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NZ First Comeback Unlikely, Says PM

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Feb 16 NZPA - The chances of New Zealand First getting back into Parliament are slim -- with or without Winston Peters, says Prime Minister John Key.

NZ First held a party meeting at the weekend, and while deputy leader Peter Brown announced his resignation, there was no word on whether Mr Peters would continue to lead it into the next election.

The meeting was the party's first since last year's election, when Mr Peters failed to regain the Tauranga seat and NZ First did not reach the 5 percent threshold of party votes to get back into Parliament.

Mr Key said this morning he didn't know what Mr Peters' plans were, but suggested the party would struggle to claw its way back into Parliament.

"It's very difficult when you're outside Parliament, you don't have the funding, you don't have the resources and you don't have the airtime," he told TV One's Breakfast show.

Mr Key agreed that former party MP Ron Mark was the most likely replacement candidate if Mr Peters stepped aside.

"Ron was a pretty capable MP ... but history argues very strongly that they won't be back."

He said NZ First had always been a "cult party" based around one person.

"So in the end the call will probably come down to whether Winston Peters wants to retain that mantle."

He didn't know whether Mr Peters had his eye on a job on the world stage, but if so, Mr Key said he was not likely to give an endorsement, as he had done in regard to former Prime Minister Helen Clark's bid for a top role with the United Nations.

"I think the answer to that has to be no, on the basis that I wasn't prepared to work with him.

"It wasn't a personality issue, it was just I didn't think I could rely on his word, and if I couldn't do that then how can you do it somewhere else."

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