Lloyd Burr election 2023 analysis: Winston Peters' power play is petty and immature

ANALYSIS: In the lead up to the election, massive billboards started appearing across the country with a photo of a cackling Winston Peters with the words: "Don't Get Fooled Again". 

They were paid for by the ACT Party whose leader David Seymour will have that phrase playing over and over in his head after Peters' recent behaviour. 

Both Seymour and Luxon flew to Wellington on Tuesday to continue coalition negotiations, with an expectation Peters would be in the capital too – given it was Peters who insisted that's where talks should happen rather than Luxon's preferred Auckland. 

They were hopeful of all three leaders finally getting around the same table to nut out some of the contentious elements of their preliminary plan.  

But Winston was a no show. 

His entire New Zealand First caucus was in Wellington waiting for him. They waited. They obfuscated when asked by reporters where their leader was. They were stood up too. 

Even Shane Jones – the master orator – couldn't answer to Winston's whereabouts. 

When it became apparent Peters was not going to leave the comfort of Auckland, both Luxon and Seymour booked the last flight north and headed north. They all finally met in a hotel room on Wednesday. 

It's an extraordinary power play from Peters. It's a warning shot to both Seymour and Luxon that he won't be played a fool after reportedly being offended at a draft deal that came across his desk on Friday.

He's telling them: you piss me around, I'll piss you around. 

This isn't his first rodeo, he's done these talks before, and he knows how to get what he wants. He's not going to be dictated by two leaders he sees as political amateurs. 

But Winston's power play is also immature and petty.  

He's given Seymour and Luxon a taste of what governing with him will be like: unpredictable, volatile, and at Winston's whim. 

He's also proved their election campaign misgivings correct. 

Seymour told the Newshub Nation powerbroker's debate that Peters has "fallen out with practically everyone he's tried to work with". Labour's Chris Hipkins certainly agreed. 

Luxon left the door open to Peters but it came with the caveat of "I really, really don't want to".  

But both of them put those thoughts to one side and have negotiated in good faith with the goal of a stable, effective, coalition government. 

Except, Peters has just reminded them that it won't be. It can't be. He will throw his toys when he doesn't get his way. He will be the tail that wags the dog. 

Just as Seymour and Luxon had warned about. 

The trust they had begun to give him will have evaporated.  

While it's politically fascinating that Peters is playing this game, it's not fascinating for Kiwis up and down the country living in limboland, delaying life decisions, wondering whether they'll be sacked and so on. 

For the sake of the country, it's pretty appalling. He's pissing everyone around: the public, the media, the Parliament, his soon-to-be-coalition partners, everyone. 

All for what? To prove what everyone's always known: This is the Winston Peters Show. 

Lloyd Burr is a Newshub political reporter

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