From centre stage to Where’s Winston?

Following the election two months ago Winston Peters was at the centre of the political stage, demanding and getting most of the spotlight up until he anointed Labour as the lead party in the new Government.

Since then Peters has all but disappeared from media radar.

His appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs meant that a lot of his time and attention would be out of the country. He was propelled almost immediately onto the international stage at APEC in Vietnam, but he had to be in Prime Minister Ardern’s shadow.

Little has been seen or heard of him since.

Claire Trevett asks (and answers) Where’s Winston Peters?

One of the more peculiar fates of a Foreign Minister is to act as a Prime Minister’s hand maiden on overseas trips.

The job is to be seen but not heard.

That’s a big change from being the big cheese in his own party, and then a month of being the big decider.

There was wall-to-wall coverage of Peters in that long month between the election and forming a government, but since then Peters has all but disappeared.

The only sightings, until this week, were at Ardern’s shoulder as her eye candy in Asia. The “be seen but not heard rule” undoubtedly suited Peters, fed up after the post-election scrutiny.

Peters gets fed up by scrutiny all the time, but may have had no need for media attention once he had won his government prize.

He left the country before his lawyers served papers on those he suspected of involvement in leaking his superannuation overpayment issues, so missed much of the initial heat of that.

The cynical amongst us, and there are many when it comes to Peters, might wonder if the timing was very deliberately designed to avoid heat. Peters loves applying the blowtorch to others, but isn’t so keen on being on the receiving end.

Peters proved an important accessory for Ardern — he has experience in the role and Ardern does not have the personal relationships Key built up over the past nine years.

In fact, Peters’ interactions with the US may end up being more important than those of Ardern. He had two meetings with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over matters ranging from North Korea to Myanmar.

It’s quite likely that Trump would prefer to be dealing with someone of a similar vintage to himself rather than a woman just a little more than half his age.

Peters was back on home soil this week and once again speaking in the media.

Did he say anything of note? If so I must have missed it.

It took the resignation of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe to break his vow of silence.

Despite speculation Peters will be dispatched to North Korea to single-handedly halt its nuclear weapon programme, his next international deployment is understood to be to the hot spot of Rarotonga in January — to attend Shane Jones’ wedding rather than sorting world peace.

Then he faces the hard grind of government, and especially for him the relentless travel, trickiness and tribulations of Foreign Affairs.

Ardern will continue to get most of the local media attention. And unusually for NZ First, MPs other than Winston may be seen and heard much more than him. Jones in particular.

This may go against Winston’s grain, or it could be a part of his plan to hand over party power.

It will be a demanding term for Peters, and an interesting one for NZ First. The first post-election polls show a slip in support, down to that all important threshold:

  • Election result: 7.2%
  • Roy Morgan October poll: 6.5%
  • Roy Morgan November poll: 5.0%

NZ First with Winston in Government could struggle next election. Without him they could easily be history.


  1. Corky

     /  November 26, 2017

    ”Did he say anything of note? If so I must have missed it.”

    He said everyone knew reentering Pike River would be subject to safety reviews first.

    That’s not how I understood the electioneering rhetoric. I understood that to mean Peters would take a swig of finest malt, don a hard hat, and say: ” follow me men.”

    • NOEL

       /  November 26, 2017

      Aw Corkey we all know opposition parties in a election offer the world but prune everything when the chickens come home to roost. Been that way as long as I can remember and that’s a lot of elections.

      • Corky

         /  November 26, 2017

        Well, Noel, I agree. But lying to grieving families? Especially after National had basically done nothing to help them.

        • Chuck Bird

           /  November 26, 2017

          The familes do not believe they have been lied to.

          • Corky

             /  November 26, 2017

            No, but I do.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  November 26, 2017

              They have certainly been told what some of them want to hear, which is thoughtless to say the least.

              National has given the families large amounts of money as what is the only possible form of compensation.

  2. George

     /  November 26, 2017

    You may have noticed that winston and co are backtracking to the Nats position so fast their feet haven’t touched the ground.
    And after all the money paid to the grieving families with more in the pipeline you can say nothing has been done ????

  3. David

     /  November 26, 2017

    If you were a winston voter you must have looked at Ardern,s most important to do thing was importing dodgy refugees and annoying the Aussies to the point where your 2 months on the Sunshine Coast each Winter was looking a bit ropey. I would like to hear Winstons thoughts on this.

    • Fight4NZ

       /  November 26, 2017

      Yes. Being very central to Foreign Affairs his silence is striking to say the least.

  4. David

     /  November 26, 2017

    If National had proposed what Little has just done over Pike Winston would have gone troppo, nothing I can see has changed there except the deeply red Bernie Monk has his team in government. 2019 could be an upsetting year for him but no politician is going to risk more people dieing to collect decade old remains.
    I have a shed load of sympathy for the families but they have been used politically.

    • NOEL

       /  November 26, 2017

      From WorkSafe’s luck to date a private recovery team will get out couple of the closer remains and then there will be a major rock fall sealing the mine forever.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  November 26, 2017

      They have in some cases used themselves and each other politically. Bernie Monk has a lot to answer for. He must know what the chances are that there will be nothing resembling a body in there.He ignores the wishes of the families who do not want more money and time spent on this fruitless exercise.

  5. PartisanZ

     /  November 27, 2017

    To get into power Winston has alienated most of his old voter base. He’s gone from ‘bottom-line’ Maori seats and anti-smacking referenda to legalize cannabis referendum …

    Based on what he’s agreed to as part of this coalition Winston’s NZFirst looks decidedly ‘progressive’. Jon Johansonn as Chief of Staff? Seriously, what does this say about positioning for the future?

    Aside from doing his job, the plodding everyday tasks of Foreign Minister, Winston is in “succession plan” mode and I reckon the outcomes will be quite surprising for many.

    Where’s Winston? I think he’s unwell.