NZ Election 2020: Winston Peters gushes over Jacinda Ardern, blasts polls, 'coward' NZ media in UK interview

Winston Peters has given a glowing review of Jacinda Ardern's first term as Prime Minister in a wide-ranging interview with UK media.

The Deputy Prime Minister also unleashed on "coward" Kiwi journalists, "woke fascists" and unfavourable poll results in the interview, conducted by Sun reporter Steven Edginton and released earlier this week.

Speaking on the apparent groundswell of support for the 'woke movement' - a trend characterised by political correctness, cancel culture and the suppression of free speech - Peters said it was "very concerning" and has an "awful parallel with fascism".

"They seem to take you down not with argument, but with marginalisation and Cinderella-isation of your views and personality," he said.

Emboldened by an apparent jab at Ardern, Edgington asked whether this "woke rust" had rubbed off on New Zealand's leader - but Peters was quick to leap to her defence.

"I wouldn't say that in that context. She's very genuine, very, very intelligent and someone who knows how to seriously analyse policy. She's also not immune to listening to others sharing their views," he said.

"When she became the Prime Minister, you could say we were taking a serious risk with someone who had no experience in Government.

"But in my case I knew what I was dealing with, and that [Ardern] was someone who could do - when given a chance, and with a lot of experience around her - a seriously good job."

COVID-19 response is 'why Ardern is so popular'

Peters says the most obvious example of her "fine leadership" has been shown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Ardern's leadership, New Zealand eliminated the virus and has now gone more than three months without a case of community transmission.

Jacinda Ardern has "done a tremendous job" dealing with New Zealand's COVID-19 crisis, Peters says.
Jacinda Ardern has "done a tremendous job" dealing with New Zealand's COVID-19 crisis, Peters says. Photo credit: Getty

"On the big issue, which is COVID-19, she has done a tremendous job and kept her eye - with some key medical people - right on the ball.

"What we've called the 'tyranny of distance' has become the 'liberty of distance' because we've been cut off as an island nation and that's been a lucky circumstance for us.

"But keeping our eyes on the prize and staying on focus and getting an army of 5 million people to stick to the plan is the reason why she's so popular... as Ronald Reagan said, 'you can't argue with success'."

Later in the interview, Edgington asked Peters why Ardern's popularity had soared amid the COVID-19 crisis while other members of the Government - himself included - hadn't.

The New Zealand First leader's response was typically to the point.

"No one talks about Rudolph the Reindeer - it's Santa Claus they talk about," he said.

"In this circumstance - a medical crisis - it's the leader [that gets the credit]. There's no use other politicians being envious or saying, 'Why hasn't it washed off on me?' That's life. It's a campaign year and we've got five weeks to get really, seriously focused [before the election]."

Peters puts 'coward' journalists, 'so-called' polls on blast

Speaking of the election, things haven't been looking great for Peters or New Zealand First, with two of the country's most reliable polls putting the party on just 2 percent - less than half the support required to get into Parliament without an electorate seat.

But Peters was predictably confident that he'd turn the tide, and let loose on "certain sections of the media" he claims have been running "a vicious campaign" against New Zealand First.

"Let me tell you, they've been writing me off for decades," he told Edgington.

NZ Election 2020: Winston Peters gushes over Jacinda Ardern, blasts polls, 'coward' NZ media in UK interview

"I'm confident of where we'll be on election night and where we are now, and it's most certainly not on 2 percent.

"Everyone one of these people - and they are cowards - ends their article with the statement 'you can never write Winston Peters off'. So just in case their vicious attack doesn't work, they put that in there so they don't have to fly a white flag on election night."

After lambasting the methodology of two polls - believed to be the Newshub-Reid Research poll and the 1News-Colmar Brunton poll - Peters went on to claim his party's poor results could be due to its significant voting base of older people.

He argues over-65s aren't being polled because they're "not online" nor "on the phones", but is positive they'll "vote en masse" come election night.

"Our job is to turn these so-called polls to confetti," he said.

"I started this party 27 years ago. They said I wouldn't last five minutes then. Well, it's been a long five minutes, hasn't it?"