Rob Hosking on the rise of Winston Peters

Rob Hosking looks at the rise and rise of Winston Peters.

This is Winston?s hour.

The New Zealand First leader was made for these times.

He?s like a renegade political commando, out of favour with his superiors, commanding a ragtag bunch of misfits.

But the political ground ? the political divide, if you like ? is moving his way and away from the traditional left-right divide democracies have seen for the past century or so.

It is shifting not only in New Zealand but also in other western democracies ? in fact, it seems to be shifting less here than in other countries.

But it is still shifting.

No one shifts positions faster than Winston Peters

The wake of the global financial crisis, the stack of towering, tottering debt which led to that crisis and the tsunami of central bank money printing which has been the short-term response to that crisis has led, in turn to a crisis of legitimacy in western democracies.

The feeling, simply that things are not getting better any more and may be getting worse, is taking hold in most of the countries New Zealand likes to compare itself with.

That is probably a harder sentiment to deal with in the post-colonial societies such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and in particular the US.

All are founded, implicitly in the case of the first three and explicitly in the case of the US, on an assumption of progress, that things will continue to improve and get better.

That isn?t happening now.

Things are pretty stable in NZ, but we are small and susceptible to world conflagrations in economics and other areas.

While this has driven the traditional social democrat/socialist parties further left ? as New Zealand Labour leader Andrew Little explicitly reminded us last weekend when he publicly rejected advice from former Labour prime minister Helen Clark that elections are ?won in the centre? ? that hasn?t seen much rise in their support.

Yes, inequality ? in all its forms and however sloppily defined ? is being discussed far more as part of the political discourse.

But it is being discussed in a different way, in a way that is being subsumed by other themes.

It is often discussed in almost nationalistic terms ? ?this is not us? or ?this is not New Zealand.?

You will hear similar themes overseas ? usually with greater virulence and nastiness.

As noted here last week, it is fashionable to describe this sentiment as a rage against the elites, and essentially xenophobic if not downright racist and, while that is there, it is not the sole aspect of it.

This rage is partly driven by fear and economic pressures but it is also driven by a loss of a sense of community and of nationality.

This is not the ground of socialist parties ? rather, it is more the ground of traditional conservative ones.

Fertile ground for Winston Peters now the Conservative party is no more.

?- NBR