PoliticsJune 4, 2016

Introducing Winston Peters, New Zealand’s Prime Minister At Large


Could the NZ First leader really get the top job after the next election? Here are some alternative designations

Turns out when you mix red and green the colour many see is black – a bumptious, puckish, pin-striped, double breasted sort of black: the black of Winston Peters’ New Zealand First Party.

This morning’s column by Fairfax political editor Tracy Watkins, for example, proffers a headline that teases a knighthood and a prime ministership.


She writes:

Election night 2017 might be now or never for Peters, given he will be 72 by the time the next election rolls around. Which is why the Labour-Greens cooperation agreement announced this week might be the game changer everyone is talking about, but not in the way they think. Because it may bring Peters’ dream within his grasp.

Were NZ First able to “get within cooey” of Labour and Green, reckons Watkins, the Right Honourable Winston could make a compelling argument for the top job. “It might seem outlandish to give the keys to the ninth floor of the Beehive to a minor coalition partner. So too, seemingly, would be installing as prime minister someone who has nothing like the popular support of the major Opposition leader.”


The NBR columnist, political PR man and professional provocateur Matthew Hooton, meanwhile, was on the case more than a year ago, when he wrote:

To date, Mr Peters has served as deputy and acting prime minister, treasurer and foreign minister. There is only one post that remains and one last chance to get it.

National and Labour/Green strategists should not be naïve, no matter what is said between now and the start of post-election negotiations: a substantial amount of time in the prime minister’s office will be Mr Peters’ price for their party controlling the cabinet …

Whichever side gives him at least some time as prime minister will become government, with the alternative an utterly unstable three years of Mr Peters sitting on the cross-benches, deciding legislation vote by vote. One side or the other will blink.

They might blink. But they probably won’t: making Peters prime minister risks enraging voters – not to mention, you know, tearing your own party irrevocably apart. When you add in the NZ First record in governing deals to date, it’s doubtful whether such a deal would last three months, let alone three years.

But. But. In 1996 Jim Bolger blinked a bit, and Peters was appointed not just deputy prime minister, but also, after some creative thinking, to the new role of “treasurer”, nominally at least senior to the finance minister. He called himself the “People’s Treasurer”; unkind observers chose “the Treasury’s Poodle”.

But perhaps the treasurer title is a clue to something Peters might secure after the 2017 election, should he hold the crucial cards: a designation that will suggest to those looking up his Wikipedia page in years to come that he was in charge, that has at least the air of being Top Dog.

In fact, how about it:

Winston Peters, Top Dog

“Top Dog” is clearly a very fucking cool title, but while it would command complete respect at the Cabinet table it may not be universally recognised in global halls of power. Probably not.

Winston Peters, King


As long as we’re going to start a new royal family we may as well give the crown to someone who has been a fixture in the public eye since the Mesozoic era. He’s also routinely called the Kingmaker. Downsides: there may be issues with the kingitanga movement; the crown could mess up those luscious locks; we’d probably have to have a referendum and surely no one has the energy for another of those. Speaking of which ….

Winston Peters, Flag



Winston Peters, Prime Minister At Large

“Editor at large” is a title you’ll see on magazines and papers from time to time. It can mean different things, but it often translates as “Important person upon whom we wish to confer status but don’t want anywhere near the actual editorial process”.

Winston Peters, Shapeshifting Reptilian Alien Ushering Humanity Towards Enslavement

John Key has repudiated this one, so it’s available, at least.

Winston Peters, Primer Minister


Sure that guy’s the prime minister but I’m the primer minister.

Winston Peters, President

Sounds good, but there could be constitutional quibbles.

Winston Peters, Predisent

Has the advantage of looking like president while not actually meaning anything at all.

Winston Peters, Premier


Richard Seddon, New Zealand’s longest serving prime minister, towered over the polis. He was the first to take on the title prime minister, replacing the designation “premier”. He was such a big deal he was even called King (Dick). But Premier Winston? For all the confusion that could be involved in having a premier and a prime minister, this could be one he’d go for.

Winston Peters, Minister of state

In 1975 Robert Muldoon created such a position for Keith Holyoake (thanks Rob). Winston likely to respond to such an offer with a burst of Daryl Hall and John Oates.

Winston Peters, First Minister

Used in a few countries, including devolved self-rule places like Scotland and England, to describe the cabinet boss. But it historically has been used interchangeably with prime minister.

Who said this, for example? “I did not become His Majesty’s First Minister so that I might oversee the liquidation of the British Empire.”

Winston Churchill did. WINSTON.

Winston Peters, Chairman


This could work, especially if John Key formally codified his existing role as chief executive of New Zealand Inc. Might, however, sound a little bit too, you know, Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Winston Peters, Rangatira


Winston Peters, Primo Minister



Uncle Winston

Nice thought for a winter day, but I don’t think he’ll go for it.


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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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