New Zealand First
| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
|Country sections|The cult of Winston Peters New Zealand First is a political party in New Zealand. The party is known for having a core constituency of mainly people with grey hair and often ending up in the kingmaker position due to New Zealand's mixed member proportional system, where parties that cross a 5% threshold recieve representation in Parliament. The party is currently in coalition with the centre-left Labour Party, and they currently hold a number of government portfolios, most notably the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs positions.
The party's roots
New Zealand First was first formed when Winston Peters resigned from the National Party after being told he would not be allowed to stand as a National candidate at the next general election. This triggered a by-election in his seat of Tauranga, but as the general election was so close, the major parties decried it as a political stunt and sat out of the by-election, which he won in a landslide. Then an independent, he formed New Zealand First to contest the 1993 general election, and Peters held his seat of Tauranga. Tau Henare, another New Zealand First candidate, also won the seat of Northern Māori, one of New Zealand's Māori electorates.
MMP and the Tight Five
At the 1996 general election, when MMP was first introduced, the party proved rather popular, winning 13% of the vote and 17 seats in Parliament, but the party proved especially successful among Māori voters. It broke the Labour stronghold over the Māori electorates, winning all of the seats at the 1996 election. Peters held his seat, and the party's 5 Māori electorate candidates- Tau Henare, Rana Waitai, Tuku Morgan, Tuariki Delamere and Tu Wyllie were all headed to Parliament- the so-called Tight Five, after the five rugby forwards in a scrum. New Zealand First supported the National Party to form the Fourth National Government. But, however, the love affair didn't last all that long, as the National Party replaced Jim Bolger with Jenny Shipley in 1997, and in 1998, Peters was sacked from cabinet and broke off the coalition with National as a result. Several MPs tried to remove Peters as leader, and after that failed, formed their own party. This included practically all of the Tight Five. Henare, Morgan and Waitai formed the Mauri Pacific party, and Tuariki Delamere joined the Te Tawharau party. Mauri Pacific only won 0.19% of the vote, and Mana Māori (whom Te Tawharau encouraged people to vote for, as they didn't stand a party list) only won 0.25% of the vote. Out of all the Māori MPs that New Zealand First once had, only Delamere and Wyllie even managed second place- Delamere came second in Waiariki, and Wyllie second in Te Tai Tonga. Needless to say, Labour won back all of the Māori seats.[note 1] Present-day New Zealand First now supports the abolition of the Māori seats. I wonder why?
New Zealand First in opposition
Support for New Zealand First collapsed in 1999, and Winston Peters only held Tauranga by 63 votes, and as mentioned earlier, they lost all the Māori seats. The party didn't even cross the required 5% threshold, but as Peters won Tauranga, this qualified them for seats- albeit only 5 of them. As Shipley's National government was turfed out, Helen Clark was elected Prime Minister with the support of the Alliance and Green parties, and New Zealand First sat in opposition- or more accurately, on the crossbench- for the next 3 years. In 2002, after an exceptionally bad performance by the National Party,[note 2] New Zealand First cracked 5%, winning 10% of the vote and 13 seats. Helen Clark was returned again with the support of the Progressives and United Future.
Working with Labour
In 2005, after the National Party elected a racist as leader, New Zealand First struggled in the polls, with Winston Peters losing his seat of Tauranga. However, as the party still crossed the 5% threshold, they won 7 seats in Parliament. As the leader of the opposition was, as mentioned, a racist, and any National-led government would likely require the support of the Māori Party, New Zealand First provided confidence and supply to the Labour Party, who continued in government with the support of the Progressives and United Future as well. Winston Peters became the Minister of Foreign Affairs, despite previously saying he did not seek the petty baubles of office.
New Zealand First out of Parliament
At the 2008 election, when National elected John Key as party leader, the party's vote once again improved after 9 years of Labour governance, which helped cause a decrease in votes for New Zealand First. As the party no longer held Tauranga, they had to stay above the 5% threshold to remain in Parliament, which didn't happen. The party lost all 7 seats in Parliament, and was gone but never forgotten.
But were they really gone?
New Zealand First back in Parliament
After a weak performance for Labour in 2011, and amidst the so-called Tea tape scandal which involved John Key, then the Prime Minister, saying that New Zealand First voters were 'dying', and that the party wouldn't reach 5%. The party won 6.6% of the vote and 8 seats in Parliament, and is one of the few cases of a party losing parliamentary representation in New Zealand and then being re-elected. In 2012, Brendan Horan was expelled from the party after allegations he stole from his dying mother to gamble. Horan's Independent Coalition unceremoniously failed to win a single seat.[note 3] New Zealand First, however, did better in 2014, winning 8.6% of the vote and 11 seats. In 2015, Winston Peters won a by-election in the seat of Northland. As he was already a list MP, the result allowed the 12th person on New Zealand First's party list, Ria Bond, to be elected.
Kingmaker once again
At the 2017 election, after the Green vote collapsed and Prime Minister John Key was replaced by his deputy, Bill English (who had a stellar track record in winning elections), New Zealand First did worse than last time, but not too badly, winning 7.2% of the vote, and falling to 9 seats. Winston Peters also lost Northland to National candidate Matt King. 2 other crossbench parties- the Māori Party and United Future- lost seats at this election, leaving only New Zealand First, the Greens, and the 1-seat ACT Party on the crossbench. New Zealand First was left as kingmaker- support a National-led government, or a Labour-Greens government. They ultimately chose the latter, forming a coalition government with Labour with the Greens in confidence and supply.
New Zealand First really, really, really likes referenda. Like, a lot. New Zealand First in 2019 wanted a referendum on abortion, supported a referendum on cannabis legalisation, wanted a referendum on the Māori seats (but then reversed on it), and also wanted a referendum on reducing the number of MPs to 100.
Homophobia and transphobia
New Zealand First, with a voter base of primarily old people, has unsurprisingly shown a bit of homophobia and transphobia over the years. They voted for a 2005 bill to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman (ruled to be inconsistent with New Zealand's bill of rights) and voted against gay marriage. More recently, New Zealand First MP and Minister for Internal Affairs deferred a bill in regards to gender self-identification to allow for more public consultation, citing "problems caused by the select committee process."[note 4]
- But they'd only hold them all until 2004.
- For the record, the person who led them into that massive loss was promptly turfed out, never to be seen again. Wait, he was the Prime Minister?
- They couldn't even outpoll the Civilian Party, a joke outfit that wanted to declare independence from Hamilton. Yet still more serious than the Conservatives and ACT.
- Transphobic "feminist" group Speak Up For Women also complained about this bill.