National's Judith Collins calls time on NZ First leader Winston Peters, bags him for choosing Labour in 2017

A political partnership between National leader Judith Collins and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is looking unlikely. 

"I think his boat has sailed," Collins told Magic Talk on Monday, the day after Peters delivered his first speech to supporters since his party didn't make it back into Parliament. 

NZ First only picked up 2.6 percent of the vote at last year's election - well below the required 5 percent.  

"We are coming back because we believe we can," Peters told party faithful on Sunday, in a speech littered with criticism of Labour, National, ACT and the Greens - the parties that got voted back in - and an attack on the use of te reo Māori names. 

"Why for example has the NZTA become Waka Kotahi - and when was the last time a Government initiative used an English name that, heaven forbid, way over 90 percent of the population might understand?"

Collins, despite raising similar concerns about Māori go-governance prospects in the controversial He Puapua report which Peters himself cited, said she didn't see the former Deputy Prime Minister making a comeback in 2023.

"I give him credit and I'm never rude about Winston Peters because I think you've got to give people credit for doing what they do," Collins said. "But ultimately, I think his boat has sailed."

In his speech, Peters was scathing about Collins and the current state of the National Party. Newshub's latest poll showed National on 27 percent behind Labour on 52.7 percent. 

NZ First leader Winston Peters.
NZ First leader Winston Peters. Photo credit: Newshub

"We are a phoenix that will again arise as the public wake up to the inexactitude of this Government and a hapless National Party," Peters said. 

"The PM remains popular as National haemorrhages... The political media can't get past the meta-narrative of a dominant PM versus a beleaguered Collins."

Peters has often been referred to as the 'kingmaker' because NZ First has worked with both National and Labour in the past, and at the 2017 election, all eyes were on him to see which party he would choose to form a Government with. 

National won 56 seats at the 2017 election under Bill English but it didn't reach the 60 it needed to form a Government, even with ACT's one seat. It needed NZ First's nine seats, but Peters chose to form a coalition with Labour. 

Labour only had 46 seats and with NZ First's nine seats that only made 55, so Labour signed a confidence and supply with the Greens who had eight seats, which resulted in the Coalition Government led by Jacinda Ardern. 

Peters said in his speech that, given the current state of the National Party, it was no wonder he chose to go with Labour.

But Collins said it was the wrong decision. 

"My goodness, he's a great rewriter of history, isn't he? Anybody would have thought that the right thing for him to do would've been to put his numbers behind National but he went instead with the 36 percent polling which the Labour Party had and he gave it to them and the Greens.

National leader Judith Collins.
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"I understand [that] he regrets what he did... but he did it because he couldn't stand the leadership in the National Party at that time and right now what he's doing is trying to resurrect himself.

"I look at Winston Peters and think, you've got to respect the guy for being able to get up every day and go out and say the same thing over and over again, but ultimately it's probably time that we moved on."

But Collins does seem to agree with some of the points Peters raised, particularly his gripe with New Zealand more commonly being referred to as 'Aotearoa' without it being put to a referendum. 

"What we're seeing is that there's a lot of people who I think are very annoyed at having the country's name changed on them without ever having a say on it, and we've made that very clear," Collins said. 

"I'm happy to say that I live in New Zealand. If people want to change the name well then they should go to a referendum for the public, and I don't see a lot of support for that.

"What I do see is a lot of kowtowing by the Government pandering to various identity politics and not actually understanding that people just need to build the economy because that's what pays for the health and education and all the other things that we expect to receive."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show she and Peters worked well together when Labour and NZ First were in a coalition arrangement, but she acknowledged it wasn't always easy to find consensus. 

"You won't hear me criticise Winston Peters - we've always had a really respectful relationship and I'm not going to rewrite history," she said. "We, over three years, did a lot of things I feel very proud of."  

The results of a May Newshub-Reid Research poll released on Sunday showed 70.1 percent of New Zealanders didn't want Peters to return to politics.