Who will survive Winston Peters' negotiation 'hit list'?

OPINION: You don't survive in politics as long as Winston Peters without ruffling a few feathers … or having your own plumage disturbed in the process.

Now, with the nation's spotlight shining brightly on him, the NZ First leader will be enjoying this opportunity to reflect on those who have aggrieved him along his rocky 40-year career path.

He's making a list, he's checking it twice. If your ears are burning, you're probably on it.

As Mr Peters considers his bargaining points with National and Labour, this is his chance for payback against those that have treated him so shabbily over the years, starting with …


Hard to know where to start here, since there are so many ways Mr Peters could feel disrespected by the party now so desperate for his approval.

Let's start with the way National went after him in the Northland electorate, ultimately propelling its own Matt King to victory on election night, while seeming to let ACT leader David Seymour off the hook in Epsom.

If Mr Peters harboured any historical beefs against the ruling party, they were undoubtedly brought to a head when someone leaked details of his over-paid superannuation in the build-up to this year's campaign.

He will certainly have his own suspicions on the individuals responsible and they may well be packing the contents of their desks into cardboard boxes about now.

Bill English
National Party leader Bill English: "I second that." Photo credit: Newshub.


If you really want to get personal about this, let's start at the top, where the incumbent prime minister was partially responsible for Mr Peters' inglorious exit from the National Party and the formation of NZ First in 1992.

When then-PM Jim Bolger moved for his expulsion from caucus, that motion was seconded by Wallace MP Simon William English.

More recently, Mr Peters went after his old rival for denying that he sent hundreds of text messages to a former staffer of disgraced MP Todd Barclay.

He told RadioLive's Mitch Harris that he didn't believe Mr English was a straight shooter.

If NZ First is to throw its lot behind National, at least one cabinet role high on Mr Peters' wish list is currently held by another high on his "grudge list". 

Incumbent Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett probably shouldn't get too comfortable in her seat. 

Nor you, Stephen Joyce or Anne Tolley. 

David Seymour
ACT leader David Seymour: "I think he's a terrible guy." Photo credit: Getty Images


If you followed election-night developments, you will have noticed that no-one proposed any coalition formula that put ACT and NZ First on the same team.

Despite his wink-and-nod victory in Epsom, Mr Seymour has already become a victim of this stand-off, his one seat now irrelevant and more of a hindrance to negotiations.

During last month's minor parties debate, the ACT leader insisted he wouldn't support any Government that needed NZ First support to survive.

Last week, he tried to take that back, but then accused Mr Peters of being "racist and divisive" in the very next breath.

"I think he's a terrible guy," he told Newshub. "I think he's done nothing in 40 years."

Hasta la vista, Mr Seymour.

Metiria Turei
Former Greens co-leader Metiria Turei led the assault against Mr Peters. Photo credit: Newshub.


Another leader desperate to put the genie back in the bottle on election night was the Greens' James Shaw.

While National and Labour were clearly reluctant to address Mr Peters as the votes were being counted, Mr Shaw virtually threw himself on his knees and repented for his party's previous attacks on NZ First

Granted, the main culprit for that assault was former co-leader Metiria Turei, who had since crashed and burned in her own social welfare scandal. But when list MP Barry Coates seemed to rule out a Labour-Greens-NZ First coalition, the attack became more than just personal.

With her party's support and the prior knowledge of Labour, Ms Turei also labelled Mr Peters racist and he took some delight in showing her the door, when she eventually resigned from the Greens leadership.

"Do I forgive someone who called me a racist?" he asked Newshub. "No, I don't.

"This was an attack on Winston Peters and NZ First, organised by the Greens, in consultation with the Labour Party. What do you expect me to think of that?"


OK, on reflection, not inviting Mr Peters to the election leaders debates now seems a little presumptuous, as this election outcome has become all about his so-called non-negotiable "bottom lines".

As his position of power became apparent on election night, he made special mention of the media's supposed indifference towards his campaign and he warned we'd now have to wait patiently (not our greatest strength) for his decision.

His media call the next morning was 20 minutes of "I told you so". If you had followed recent America's Cup history, it was somewhat reminiscent of Jimmy Spithill's "imagine if they lose it from here" line in San Francisco four years ago.  

Mr Peters accused us of "sucking up" to the two major parties and of running a "first-past-the-post campaign in an MMP environment".

Oh yes, he will enjoy making us wait for his pronouncement.