Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Rise and Fall of the Winston Empire...

In some respects the decline and fall of Winnie the Pooh is quite sad. There is no question that, whether you like his politic or not, he is (and has always been) one of the more colourful characters on the local political scene since (perhaps) John A Lee. Not that Winnie would be any kind of a match for JAL. The latter would have been just too straight and strong with his left.

I have made no secret of my opinion of Winnie, but in these last few days of his political career (I don’t imagine that there is any kind of Lazarus Effect that will resurrect him now) I do want to place on record my admiration of the durability of the man.

Kicked from his right wing nest (after being touted for “higher things” by the Nats) for being just too much of a maverick, he established his own political force. The foundations for the NZF were personality and popularism, of both of which Winnie is the master.

His first involvement in coalition government was as prop to the Nat government led by Jim Bolger and then Jenny Shipley which folded in fairly spectacular style after Winnie’s demands became too much to be borne.

It is (as many commentators have already said) a matter of some note that he and Auntie Helen have been able to share the same (political) bed for so long. Even more so when you consider that Winnie is probably more right wing than most Nats and Helen stands further to the left than most Labs.

The question as of tonight and tomorrow will be –

Will Winnie falling on his sword (however that might occur) be sufficient to break the links between NZF and the Labs.

If that link does break, it will take the Nats no more than 5 minutes to get a Notice of Motion of No Confidence into the House with the wolves baying “Gone by lunchtime” echoing in the Ayes lobby. Auntie Helen is a sufficiently canny politician to prevent that from ever happening and so, I suspect, the PMLimo will be hot-footing to the GG’s place at a speed that will put the old records (set in that helter-skelter dash from Timaru to Chch for a rugby test match) a long way into the shadows.

That is where the sadness begins. As I said earlier, I can not imagine the possibility of Winnie rising from the grave yet again. He has made too many powerful enemies this time around.

After this debacle there will be few if any major funders who will be prepared to support him. He might get enough from his flax-root supporters and from taxpayer’s funding to run a campaign, but there is very unlikely to be the fireworks of the past. Mention of the taxpayer’s funding leads to another very interesting question. Auntie Helen has been promoting the principle of government funding for election campaigns, with no legal permit for public contribution. I wonder how that albatross hangs now given that Winnie is likely to be rewarded for bringing down her government with a nice bonus from the public purse - OUR money, Auntie.

The Nats have already said very clearly that Winnie will “No way, no when, no how, be part of the next government.” I suspect that the same, if not slightly more carefully worded, sentiment is likely to come from the Labs within hours, if not sooner, of the Privileges Committee decision.

It might be a hard lesson for him to learn, but there is need for a little bit more in politik real than mere personality and popularity. What you can guarantee is that every cent of the taxpayers contribution to his election (or is it war-) chest will be spent on ensuring everyone knows how Winnie was lynched by Parliament, lynched by the media, lynched by unnamed political opponents, hung out to dry by a biased and predetermined enquiry by the Privileges Committee, the conspiracies of big business against the “ordinary guy”, the conspiracies of big business with the major parties, the race card, the immigration card… Every little button that might just attract another vote will be pushed. That is the kind of show that Winnie is.

There is a very good story in this morning’s Herald giving the history of the current to-do.

I suspect that the best tv tonight is going to be Channel95 (I think that is the right one for Parliament) if they are going to broadcast the Privileges Committee live.

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