Peters makes the most of the limelight


Winston Peters didn't have much new to say, but he found an entertaining way to say it. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

COMMENT: Informative? Barely. Educational? Hardly. Entertaining? Absolutely.

Tuesday afternoon’s spectacle was a quintessential Winston Peters press conference, albeit in new environs: the Beehive theatrette, traditionally reserved for briefings from the Prime Minister of the day.

Some could be tempted to see the choice of venue as a sign of Peters’ aspirations - a thought the man himself was quick to cut off at the knees.

“This meeting’s being held here for the reason that our caucus is being partially renovated - and for no other reason in case somebody has a penchant to rewrite this as well.”

From there, it was about 23 minutes of insult comedy - or plain insults in some cases - hurled at members of the media from the bully pulpit, with New Zealand flags draped behind him.

“In the campaign I saw a lot of people who are voters but I didn’t see many of you, and what’s astonishing about the requests that are coming from the media at the moment is how many people turned up after the election when we couldn't affect the result who somehow think we’ve got a terrible responsibility to be fulfilled where the media of this country is concerned?”

“Something’s gone wrong with our democracy,” Peters pronounced as he leaned on the lectern with both elbows, decrying “the crap that some people are putting out, malicious, malignant and vicious in the extreme”.

He even brought props, brandishing the morning’s Dominion Post as an example of journalism without “integrity”, along with data on NZ First’s performance on special votes at the last election.

By and large, Peters stuck to his lines from election night and the morning after: he and his party are in no rush, waiting to see how those special votes affect the overall makeup of Parliament on October 7.

“What we’re going to do is make a decision in the national  interest when we know what the people in this country have said, and in what numbers, and when we know with precision  what we’re dealing with.”

There were some nuggets of new information: his negotiating team would comprise around seven or eight people - although of course he couldn’t yet share their names - while the full NZ First board would be consulted before a final decision was made.

The full party membership would be consulted but not have any final say, as that was not in the party’s constitution.

There were not in fact two options for NZ First - National or Labour - but nine “permutations”, although Peters would not name what those were.

But otherwise, the NZ First leader drew from his usual bag of tricks: questioning the media’s questions, slinging around personal insults, and in one case giving one foreign journalist cause to question whether it was worth the trip across the ditch.

“Where are you from?” “Australia.” “It shows.”

Early on, Peters declared this would be his last press conference before the final vote count was announced on October 7.

With the composition of Parliament likely to shift slightly - and NZ First’s leverage with it - that seems fair enough.

And with more heat than light coming from Peters’ appearance, perhaps it’s worth everyone having a breather and waiting for the real negotiations to take place.