'Wedding reception meets dog fight': An entertainment reporter's attempt to blend in at NZ First

As with most things in my life, I really under-estimated this election. 

A few weeks back, when my boss told me I was heading to NZ First's election-night event, I said: "Great! Cool! Looking forward to it! Give me a pay rise!" 

I had assumed it would be straightforward - a few interviews, filing some lines, and then here's cheers to a Labour and Greens Government (the naivety of August - how we laugh). 

But nothing had prepared me for my 24 hours at NZ First headquarters. 

It was a beautiful day when we arrived in Russell, the sun and crisp breeze showing spring was in the air. I had popped a couple of herbal uppers to deal to my hangover and was feeling smug about some condescending things I'd said to friends during a political debate at a BYO the night before. 

I was ready to prove this entertainment reporter had political chops.

But as we, the assembled media, ambled in to the private dining room set up for us, it became clear I was really, really out of my depth. Around me were some savvy political minds, debating standings and seats, while I was debating whether to start on the ready-salted or salt-and-vinegar crisps.

"We've been talking about how, if Jacinda gets a shoulder-length haircut, she's got it in the bag," I said, conversationally, to the reporter next to me. She stared at me, until I muttered something about a transport policy and made a run for it.

It was then I realised that I was going to have to handle this party differently to others. I'm pretty good at partying - it's one of my more accomplished hobbies. 

But this party felt more like a cross between a wedding reception and a dog fight. Everyone at NZ First smiled so hard, it looked like they were doing it for a living. 

There was a lot of back rubbing and high-fiving, and staring at the screen with the burning intensity of 1000 suns. 

I tried to take advantage of the enthusiasm to ask one of the rosetted supporters which direction they thought things would go. 

"Sweetheart it's a party! We're feeling good, you should too!"

Oh. 

At least the waiters were there for me, with their trays of tiny canapés. I got really excited, when I saw what I assumed were little bowls filled with avocado. I thought it was to feed the millenials they had hidden in a cage somewhere. 

Has there been a more disappointing moment in my entire life than when I took a bite and discovered it was a mashed pea risotto? Absolutely not. 

I shamefully hid it behind a man loudly holding court on the stupidity of the term "youthquake". I can only assume it's still there. 

After a few more spins around the room, trying to avoid being seen eating in the back of live crosses, I began to feel a touch disillusioned with the glamour of election night. The adrenaline and excitement early in the evening had faded, replaced with the hum of drunken conversation. 

I think some of the older punters were confused about whether it was an election or a wake; what with everyone wearing black and eating party pies. 

As I was interviewing one of the 179,385 (approx) drunk Winston lovers, there was a kerfuffle to my left. I assumed the panic was due to the caterers running out of prosecco, but that didn't explain why cameras were being lifted through windows. 

Whispers told me it was time for Winston to give his speech, the moment we had been waiting for. 

I tucked myself away by the TV screen, just hoping I would be able to hear something. I thought nobody would notice me, but apparently one man did. 

Templeton meets Peters
Newshub's Sarah Templeton shares a laugh with the real Winston Peters. Photo credit: Newshub.

Winston Peters was edging his way through the gathering crowd, approaching with a grin and a wine in hand. 

"I haven't seen you before," he said, half charming, half accusatory. "Who are you here with?" 

"Newshub," I said in a voice that I'm sure made both Winston and myself question whether I had learning disability. I also held up my media pass, in case he thought I was lying. 

People often do. 

"No, you're not one of those media are you?" he said, conspiratorially. "I've never seen so many media here in my life." 

I asked him some mediocre questions about his plans after tonight. He ignored my questions, jotted down notes for his speech on my colleague's note pad and laughed at a lame joke I made about planning my Oscars acceptance speech, which I can't remember.*

I stood behind the hungry, jostling mob of my peers and quietly reflected on how much of a pussy I had been. My enthusiasm for my role was entirely gone - I was not cut out for this political malarkey after all. 

Take me back to Auckland, back to entertainment, and away from this bizarre bubble of black and white. 

Russell is really, really pretty though. The Duke of Marlborough does great wedges. 

Newshub.

 

*I can, it was just really bad. 

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