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19/9/2018 — Economics, Politics and Government
Winston and the words of Walt Whitman
By Dene Mackenzie

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting;

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring.

So wrote Walt Whitman and now New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is on the same trip after telling assembled media Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is captain of the Coalition Government ship.

And, she is the driver of the car. Also, Ms Ardern is many things to many people but the veneer of Peters is starting to wear thin.

A speech about nothing on Sunday has confirmed what many pundits have already been saying and writing - the Government is in a state of disarray. Ms Ardern pulled out of two scheduled television interviews during the weekend, replacing them with a speech about the priorities for a modern and fairer NZ.

Ms Ardern, Winston Peters and Green Party co-leader James Shaw were arranged on a stage in front of a hand-picked friendly audience. The questions they were to answer were vetted before they were asked by audience participants.

The questions at the media stand-up were not so friendly, however. Peters was accused of being the tail waving the dog. Not so, he replied. There were no dogs in the Government.

If the Government was looking for a sign of unity, it did not work among general voters. It looked like it was, a call to the faithful to continue to put their trust in a mismatch of politicians.

Business confidence is falling with every new release. Manufacturing is slowing in New Zealand as businesses remain uncertain about government policy. However, one of the most amazing things being witnessed is the disdain with which Peters treats Ms Ardern, a highly popular politician and the reason these three parties are actually in power.

No-one in Labour can come close to replicating the star power of Ms Ardern. She is a phenomenon but she cannot control Peters.

If Labour tries to pull the NZ First leader, or his rogue MP Shane Jones, back into line, Peters is just as likely to destroy this Government and move on to another.

Every policy announcement from now on will prompt the question, does NZ First approve. Such is the power Peters welds.

The Walt Whitman poem ends with the captain fallen, cold and dead.

*Dene Mackenzie is a Dunedin political commentator

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