Winston Peters' theory on why Paula Bennett won't seek Upper Harbour electorate re-election

Winston Peters' theory on why Paula Bennett won't seek Upper Harbour electorate re-election
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"Amateur hour" is the description Winston Peters has given to National MP Paula Bennett's decision not to seek re-election in her Upper Harbour electorate in 2020. 

Peters, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of New Zealand First, is questioning the motive behind Bennett's decision not to run for re-election and taking up the position of National Party campaign chair. 

"What qualifications to run a campaign has she got? During most of the campaign management in 2017, she hardly covered herself in glory," Peters said in a statement Wednesday. 

"This decision is so that the National Party can axe her prior to coalition negotiations in 2020, after they've realised that Vernon Tava and his planned Sustainable New Zealand Party is a headless chook."

Newshub has asked for confirmation from New Zealand First if Peters was implying that he thinks National will give the Upper Harbour electorate seat to Vernon Tava, whose party is close to becoming official. 

Tava's Sustainable New Zealand Party claims to be about to hit the 500 member mark necessary to register as a political party, and Tava - its unofficial leader - has said the party would be open to working with Labour or National. 

It could be a viable coalition partner for National, since the Green Party has ruled out working with Simon Bridges, while Peters has continually shown signs that he is not willing to work with Bridges either, even calling for his resignation

With 500 members, Sustainable New Zealand would have enough required to officially become a political party. But it would still need to reach the 5 percent threshold to enter Parliament and have MPs. 

Tava has said while he is focused on getting the party vote to enter Parliament, the party will also be looking to put forward candidates to stand in electorates.  

In the past, National has stepped aside in Auckland's Epsom electorate and encouraged its base to vote for the candidate for ACT - its traditional coalition ally - so it could gain a seat in Parliament without meeting the five percent threshold. 

Prime Minister and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has said Sustainable New Zealand  - billed as a "blue-green" party - would likely just take votes away from National.

But Tava believes there is a voter base in the middle of the left/right spectrum wanting a party that is focussed on the environment, which he believes will attract those unique voters.