Rodney’s the winner

Colin Espiner reckons the real winner in the Peters/ NZ First donation debacle is Rodney Hide.

There’s one politician who has emerged from the disgraceful episode involving the hypocritical Winston Peters and his wealthy donor mates head and shoulders above the rest…

It’s ACT leader Rodney Hide. The perk-buster from Epsom has recovered his sense of purpose over the donations scandal, and he is the only politician who has been pushing Peters for answers both inside the House and out.

OK, he looks like Ted Bovis from Maplins Holiday Camp in the old BBC telly show Hi-de-Hi!, in his silly yellow jacket that his staff can’t persuade him to remove. But he’s talking a lot more sense.

I had begun to worry that Hide had become so narcissistic over his weight loss and various stage performances that he had disappeared up his own ego. The excruciating appearances on TVNZ’s Good Morning programme, the dancing, the Pollyanna-ish reinvented “let’s not be so beastly to each other” Rodney saw him lose his mana and his political nous along with the kilograms.

But in the past two weeks he has gone a long way to redemption. It was Hide who demanded that the Speaker consider a breach of privilege case against Peters. And Hide who, in a stroke of genius, yesterday complained to the Serious Fraud Office, thereby ensuring the story will live on for a few more days…

Of course it’s easy for ACT to criticise when it does not have its future at stake. But that is the role of the smaller parties, and one that until recently Hide seemed to have forgotten.

There may be another reason why the Yellow Coat of Epsom has a spring back in his step. National is giving Hide plenty of room to play on the centre-Right at the moment. The Working for Families announcement was an absolute gift. Judging by some of the comments on this blog, there will be a few disgusted National voters heading ACT’s way over the decision to continue to deliver welfare to upper-middle-income earners.

It will be very interesting to see whether ACT receives a boost in its polling over this. Hide has been in the news nightly. It’s sometimes difficult to pick up rises in very small sample sizes, of course, but I think ACT is still likely to register an increase…

The ultimate irony for Peters would be if it is his nemesis who ends up around the Cabinet table and not him. At least Hide could say he’d earned it.

The leaders of the wee parties do have more leeway than those of the major ones and Hide has made the most of it. Even without the yellow jacket, no-one would have been in any doubt about where he was standing in the past week.

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