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Peters knows ?his people

Opinion Piece

Donald Trump yet again dominated headlines in the week just past but from New Zealand’s more staid political scene one of the most interesting things was commentary and some history around the 25th anniversary of the New Zealand First Party.

The party has survived through thick and thin, in government and out — and right out of Parliament — while other parties like the Alliance and the well-financed Christian Conservatives and Gareth Morgan’s TOP have disappeared.

That of course is due to the extraordinary career of one man, Winston Peters.

If someone had forecast his political career when he came into Parliament with National in 1978, they would have been told they were dreaming.

But it really has happened. Peters has had two spells as deputy prime minister with two widely different governments, National in 1996 and the present tripartite Government.

Along the way he has been sacked from Cabinet, been the queenmaker for Helen Clark in 2005, seen his party completely out of Parliament in 2008 and bounced back to his present position last year. He has just under two weeks left in his role as acting Prime Minister before Jacinda Ardern returns from maternity leave.

Some believe this will be the final high point of Peters’ career, as at 73 he surely does not have a lot of time left in the House.

The party needs to cross the 5 percent margin to stay in Parliament. It did this at the last election and at present has nine list members.

Compared to the highly unpredictable Trump, Peters has shown durability and consistency. But there is one area where the two men are similar — they know what their base wants and have ridden to victory by aligning themselves with that and the mood of their country.

While he cannot expect any Christmas cards from National supporters, Peters knows what his people are thinking.

So, in an increasingly tribally divided United States, does Donald Trump. The diehards even seem prepared to forgive his fawning, farcical Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin. The two men are exemplars of personality politics.