New Zealand First leader Winston Peters stages political theatre over coalition deal

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters' negotiations with National and Labour got underway face-to-face on Thursday.

There was plenty of drama - and not much else.

It was just another day in the life as the king or queen-maker of New Zealand, as Mr Peters, off to have breakfast in the Beehive, used his hands-free kit to yarn away on his phone.

This is what you call political theatre... the script - negotiations - and the theme - secrecy.

Even the room at Parliament where the talks would be held in could not be disclosed.

"I'll say it very slowly - politically... neutral... ground," Mr Peters said.

There were actors on all sides, playing with secrecy, too, about who would be in the negotiating teams.

"I've got no comment this morning," said National Party MP Paula Bennett.

Mr Peters used dramatic effect, to imply National and Labour shouldn't bring anyone he didn't like.

But Steven Joyce - cast as the enemy - implied that he was in the mix.

"I'm generally the team-maker in these sorts of discussions," he said.

As for the supposedly secret room, that got uncovered pretty quickly - it was in the Beehive.

The blue cast entered stage right - National Party leader Bill English, along with MPs Gerry Brownlee, Steven Joyce, and Todd McClay, chief of staff Wayne Eagleson and Mr English's trusted advisor, Cameron Burrows.

The black ensemble was Winston Peters, Ron Mark, Tracey Martin, chief of staff David Broome and Mr Peters' mate, Paul Carran.

Only 30 minutes later, they were done - then the reds came in, stage left.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, MPs Kelvin Davis and Grant Roberston, then Sir Michael Cullen, chief of staff Neale Jones and Ms Ardern's trusted advisor, Mike Munro.

Then, 21 minutes later, they were done too.

So that little room was used for quite the performance.

A political play entitled Winston, made by Winston - and starring Winston.

Mr Peters actually stopped and performed for the cameras at least 10 times today.

And in case this feels like a re-run, in the 1996 coalition talks, he did the same thing - same place, same lift.

So there was theatre today, but proper business about who controls the country is due to start on Sunday.