NZ Election 2020: Winston Peters claims he once turned down a knighthood

Winston Peters has claimed he was once offered a knighthood, but turned it down. 

The veteran New Zealand First leader didn't reveal which Prime Minister made the recommendation to the Queen however.

"I've been offered it before - didn't take it," he told The AM Show on Wednesday, shocking host Duncan Garner and newsreader Amanda Gillies.

"Why are you so surprised? ... I have never been in this job for myself, and I just proved it to you. I've been offered ambassadorships and a knighthood, and I've never said yes. I'm not interested in that sort of talk." 

With NZ First struggling in the polls, it's looking likely Peters' long parliamentary career could be coming to a close. It's not common for MPs to receive a royal honour whilst still in office - the last Prime Minister to be knighted while in office was Sir Robert Muldoon. 

Both National Party Prime Ministers this century - Sir John Key and Sir Bill English - took knighthoods after their careers had ended. 

Peters never ascended those lofty heights, maxing out at Acting Prime Minister in 2018 when Jacinda Ardern took a few weeks off to give birth. 

Asked earlier on The AM Show if she'd recommend a knighthood for Peters, should she become Prime Minister, Judith Collins suggested she wouldn't.

"Well, really it's the Queen who does the knighting, of course... I can't say I'd have to think long and hard about that one."

Winston Peters.
Winston Peters. Photo credit: The AM Show

Peters started out as a National MP, but split from the party in the early 1990s and set up NZ First. Since then the party has only been bundled out of Parliament once - in 2008, coincidentally after the party had been investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, and cleared. 

NZ First was polling at 2 percent ahead of the 2011 election, but managed to claw back to 6.6 percent following the infamous 'tea tapes' scandal. He said even if they don't make it back, he won't be calling time on his political career. 

"I've never seen a time in my country's history in my whole life where things are so critical. I think there's unfinished business... I see on both sides an absolute disaster coming, because of their extreme approaches."