Winston Peters wins the oxygen of media attention and gets back in the game. But do we really want him back? Or has his time passed?
Is Winston Peters the luckiest main in New Zealand right now?
He should make sure he buys a lotto ticket this weekend, because lady luck has settled on his shoulder.
He officially reached 2.9 percent on the One News-Colmar Brunton poll this week; to make it onto the multi-party leaders' debate, TVNZ had stated weeks ago that parties must either have a seat in parliament or reach at least three percent in either of the two Colmar Brunton polls in the first two weeks of November.
Technically, he failed. In most of political life, close isn't enough. You either win or lose a seat, you either reach five percent or you don't. But Colmar Brunton's headline figure rounded him to three percent and TVNZ wanted to be inclusive.
So Winston Peters - former deputy Prime Minister, former Foreign Minister, former Treasurer - gets the oxygen of media attention and the chance to convince another two percent of voters to back him.
Just a week ago he was in the crowd at the Backbenches Auckland Central special begging host Wallace Chapman to include him on the candidates' panel - even though he isn't an Auckland Central candidate.
He knew he needed TV time or was sunk.
On Q+A in June he was almost pathetically trying to put himself back in the political frame, famously ending the interview this way:
GUYON Thanks very much for your time. Appreciate it.WINSTON You're welcome. We're still relevant.
Well, whether he was relevant or not then, he is now. Just how relevant, however, is still to be seen. Will his rhetorical gifts and his spending promises be enough?
I've always felt that at least five percent of New Zealand voters would support the thrust of his message. But will they vote for him? And will they vote for him in this election?
Three thoughts on that.
First, as we discussed on Q+A, his spending promises are, well, expensive. They include reducing GST to 12.5% or maybe lower, increasing super payments, creating a $500m asset buy-back fund, government matching graduates dollar-for-dollar in their loan repayments, and a 10% discount on power bills for Gold Card holders.
At a time of global economic crises and as we're faced with the cost of rebuilding Christchurch, will voters really respond positively to such hefty spending promises? Or will no-one notice those?
Second, if he hits five percent what about the list MPs he brings in? There are certainly some fresh faces, but including a former weatherman and the former North Shore mayor famous for weeing on trees and angrily texting John Key. Some investigation of those he'd bring in is probably in order.
And finally, there's all the Peters baggage. His stance on asset sales when he was part of a government that sold Auckland airport shares, his promise not to go with any major party in 2005 prior to him doing a deal with Labour, how he went fishing and made the country wait for a government in 1996, and of course the Owen Glenn donation and resulting financial scandal. How long are peoples' memories?
Can the Peters charisma overcome those obstacles? Are those policies in fact an asset? Are fresh faces what people want?
We'll find out over the next 15 days because, like it or not, he's now a talking point of this campaign. Until the next poll, anyway.