Newsroom Pro's 9 things at 9: National says personalities don't matter in talks with Winston, while Labour says they do

Both Paula Bennett and Kelvin Davis have said they would step aside for Winston Peters. Photos by Lynn Grieveson

In today's email we look past the speculation and rumours of 'utu' to dig into the details of coalition negotiating teams and what Winston's previous words can tell us.

1. Deputy PM job free for Peters

Labour and National have yet to even speak to Winston Peters, but they both effectively offered up the job of Deputy Prime Minister to him yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett told reporters as she arrived in Parliament for National's first caucus meeting after the election that she was "not too bothered" about having to give up the Deputy PM role for Peters if she had to.

"I love what I do and I'd still be deputy leader of the party. That's the main thing really," she said.

Labour Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis also told media after Labour's first caucus meeting that he would give the role up too if needed.

"My priority is to make sure Jacinda Ardern is the Prime Minister. If it has to be it has to be. It's not something we'd give up lightly, but Jacinda being the Prime Minister is the main focus here," Davis said.

Peters, however, may not see the job as such a prize.

When asked about it on Monday night, he said: "Been there. Done that." Although he has also not ruled it out.

2. Do personalities matter?

There is plenty of speculation around at the moment about feuds and personality clashes, in particular whether Winston Peters would negotiate with Steven Joyce or Paula Bennett.

Joyce denied yesterday there was any feud between him and Peters.

"We've never really come in each other's way except maybe on the floor of the House," he said.

Although it was clear in the Queenstown Finance Leaders debate when Joyce and Peters shared a stage that there was no love lost. Standing next to Joyce, Peters said on August 30 that he had been told the National Party planned to "do Winston Peters in."

Joyce and English said they weren't worried about any reputed grudges Peters might hold against people in the National Party.

"There's all sorts of political pushing and shoving goes on. We now, though, have the responsibility of forming a strong and stable Government," English said.

"I think we will all be in a position of putting aside differences there may have been in the past and moving on with what the voters expect us to do," he said.

English then went on to enter the caucus to a standing ovation. Joyce was also jovial on the issue.

"You guys are interviewing your typewriters on it. And that's all good. But actually it's not about any personality," Joyce said.

"It is about how you put together a Government for New Zealand. There will be lots of silly rumours of all types swirling around in the next few weeks."

Bennett denied again being responsible for the leak of information about Peters' superannuation details, but did acknowledge she was unlikely to be involved closely in the negotiations because she did not know Peters well.

"I don't really have a relationship. There's nothing wrong. There's no particular relationship there," she said.

3. Utu? Really?

Newshub's Paddy Gower reported last night that Peters wanted "utu" over National's actions during the campaign, including the superannuation leaks, the targeting of Peters' Northland electorate and the targeting of New Zealand First votes generally with policies such as boot camps and the 110 km/hr speed limit.

Peters hit back immediately, posting on Facebook that Gower's broadcasts on Monday and Tuesday were "fiction and grossly misleading."

"None of it will have any bearing on New Zealand First in the coming talks around the establishment of the next government," Peters said.

The NZ Herald's Audrey Young described the 'utu' talk as "drivel," pointing out that Peters had not criticised National over its candidate winning in Northland and that Peters did not know who leaked the pension information.

4. Jacinda and Kelvin's team

Jacinda Ardern was cautious yesterday when announcing Labour's negotiation team would be led by herself and Kelvin Davis, saving the naming of the rest of the team for a later day. She was clear, however, that personal relations do matter.

Davis' appointment is important, as he is an old friend of Peters and related to him.

Ardern said after Labour's caucus meeting that she had yet to confirm the other members of the team. She would not confirm if Sir Michael Cullen would be involved and said Helen Clark was travelling over the coming weeks.

She said she had yet to talk to Peters, although there had been contact between their respective chiefs of staff. Her first focus was on costing and comparing the respective policies.

"I've tasked our front bench over the next 48 hours to work on policy work to compare some of our policies with other party policies involved in the negotiations to make sure we're well prepared for the negotiations that will happen over the coming days and coming weeks," Ardern said.

"We did reach out to New Zealand First and did indicate that whenever they were ready we would be happy and available to meet.

"I expect that he's taking the time to talk to his colleagues and others, and that's time and space that we'll be respecting."

Ardern doubted that full and formal talks would happen before the October 7 declaration of the results of the counting of special votes, which made up 15 percent of the total votes counted.

"It would be prudent of all the political parties to go and do the preparatory work because we are working to quite a tight timeline. But I fully expect that we won't have anything formalised until we have those special votes in, and that's a fair expectation," she said.

Ardern was insistent that relationships did matter in the negotiations, noting that Peters had "a good existing working relationship with our senior MPs."

"Relationships are important in these negotiations and I'd like to think we have the existing relationship required to take forward a good negotiation and form a stable, credible and long term coalition government."

Ardern said she respected Peters as a senior member of parliament with a lot of experience, and trusted him.

She again said the first step would be one-on-one talks between Labour and New Zealand First and Labour and the Greens, rather than full three-way talks.

"It's my expectation that we'd have talks with those parties individually. There may be circumstances further down the track that that may be something we instigate," she said.

5. Some older faces in the Greens

The Greens did announce their full negotiating team yesterday, including some blasts from the past in Jeanette Fitzsimons and former chief of staff Andrew Campbell.

The team announced included leader James Shaw, MP Eugenie Sage, acting chief of staff Tory Whanau, party co-convenor Debs Martin and party campaign committee member Andrew Campbell.

Shaw said the team would be supported by a reference group that included Fitzsimons and other unnamed senior figures.

6. Winston's little black book

So you don't have to, Newsroom Co-Editor Tim Murphy has ploughed through all Winston Peters' public speeches since June to find out what he really thinks of his potential governing partners.

"Winston Peters' head must be spinning with all the consultation he is doing, via Skype and face-to-face, with his party executive and caucus on how to handle coalition negotiations," Tim reports.

"His fishing plans up north were foiled by the tides, so he has had all of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to hear the views of his closest acolytes. Peters will be wanting to avoid decision-by-committee, but that's the process that he has promised.

"Today he heads to Wellington where he will find himself back 'Between the Red Devil and the Deep Blue Sea', as he so lyrically described it in a speech exactly a week ago in Ashburton.

"In the absence of live comments, the Speeches of Leader Winston - a kind-of Little Black Book of quotations and positions - can help to discern the personal and political thoughts of Peters.

"In July, on the first morning of his party convention in Manukau, Peters told TVNZ's Corin Dann to "report what I say, not what you think I say". For Peters watchers, it is always good advice. For Peters himself, the record of what he has said will be of help, too, if he is weary and forgetful, as suggested by his departing MP colleague Richard Prosser.

"So, in the past three months, the NZ First website has catalogued 24 speeches beyond those given in Parliament.

"What do they tell us about his views on National, Labour, English, Ardern and the many personalities and policies that he will encounter over the next two to three weeks of coalition talks and possibly beyond into government?

"In summary, the government naturally copped much more criticism than Labour; Peters' strongest themes were on economic mismanagement, the economic plight of the regions, separatist deals with iwi over water in Lake Taupo and the Waikato River and the risk to superannuitants if the economy turns sour."

See Tim's full report on those speeches here at Newsroom.

7. Freedom in Whananaki

Newsroom's Sam Sachdeva spent a good part of the weekend and Monday in Russell, Whangarei and Whananaki on the hunt for Winston Peters.

He reported for Newsroom about Peters' special place a long way from any city.

Winston Peters has described Whananaki as a source of hope during his darkest days - and it’s the place he turned to to plot his next move after the election results confirmed NZ First’s kingmaker status.

The settlement is cleaved in two by the Whananaki Inlet, an estuary with shells that crunch beneath your feet at low tide. Peters’ retreat is in the less easily accessible Whananaki South.

The easiest route is via what’s proudly proclaimed to be the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere, 493 steps along rickety wood with kingfishers that rest on the handrails before flitting away.
From there, it’s a short walk across the estuary at low tide to Peters’ waterfront property.

If there’s any place to escape the stresses and strains of the modern world - and calls from those pesky party leaders - it’s here.

See Sam's full report here on Newsroom.

8. Coming up...

Winston Peters arrives in Wellington today to meet his new caucus for the first time.

Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to visit a school in Wellington, which leaves her here in Wellington to meet with Peters, although she said nothing was planned.

9. One fun thing and a weird, scary thing

Perhaps this is not a fun thing and more a weird, scary and notable thing.

Yesterday, Donald Trump, who is the US President with the biggest and most sophisticated intelligence and information apparatus in the world, tweeted this after Iranian state media broadcast a video of a missile launch:

"Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!"

It turns out the report was fake because the footage was from a video from January. US intelligence officials said their radars and sensors picked up no indication of a launch. Trump made a Presidential statement because he saw something on his Twitter feed that he hadn't checked was true. And he has the nuclear football with the launch codes with him at all times.

On a lighter note, Rod Emmerson is on fine form at the moment with his cartoons about Winston Peters, and Dave Armstrong caught the mood with this tweet yesterday:

"Breaking: Labour's NZF negotiating team announed: Glen Livet, John Walker, Glen Morangie, Hazel Burn, Ben Nevis, Isla Jura, Ben Romach."