Watch out – it's Wily Winston
No wonder Speaker Lockwood Smithis heading to London as our HighCommissioner. It's not a done deal yet, buttrust me, it's not far away. And for Lockie, itcan't come soon enough.
The return of Winston Peters – National'snemesis – will be enough to make Lockie packhis bags and pay for his own cab to the airport.He might even take the stowaway option on aship if he had to.
Peters' presence in the bear pit changesthe dynamic.
He will make life hell for the Speaker. He willsense a newbie sitting in the chair. He's a toughbugger. He knows the system. He knows howto make parliament work for him. He can stalla debate he doesn't like. He can win a debatehe's losing. He can crucify the weak. He candestroy the strong. It is his soapbox. It is hisplatform. He believes in it. He uses it well. He'sunpredictable. He's dangerous. On his day,he's devastating.
And he might not be that helpful to his"mates" in opposition – as John Key noted theday after he won the election.
The opposition will be an eclectic mix thisterm. And the most desperate among themmight be Labour's new leadership team.
They will want to make a statement and theyneed to. Any lesson in recent political historysuggests Peters won't allow that to happen. Hemay have just seven MPs joining him but detaillike that has never held him back.
In 2002 when National was struggling withjust 20.93 percent of the vote and 27 MPs,Peters stormed back into parliament, claimingto be the new leader of the opposition.
He made life difficult for Bill English; hetormented National. I don't expect him to beany different this time.
He has a major beef with John Key for rulinghim out. He will seek revenge. But Key is awiser, tougher proposition than he obviouslywas a few years back.
I think Peters might actually meet hismatch with Key. I expect Key to largely ignorehim. But Key also loves a scrap and he'sbecome a bit of a master of the one linerin Parliament. He is quick on his feet and,despite his popularity, he can be nasty, if not alittle cheesy.
You have to remember that Peters has neverbeen a huge fan of Labour either, so don'texpect him to give the new Labour leader aneasy ride. Peters is in this game for himself.He'll consider himself the old master. All hiscomrades from the decades before him haveeither departed or died.
He is the odd one out. He is the last of hisgeneration to still be in the house. His oldsparring partners have gone. His tutor andmentor Sir Robert Muldoon is well gone. Sois David Lange. So are Jim Bolger, Don Brash,Helen Clark, Richard Prebble, Rodney Hideand Michael Cullen. Now he'll have to dealwith Hone Harawira, Russel Norman andDavid Shearer.
But Peters is there. He's returned. And Ineed to take some responsibility for that.I had a copy of the tea tape and thetranscript in the second to last week ofthe election.
I went to Peters daily for comment. He wason the telly every night. So I put my hand up. Itake some of the blame. But so can John Key.His complete over-reaction to the tea tape –sending it to the cops – gave Peters the oxygenhe was craving. He's a master of the comeback.
Peters is also a creation of the media. Hisinclusion in the TVNZ minor leaders debatealso, in my opinion, played a huge part in himgetting back. But he deserves it. 135,000 NewZealanders voted for him. That's democracy.It's more democratic than the 21,000 whovoted for Act and the 12,000 who voted forUnited Future. Yet John Banks and PeterDunne are ministers in this new governmentwith plenty of policy wins.
They're on National's life support systemand John Key's finger hovers above the offswitch. Once he presses that, both menand their parties, if you can call them that,are goneburger.
Ultimately, it's Peters who promises to putthe theatre back into parliament. With men likePeter Dunne putting us to sleep in there on adaily basis – bring it on.