especially on Mr Bolger, Bill Birch, the finance minister and Jenny Shipley, the health minister, have been venomous since he was thrown out. During the campaign, he told voters that NZ First was the only party that could get rid of the National government and disavowed any intention of entering a coalition with it. He declared Mr Bolger unfit for his job and said: "If anyone seriously believes that NZ First regards the prospect of sidling up to Bolger, Birch and Shipley, then they have been out in the sun for far too long."
They responded with contempt. Mr Bolger dubbed his former Minister of Maori Affairs a racist for running a virulent anti-immigration campaign and Mr Birch called him a "poll-driven fruit fly".
Like his mentor Sir Robert, Mr Peters has a knack of developing issues that serve him well in opinion polls. His campaign to check immigration and foreign investment on the theme "Whose country is it anyway?" sent his party's support up to 90 per cent of the vote earlier this year.
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 4 The Tory donor whose firm is one of Britain’s biggest tax avoiders - with HMRC's blessing
- 5 John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned
Peaches Geldof: Her final day – and her fatal decision
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israel may have committed war crimes, says UN human rights chief
Peaches Geldof inquest: Tragic final days of mother-of-two's life reveal she lied to husband about failed heroin tests
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...
£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...