I suspect the media are going to get a lot of mileage out of “the Winston effect” over the rest of this parliamentary term – but you can’t blame them, because in some important ways his Northland victory is going to be a bit of a game-changer.
First progressive policy out of the blocks: a re-run on paid parental leave.
The Government has extended paid leave from 14 to 16 weeks, but Labour says it’s not enough. It’s resubmitting a Bill that would stretch it out to 26 weeks.
“We’re just going to keep going,” says Labour MP Sue Moroney.
Ms Moroney has tried and failed to pass the Bill before. But thanks to Mr Peters’ victory in Northland, she now has the numbers.
This is a damn fine policy. Paid parental leave has huge social benefits, giving babies the best possible start in life with a parent at home and able to provide them with what they need. It has huge knock-on benefits to society – healthier, happier kids growing into healthier, happier adults, less stress on new parents, saving more of those valuable taxpayer dollars spent on juvenile delinquency or healthcare.
The shame of it is that, given the nature of the Members’ Bills ballot and this government’s aptitude at running out the clock on Members’ Days, it’ll take a minor miracle for Moroney’s bill to get drawn and back through the house.
(On the plus side: a Labour-led government in 2017 will be able to pass it with no problem!)
So does this mean a Winston win is good news for the left after all? It’s far too early to say. Yes, he supports this very good progressive policy, and yes he opposes some RMA reforms, but … two and half years is a hell of a long time in politics.
Possibly too long for our Prime Minister. I don’t mean this in a Doctor Who “doesn’t she look tired?” way, but check out the video on that 3 News article. The dodging-the-question lines just aren’t as smooth as they used to be. Smiling-and-waving is being replaced with sneering-and-dismissing.
And nothing gets Winston Peters going like people trying to pretend he’s nothing to worry about.