The crowd’s cheering, the lights are flashing. Two figures walk into the ring. It’s … the deputy prime minister and the leader of Act?
If it weren’t for Andrew Falloon and Iain Lees-Galloway, this week would’ve belonged to Winston Peters and David Seymour. The leaders of the two lowest polling parties currently in parliament have been desperately trying to win attention this week by throwing metaphorical punches. We could do the sensible thing and rise above such adolescent fighting talk, or: we could take them literally.
So who came out on top? And, of course, will they get in the ring for real? Here’s what went down this week.
It all started with a tweet.
If someone had come to me last week and said: “on Monday, the deputy prime minister will challenge David Seymour to a fist fight”, I would’ve told them to improve their sleeping schedule and stop reading tweets by @democracymum.
But alas, it was true: the political heavyweight Winston Peters, who recently confirmed that he has enlisted the self-styled “bad boys of Brexit” to assist the NZ First campaign, challenged Seymour to a fight in a series of rather surreal tweets.
It was in response to a pretty typical press release from the Act Party leader, in which he labelled Peters’ election pledge to slash immigration “tragic” and claimed “Peters himself will soon be retired and will require a care worker to help him get dressed and go for a walk.”
There’d be three hits – you hitting me, me hitting you, and the ambulance hitting 100. Thank your lucky stars I’m not into physical violence.
— Winston Peters (@winstonpeters) July 19, 2020
Peters wasn’t having any of it, slamming Seymour for commenting on his physical health and saying he could send him to the hospital in less than 10 seconds.
The Spinoff approached Seymour to see what he made of these damning allegations. “[Peters] is in a pretty desperate situation,” he said. “He’s down in the polls and I feel a bit sorry for him. He’s been campaigning against immigration for 40 years, he’s never reduced it. Then Covid comes along and knocks it dead.”
But despite all the Twitter talk, Seymour said he wouldn’t get in the ring with Winston Peters. “If I did I’d be accused of elder abuse.”
“If you look at the way he’s getting his blood pressure up on Twitter, I don’t know if a physical confrontation is the right thing for him.”
Winner: Winston Peters
Things showed no signs of slowing down on Tuesday, with Peters clearly trying to maintain the upper hand after a valiant performance on Monday. Seymour, despondent having lost round one, was keen to improve his performance, throwing barbs back at Peters when pressed by reporters.
“He spends enough time in the hospital without my intervention,” Seymour said. “If his punches are as empty as his political promises, I’ve got nothing to worry about.”
A strong start, but Peters was having none of it. He casually threw out a word I never wanted to hear from his 75-year-old mouth.
“You’re talking about a political cuckold that has got so much integrity he has to get another party to prop him up,” Peters fired back.
Maybe it says more about me than Winston Peters that I felt weirdly uncomfortable hearing him (rather than, for example, Shakespeare or a teen on Reddit) say cuckold, but nevertheless, I’m going to give round two to Seymour.
Winner: David Seymour
Flush with confidence after winning round two, Seymour tried to double down with some serious allegations about Peters’ fundraising efforts. Unfortunately for him, everyone was far more preoccupied with news that police were reopening their investigation into Andrew Falloon and Labour MP Raymond Huo was quitting politics.
In a press release, Seymour alleged that Winston Peters was holding secret, one-on-one meetings with people in a private room. As far as I can gather, this is unrelated to Peters’ understanding of the word cuckold.
“New Zealanders should be very concerned at reports of a $1,000-a-head secret meeting at which Winston Peters is alleged to have offered one-on-one time in a private room,” Seymour said.
Sadly for Seymour, in a week filled with scandal and intrigue, there was little room for alleged shady dealings by the deputy prime minister.
Winner: Winston Peters (but only because there was bigger shit going on)
Wednesday started quietly enough, with reports Winston Peters had got his mates onto a special trip to Antarctica at the taxpayer’s expense. Yes, by this week’s standard, that was a quiet start.
It then became all about Iain Lees-Galloway.
It then became all about Rachel Morton.
It then became all about David Seymour.
It then went full circle and became all about Winston Peters again.
Basically, Wednesday was batshit.
Winston Peters, using the protection of parliamentary privilege, used his opportunity in general debate to name who he believed was responsible for the 2017 leak of his superannuation details. He produced no proof and refused to rename his alleged leakers when outside the house.
Peters called it an “Act-inspired hit job”. If he’d brandished a smoking gun, it could’ve been the Wednesday night knockout he was hoping for.
The claims made by Winston Peters about me today are categorically not true.
— Rachel Morton (@RachelMortonNZ) July 22, 2020
Seymour, barely showing a bruise, hit back, calling Peters’ accusations in the house a “disgraceful, sleazy, innuendo-fuelled speech”. He believed the motivation was to make people forget about that little taxpayer-funded trip to Antarctica that had been reported on less than 12 hours earlier. It almost worked.
Seymour said Peters had lied in the house and was expelled by the speaker for his claim. The sergeant at arms, a de facto referee in yesterday’s slinging match, was dispatched to find the party leader and bring him back to face justice.
Is this the 10th person Peters has tried to blame with no evidence whatsoever? Dispicable
— Paula Bennett (@paulalbennett) July 22, 2020
As I said, Wednesday was crazy.
Winner: David Seymour
Clearly, the only way to resolve a political tie such as this would be to see these two political foes battle it out in the ring. I reached out to notable boxing promoter David Higgins to see if he’d be interested in throwing some dollars behind a Seymour v Peters battle royale.
He wasn’t up for it. “You shouldn’t be allowed to put someone that’s physically uncoordinated in the ring with an old age pensioner,” he told me.
“It’s circus shit,” he said. “When we had Martin Snedden as CEO [of Duco Events] we decided that health and safety was very serious.”
But while Higgins laughed off the suggestion of getting the deputy prime minister in the ring with a fellow MP, he was happy to put his money on who would win.
“Winston would clean him out in 10 seconds, but it shouldn’t be allowed, it would be unethical.”
Seymour was more keen for a different kind of physical face-off: “I think we all know who would win a dance-off, I went a full 10 rounds of Dancing with the Stars.”
How could we forget.