Helen trusts Winston - why?
She trusts that if she chops his baubles off (withdraws his ministerial warrant) he will damage Labour's vote - somehow; and/or he will go with National after the election.
That is what the PM must think - because it is the only rational explanation for her actions.
Now, I would have thought, putting up with Winston's antics thus far would have been hugely damaging - and with the trends, fatally damaging - to Labour's vote. So him being fired as a minister would be worse for Labour than all of Winston's toxic shit has been so far - that's what the PM must believe.
Winston's poisonous presence is underwritten and owned by the Prime Minister and she must know she is taking a hit on her personal credibility because of it. And yet this most ruthless of Prime Ministers - and she seems rather proud of that reputation - not only suffers Winston Peters through his tribulations of sleaze and contempt of parliament, but actively protects him and attacks his enemies on his behalf. It is most extraordinary.
What could Winston do to damage Labour's vote - that he hasn't done already?
Winston was on both network current affairs shows at 7 tonight. He did news walrus live and Campbell ran a pre-recorded interview. Nothing new from Winston at all just more tautological, smirking obfuscations and personalised attacks on the interviewer and everyone except for Labour. It was a soapbox rant laced with arrogance, conceit and contempt. Glib nonsense to slide him out from under the rock of financial irregularities, bag men, millionaires, big business pay-offs and political funding sleaze. At one point he was arguing that he had - by implication - no duty to make an "honest attempt" because that wasn't the law at the time. The man is a just a shocking liar. No politician is as brazen as Winston Peters. His bluffs have been called and he has nothing.
His only hope of survival is media attention - and plenty of it. The man has no money after this saga and by the the absence of NZ First hordings around the streets of Auckland he has little party organisation left either. If the media stopped talking about him and treat him like the hypocritical arsehole he has proven himself to be - rather than let him have ten minutes of primetime to spin his paranoid and cretinous fabrications - then he would fall below 5%.
There is a place for characters similar to Winston - swaggering show-ponies, nationalist demagogues, arrogant populists of limitless self-belief and certainty - but one that is caught out doing the very same things that they have railed against so vehemently in the past will incur critical damage to their political brand and break the bonds of trust that keep people loyal to them.
Winston's attitude and behaviour irritated the thick-skinned Sir Bob Jones enough for him to break confidence - same too, Owen Glenn. But not Helen Clark. When the SFO started their investigation she accepted Winston's offer to do no work at all for his ministerial salary - that's the sum total of Prime Ministerial accountability for Winston Peters. A man - the fourth MP in only fifty years - to be censured for being in contempt of parliament. A contempt verdict, the result of a hearing process that the PM earlier implied she would be guided by and yet she appears not to have read the report. Indeed the Labour MPs orchestrated Winston's defence for him in the committee, so the Prime Minister's later prejudicial remarks were indicative of a Labour Party position taken on Winston's immunity.
So what does the PM think Winston would do if she sacked him? Whatever it is, it would have to be even worse than the flack they are taking because of him. The other alternative - the only one open - is that it would cause him to go to National. Whatever lies at the bottom of the deal it is a pact that has proven resilient and unbreakable. The PM might think she has weathered the worst of it; but her tarnished minister has tainted her and Labour and that will translate into lost votes.