Winston Peters' last roll of the dice: bugger 'em all

It's his way or the highway for Winston Peters, after a speech today ruling New Zealand First out of government. Either the disgruntled rally to his flag or he's history

That may be the sound of the door slamming on Labour's vain election hopes. Winston Peters has just announced that he won't enter a government with anyone after this election. Not National or Labour. Or the cat's mother, for that matter. To quote his speech:

New Zealand First is not going with National.

New Zealand First is not going with Labour either. We are making that clear here today.

New Zealand First is not going with the Greens or the Maori Party.

There is too much at stake.

That's Winston who has it in bold (and underlined). And given the race relations rhetoric in the rest of the speech, I guess you can take no deal with Mana as a given!

You might be tempted to point out that on current polling he's not going to make it into parliament and no-one's actually inviting him to do anything. But still, Peters is being firm with all those potential suitors. His message: No deal, no how.

If only he had a 'NO' sign he could hold up to show how he feels...

But seriously... Phil Goff refused to do Epsom-type deals with New Zealand First to help them get a parliamentary seat, but has been at pains to keep his options open, saying that he worked with Peters in the previous government and could do so again.

Indeed, the only way the maths could really work for Labour as a government was if it could form a Labour-Greens-New Zealand First coalition after the election.

Of course there were a heck of a lot of ifs and maybes involved in that -- the Greens and NZF holding together was always "highly unlikely" (indeed Labour and New Zealand First would have had some pretty big policy obstacles to overcome) and at least one of those parties was going to have to get a major campaign bump.

But you never knew. And if the numbers got close, maybe some deals could be made.

John Key, for his part, had ruled out Peters for the second election in a row, saying:

"If Winston Peters holds the balance of power it will be a Phil Goff-led Labour government."

But now we know for certain. Peters has thrown Goff's courtesy back in his face.

In the next three week it's all on Labour to make up the ground on National, and that would take something remarkable and unforseen. The Greens' growth has mostly been at the expense of Labour, so it's essentially Labour that has to somehow get within ten points of National by taking votes off National. Even If New Zealand First wastes some votes by getting 3-4% or gets 5% and stays on the cross-benches, that remains true.

Peters' strategy? To give the fingers to all of them.

It makes sense, I guess. He must have been thinking about how we can stand out, how he can find another 2-3 percent, how he can get media attention. This is his solution, his last roll of the dice.

He's always been dependent on the disgruntled vote; now he's just unashamedly pitching for them, saying, "if you think 'bugger the lot of them' then vote for me cos I'm thinking the same thing".

One aside. In his speech he attacks Labour, saying:

"And it’s all very well for Labour to bleat now about the sale of state assets. Labour sold billions of dollars worth of taxpayer assets."

To which I can only respond -- Auckland airport shares. Who sold them? Treasurer Winston Peters. Pot. Kettle. Black.

So when it all boils down, New Zealand First is officially a party seeking a place in Opposition; party leaders have decided it's only hope of winning is to tell people it doesn't want to win. Or in other words, to get into parliament it's making clear it doesn't want to govern. That's another topsy-turvy stance in an already bizarre election where you have a Green MP wanting to lose in Ohariu and a National MP telling people not to vote for him in Epsom. 

At least it stops National party supporters running the line that a vote for Winston Peters is a vote for Phil Goff.

The question now is who this helps; whether this gives New Zealand First an electoral boost and some media oxygen, or whether it allows voters to dismiss them out of hand.

After three decades in national politics, this is do or die for Peters. The polls at the end of this week will settle it one way or the other.