As it happened: Winston Peters' first negotiation meetings

On Thursday Winston Peters met for preliminary negotiations with both National and Labour.

Mr Peters met first with National, followed by Labour in the afternoon.

At a time when every inch he moves is being analysed, Mr Peters will be fully aware of the symbolism of meeting with National first.

The following is an account of the first day of negotiations.

3:30pm - Winston Peters: 'You can't win'

Mr Peters says he's "between the Devil and the deep blue sea" in terms of political parties.

"We just can't win," he told media after meeting with Labour.

"You can't win with the public. You can't win with the media. You can't win with the commentariate. You can't win with people who believe it's all first past the post even though they are in an MMP environment and they just bang on, day in, day out."

Apparently you can't win with lifts, either.

Surrounded by media, Mr Peters made his way to the lift, where he continued taking questions. In one of the more comedic moments of the day, Mr Peters tussled with the lift doors in order to tell Lloyd Burr to get himself "halfway focused" after being asked whether water tax had been discussed.

"You were told we were going to talk about the protocols upon which we might meet from here on in, if it became relevant from 2 o'clock on Saturday. That does not mean the substance of the negotiations, but how we conduct the negotiations."

You can watch Mr Peters tussle with reporters while tussling with the lift in the video above.

2.27pm - Meeting with Labour adjourned

It took Mr Peters and his team 27 minutes to get through the meeting with Labour. 

Ms Ardern described the meeting as "very positive," but wouldn't answer questions on whether policy was discussed.

2.19pm - Analysing the negotiating teams

Newshub political journalists Patrick Gower, Jenna Lynch and Lloyd Burr discuss today's negotiating teams.

Gower said Labour selecting Sir Michael Cullen to take part in the negotiations is a "huge sign of respect" because Sir Michael has "huge mana."

Speaking of National's negotiating team, the Newshub journalists expressed surprised at National Party finance spokesperson Steven Joyce being selected to take part.

Gower said Mr Peters has a "genuine distaste for Joyce, and the feeling is mutual."

Gower said Gerry Brownlee is on the team because he "understands Winnie's language and brain."

Todd McClay, the trade spokesperson, is included because his father Roger McClay "was Winston Peters' right-hand man at one point. They are family friends," Mr Peters said.

2pm - Meet Ardern's negotiating team

Ms Ardern is accompanied by deputy leader Kelvin Davis, finance spokesperson Grant Robertson, Sir Michael Cullen, chief of Staff Neale Jones and political veteran and strategic advisor Mike Munro.

1.53pm - NZ First meets with Labour

Winston Peters has gone into a meeting with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern.

The parties' teams are due to meet at 2pm.

12pm - A short meeting with National

NZ First's meeting with National lasted just half an hour.

Mr Peters told media the talks went well and were as expected.

He will meet with Labour at 2pm. In the meantime, Mr Peters and his team have gone to get Tank and Pita Pit for lunch. 

Mr Peters said the meeting with Labour will run through a timetable of how talks will play out. He said negotiation teams could change depending on policy areas. 

He says he won't necessarily be in a position to comment on Saturday.

When asked how his lunch break went, Mr Peters said it was "terrible".

Left to right: Mark Patterson, an unidentified woman, Tracey Martin and Jenny Marcroft.
Left to right: Mark Patterson, an unidentified woman, Tracey Martin and Jenny Marcroft. Photo credit: Lloyd Burr/Newshub.

11:27am - Former PM thinks Peters won't form a coalition

Jim Bolger, the former Prime Minister who negotiated a coalition deal with Mr Peters in 1996, said he believes Mr Peters will work from the cross benches in some kind of confidence and supply arrangement rather than forming a coalition Government.

Speaking on RNZ, Mr Bolger said Mr Peters' aim to form a Government before 12 October doesn't leave enough time for a detailed coalition agreement.

"That suggests very strongly that he and New Zealand First are leaning towards sitting on cross benches in ... confidence and supply or some other arrangement ... and not formally joining the government," he said.

11:07am - Before National, the Pike River families

Before meeting with National's negotiating team this morning, Mr Peters met with the families of those killed in the Pike River Mine explosion.

"After all, first things first," he wrote on Facebook, posting a photo with the families.

Re-entering the mine and retrieving the bodies of the men killed in the accident is a priority for Mr Peters.

Speaking to Newshub after the meeting, representative Bernie Monk, whose son was killed in the mine, said he has "full faith in whatever decision [Mr Peters] makes that Pike River's going to be a top priority".

More on that story here.

10:46am - The top secret-meeting location revealed

Newshub politics editor Patrick Gower has revealed the location of the negotiating meeting - the Beehive. Ahead of the talks, Mr Peters refused to say where the meeting would be held.

10:40am - What NZ First wants

Now might be a good time to cast your eyes over NZ First's key policies.

Mr Peters and his team will probably negotiate a handful of policy concessions.

It's likely we'll see some iteration of a few of these, compiled by Lloyd Burr.

10:30am - No holding back for Peter Dunne

Last night, Peter Dunne tweeted he is "Hearing reports from Wellington of narcissistic old man holding supine adults to ransom".

No prizes for guessing who he's talking about.

10:25am - Labour's negotiating team still unknown

Jacinda Ardern didn't respond when asked about the makeup of her negotiating team and didn't stop to speak to media this morning.

10:20am - NZ First and National negotiating teams announced

  • Todd McClay, Gerry Brownlee, Wayne Eagleson, Steven Joyce and Bill English are in National's negotiating team.
  • Winston Peters' negotiating team is Tracey Martin, Ron Mark, David Broome and Paul Carrad.

10am - Here's what we learned from Mr Peters this morning:

Winston Peters spoke to media as he entered Bowen House this morning, offering what might be the most information and longest answers since the election

1. Personalities matter

When asked whether the personalities on Labour and National's negotiating teams matter, Mr Peters said 'yes', before getting in a characteristic jab at the media.

"Don't send along the wrong people," Mr Peters said.

"If you were in a commercial setting; if you were in a media setting - it probably doesn't matter in a media setting. Anything happens in the media - but if you were in a commercial or another setting, you'd be very careful as to who you sent. You wouldn't want somebody's past behaviour and obnoxiousness to be a part of the problem, would you?"

It's anyone's guess as to whose past behaviour might cause a problem in negotiations with Mr Peters.

Mr Peters wouldn't reveal the members of his own negotiating team, but he did say the teams would change. In the past, Mr Peters has sent his more left-leaning team members to negotiations with National, while sending right-leaning NZ First staffers or MPs to negotiations with Labour.

2. 'Special votes are critically important'

Labour and the Greens are holding out hope of gaining a couple of seats once the special votes come in.

Mr Peters, a stance constitutionalist and defender of democracy, said the press gallery have been ignoring the significance of the special votes.

"I said from the word go that these special votes are critically important because there are 380,000 of them. That's actually huge," Mr Peters said.

"To have it just ignored as if it's no matter is actually quite regrettable. Here you've got people who want to be part of this democracy being told by this press gallery that what they think is of no matter whatsoever. I think that's disgraceful."

Mr Peters went on to say, "it looks like some convenient construction for power structures to repeat their behaviour, regardless of what the public think."

3. Winston Peters (still) hates being called 'kingmaker'

Mr Peters said the term 'kingmaker' is a "foolish description" and a "ridiculous statement". 

He's long had an issue with being called a 'kingmaker' because he says it doesn't reflect what he says is a collective decision for the NZ First membership. Perhaps it's also partly because the word implies he is in it for personal power.

"For the umpteenth time, I belong to a caucus of tens of thousands of party members as well and they are all a part of this decision as well. You keep on writing it as one man and he's holding the country to ransom.

"We make a collective decision as a party and as a caucus. It's never changed," Mr Peters said.

As this election would have it, 'monarchmaker' might be a more accurate term anyway.