Can Winston survive?

As the main parties get closer together in policy and ideology, it leaves voters with nowhere to go. This results in the rise of fringe parties (think Mana, or the Internet Party), but their appeal is limited. Most people want a moderate government, so if they have to live with the ‘tail wagging the dog’ scenario, they will go for a small party that has a centrist position.

This explains the attitude towards Winston: that he is ‘holding the government to account’. Remember how people voted NZ First in the last election because they wanted to ‘send a message’ to National? I’m not sure that many voters will be keen to try that tactic again.

So the big question is – where to for Winston and NZ First now?

NZ First has little future without Winston. Shane Jones may have political experience, but he just cannot keep his maverick attitude under wraps. That leaves us with people like Tracy Martin and Ron Mark, who do the party no favours. The rest are nobodies.

It seems that the party revolves around Winston and will probably not survive without him.

The political commentary around Winston has changed dramatically in a matter of days. From someone with a sharp mind, a sarcastic tongue and a rapier wit, political commentators like Barry Soper are openly laughing at him, making satirical references to his state of ‘deep contemplation’.

Twitter is full of photos of him falling asleep in meetings… or worse still, like this:

The role of Minister of Foreign Affairs is a coveted one, but Winston was mad to take it on again. The schedule can be gruelling;nthe last time he did it, he was in his early sixties. Suddenly, Winston looks past his use-by date and this image is being gleefully promoted by political commenters and journalists alike.

Winston’s reputation as someone who can tear people to shreds also took a dive last week. Famous for his vitriol aimed at National MPs, we were happy to think of him giving Turkey’s premier Erdogan a piece of his mind after the Turkish politician used the video of the Christchurch massacre in his election campaign. But Winston failed to confront Erdogan, merely coming back with statements about how Erdogan was no longer showing the video… or that maybe he was now only using ‘a clip’ from it.

It is hard to imagine what platform Winston will choose for his 2020 election campaign, but I think that it is unlikely that his anti-immigration stance will succeed this time. This robs him of his best opportunity to appeal to voters who want controlled immigration. Winston may struggle to find a policy that makes him stand out to the voters, but his biggest problem now is one of his own image. As journalists openly laugh at him, his mana is damaged.

Winston should have quit while he was ahead; to gone down in history as a long serving politician who ‘held the government to account’.