Winston Peters was at his pin-striped best as Prime Minister

by Jane Patterson / 02 August, 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters. Photo / Phil Smith

RNZ's political editor Jane Patterson reflects on Winston Peters' (short) tenure as Prime Minister.

As I arrived at work yesterday I saw a senior New Zealand First staffer with a grin from ear to ear, elated the six weeks with Winston Peters in charge had not gone off the rails.

"Don't jinx yourself", I warned, "you still have to get through to midnight!"

At the strike of 12am, Jacinda Ardern formally became prime minister again after six weeks off on parental leave.

The symbolism of the timing reinforces the swiftly changing and radical transformation of the political landscape in the past year - Ms Ardern's imminent return marks a year almost to the day of her ascension to the position of Labour party leader.

The announcement of her pregnancy and that Mr Peters would take over for six weeks all happened against the backdrop of the new coalition government finding its feet and ramping up to deliver its 100-day policy programme.

Ms Ardern had to put her trust in Mr Peters to keep things ticking over while she was away; she still read Cabinet papers but it was down to Mr Peters to lead the government during those six weeks.

There were some skirmishes in the week before he took over, including the revelation he would sue senior members of the past and present government.

Many of the challenges, however, were sheer logistics - would he still do the Prime Minister's regular media interviews, including the wide-ranging Post-Cabinet briefing that can last more than half an hour, and how would the staffing and accommodation arrangements work.

Mr Peters did fulfil those duties - there was a falling out with Newshub's AM Show where Mr Peters was given the wrong time by his office, turned up and was not allowed on air.

There was a stand-off for several weeks - a vacuum the New Zealand-based Sky News correspondent took advantage of, offering Mr Peters an early morning spot which he took up.

In Post-Cabinet and in the "scrums" with press gallery reporters he would field a range of questions - the amount of actual information imparted and the general attitude of Mr Peters varied depending on which reporter he was answering.

He did resist the temptation of any all-out brawls with the press gallery, which was always going to be the main danger for his six weeks as acting PM.

He has dealt with the nurses' strike and more recently demanded urgent advice on synthetic cannabis from key ministers, offering to take a bi-partisan approach on that and the medicinal cannabis bill before the House.

All in all, he has been at his pin-striped best - it was always in his own interests to do a good job.

New Zealand was an interested observer during the six weeks to exchanges between the US President Donald Trump and countries like Iran and China; the one major issue Mr Peters dealt with personally was the detention of a young man in Australia, as the trans-Tasman relationship continued to be challenged.

Ms Ardern is returning a few days earlier than planned so Mr Peters is free to travel to Singapore for meetings smoothing the way for the APEC and East Asia Summits later in the year.

There is already a stack of announcements for her to make on her first week back, on employment, mental health, trade and the environment, as she has told people via Facebook in the last few days.

The ninth floor is now working to get everything back to the state of "normal" no-one could have predicted a year ago.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

Latest

Why you should avoid 'eating for two' during pregnancy
98747 2018-11-18 00:00:00Z Health

Why you should avoid 'eating for two' during pregn…

by Ruth Nichol

Doubling down on food during pregnancy is out, unless it’s diet quality we’re talking about.

Read more
The long, slow goodbye to Angela Merkel
99173 2018-11-17 00:00:00Z World

The long, slow goodbye to Angela Merkel

by Cathrin Schaer

German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to leave the job in 2021, but that’s not soon enough for some.

Read more
Silent witness: The forgotten NZ movie star
97576 2018-11-17 00:00:00Z Movies

Silent witness: The forgotten NZ movie star

by Paul Little

One of the earliest and possibly least known NZ movie stars is Eve Balfour, a silent-movie actress, born in Christchurch in 1890.

Read more
How the Christchurch earthquakes inspired British writer AN Wilson’s new novel
99087 2018-11-17 00:00:00Z Books

How the Christchurch earthquakes inspired British …

by Sally Blundell

AN Wilson has put aside biographies for a novel inspired by quake-devastated Christchurch – where he expects the book will get a tough reception.

Read more
Victory over the All Blacks this weekend would add to Ireland's epic history
99193 2018-11-17 00:00:00Z Sport

Victory over the All Blacks this weekend would add…

by Paul Thomas

Kiwi Joe Schmidt has a chance of adding to Irish rugby’s storied history in the upcoming game against the All Blacks.

Read more
A big science investment - but where’s the transparency?
99199 2018-11-17 00:00:00Z Tech

A big science investment - but where’s the transpa…

by Peter Griffin

An extra $420m is being pumped into the National Science Challenges - but the reasoning behind the increased investment won't be released.

Read more
NZ music legend Gray Bartlett has a new album – and a wild past
99182 2018-11-16 13:32:58Z Music

NZ music legend Gray Bartlett has a new album – an…

by Donna Chisholm

We revisit this profile on award-winning guitarist Gray Bartlett, who's just released a new album, Platinum!

Read more
Vint Cerf: The father of the Internet reflects on what his creation has become
99178 2018-11-16 13:13:08Z Tech

Vint Cerf: The father of the Internet reflects on …

by Peter Griffin

"We were just a bunch of engineers trying to make it work. It didn't even occur to us that anybody would want to wreck it," says Vint Cerf.

Read more