On the verge of a trifecta

Dene Mackenzie says that Winston Peters is on the verge of an unhappy trifecta:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters last night proved the old adage of be careful what you wish for, when the Serious Fraud Office took him at his word.

After Mr Peters dared the SFO to either lay charges against him or shut up and go away, SFO director Grant Liddell announced he would conduct an investigation into donations made to NZ First.

He would particularly investigate allegations that funds donated to the party by Sir Robert Jones and Vela family interests did not reach their intended destination.

Mr Peters had accused the SFO of “creeping around back doors”, dropping hints and providing media speculation but not finding any evidence of wrongdoing or illegality on his part.

“I am prepared to wait on the court steps for them and, if they don’t turn up, they can go away for ever,” he said.

Well, the SFO did turn up and Mr Peters now faces another major challenge to his political career.

There have already been plenty.

He has been sacked by two previous prime ministers and now, as Minister of Racing, he must know he is facing the trifecta.

Mr Peters will this morning meet Prime Minister Helen Clark, who is under increasing pressure to sack her minister or at least stand him down while the investigation is under way.

Other ministers have been “gone by lunchtime” for lesser offences.

Had any other MPs faced the allegations Peters does he’d have been the first to call for their resignations. He could have stepped down with dignity intact until the privileges committee and SFO investigations are completed. But because he refused to jump he’ll have to be pushed.

He will then be on familiar territory as the martyred outsider. He will still have some supporters who think he’s hard done by, but it’s the SFO not the court of public opinion which will decide his fate.

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