The Soap Box: Political limbo not Winston's fault

Author
Newstalk ZB staff,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 5 October 2017, 7:11AM
But being in politics for around the same time as he has, you come to realise, that's just Winston. (Photo \ NZ Herald)
But being in politics for around the same time as he has, you come to realise, that's just Winston. (Photo \ NZ Herald)
Winston Peters is the politician that's more loathed than loved as the election night result shows. But many of his critics fail to appreciate that he didn't put himself into the position he's found himself in for the third time during his long political career, the voter did.
 
And those same critics can't say they weren't warned. All the opinion polls and most of the commentators in the lead-up to the election said he'd have the job of deciding who'd lead the next Government, National or Labour. With Peters, so far it's been one-all.
 
Bumping into most people in this limbo period and you'll hear "that bloody Winston Peters is the holding the country to ransom again." When you point out to them that it's the electoral system that's put him where he is, you'll most likely get, "well he loves it."
 
The point is it's hardly his fault but of course he doesn't make it any easier on himself, scowling at those who ask him questions that he doesn't like.
 
But being in politics for around the same time as he has, you come to realise, that's just Winston.     
 
The first time I was introduced to him in the early 80s, when he'd just made it back into Parliament after a three year stint on the outside looking in, his opening line was "oh you're the guy who drove my predecessor to an early grave."
 
He was referring to the former Muldoon Customs Minister Keith Allen who claimed he'd been assaulted on the way home from Parliament when in fact he was several sheets to the wind after a long session in the Bellamys bar and had in fact fallen into his garden on his way home. Peters took over his seat.
 
Over the years the relationship's been a tumultuous one, just as it should be between a journalist and a politician.
 
But Winston Peters doesn't suffer what he considers fools gladly and the older he gets, the more frustrated he becomes with the questions fired at him, and with some justification.
 
Like or dislike what he stands for, Peters deserves respect for his uncanny ability to control the political agenda and as he goes into preliminary coalition talks at Parliament today, the applicants for the Prime Minister's job would do well to remember that.
 
First through the door will be Bill English who was still at school when Peters was elected to Parliament. He hasn't done a lot to endear himself to him over the years with the best he could say about the New Zealand First leader during the campaign was that he's a challenge to work with. He'll now have to convince Peters he's up to the challenge.
 
Jacinda Ardern, who wasn't even born when Peters gave his maiden speech, has been more respectful but doesn't have the baggage with this man that English does.
 
She doesn't see herself as the underdog but the challenge for her will be her ability to teach an old dog new tricks - not an easy task.

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