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Voters Say `No' To Winston And NZ First

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Rosaleen Macbrayne for NZPA

Tauranga, Nov 9 NZPA - New Zealand First is not finished, insists Winston Peters, founder of the 15-year-old political party.

"This is not the end", a remarkably upbeat Mr Peters told supporters last night, to loud applause, after his party was wiped out of Parliament.

"For a while we will be free now to lead our own lives."

He said the party would re-organise and see what 2011 held for it.

In the game of politics you could not win every time, the maverick told about 100 supporters gathered for what many had feared would be bad news.

They seemed resigned to National's Simon Bridges winning the Tauranga seat, the once rock-solid fiefdom of Mr Peters, but they had hoped fervently that NZ First would pass the 5 percent threshold to remain in Parliament.

It reached 4.3 and it was doomed.

At the subdued gathering, reporters and photographers almost outnumbered the party faithful early in the evening.

Even the black and white balloons and table decorations looked less than festive and a machine periodically churning out bubbles failed to convey a party spirit.

The glum faces brightened again about 10pm when Brendan Horan, former TV1 weather presenter and 10th on the NZ First party list hobbled in on crutches after recent surgery to sing for the gathering.

By then, the writing was on the television screens.

The verdict from voters for Winston Peters and New Zealand First was `NO'.

It might not have been held up in large black letters on a sheet of white paper, but the man who has had more political lives than a cat got the message.

And he took it on the chin.

Struggling through the media horde, the politician many New Zealanders love to hate, and others love unconditionally, started by thanking his helpers and NZ First people throughout the country for the tremendous work they had done over the last 15 years.

He reminded them they were still New Zealand's fourth-biggest party.

And Mr Peters congratulated Mr Bridges, calling him the bright young man taking over the mantle for Tauranga.

"This is about democracy," he said in a statesman-like way, adding that it had been an extraordinary last six months and it was always going to be a most difficult election to win.

Mr Peters warned that the next three years would be hard for the country but the things NZ First stood for would continue.

"This has been a marvellous experience, a tremendous experience," he said, stressing that New Zealand was a great democracy and still an MMP country.

"This has been a very significant crunch election, like you and me have never seen.

"We have been a victim of it."

True to form, and flashing the trademark grin, Winston Peters turned on the media scrum: "This is my last word to all of you in the media", he said

Then, followed by cameras, he moved around his supporters, smiling, giving and receiving hugs.

The mood had vastly improved by the time he disappeared upstairs in the Hotel Armitage.

His deputy, Peter Brown, arrived soon afterward when there was no sign of his leader.

Mr Brown said he was disappointed for NZ First, which had done a lot for the country.

"It hurts a bit that we've then been knocked out of the game," he said.

"So much mud has been thrown at the party without substance."

Mr Brown's suggestion was that the average New Zealander should go home and sing God Defend New Zealand "because we sure need help".

NZPA WGT mac pw kn

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