The first press-conference with the Rt Honorable Winston Peters in his new role as Minister of Foreign Affairs...
Mr Peters. You said you wouldn't go into coalition with Labour or National.
I never said that.
Well, you did.
Well I have the quote here from the newspaper.
I was misquoted. You media are all the same.
Mr Peters, I also have a video of you saying it.
That's not me.
Well it certainly looks like you.
Are you saying I don't know what I look like? That's pretty rich, coming from the media….
But aren't you in coalition now?
Well let me ask you a question – when they wanted to sell the BNZ, who kept them honest?
Um, I'm sorry, Mr Peters, what are you talking about?
Ex-actly. Very selective memory, haven't you, you media!
But you're the Minister of Foreign Affairs!
Are you sure about that?
Well. Um. Fairly sure.
Well, I have this letter agreeing to this interview, and it says "From the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs"… and at the bottom, see it says Rt Hon Winston Peters.
That's not my signature….
The question is why Labour is willing to shoot itself not only in the foot, but also in the shin, kneecaps and stomach in this manner? Are all the other cabs on the rank really that scody by comparison? Is the Maori Party a rusting Mitsubishi Galant with "East Auckland Discount Airport Taxis" handpainted on the side?
In dealing with New Zealand First, I dare say many Labour voters understand how New Zealand First voters felt in 1996 when Winston went with National. Disappointed is one word that springs to mind.
Interestingly, when I was in Wellington about six months ago, there was an interesting rumour circulating MFAT (amongst other places) that Winston's price for coalition either way was going to be the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Perhaps it was just something put about to scare MFAT employees into working harder (or voting Labour), but it seems to have some legs.
It's probably more likely Winston will end up with Associate Foreign Affairs – it's easier to be outside of cabinet then – but either way the Foreign Affairs portfolio is an obvious choice. It has a degree of respectability, there's bugger all chance he'll need to front on any tough issues (compared with say, police, health, education) and there's the opportunity for travel. Although I wouldn't be surprised if invitations weren't exactly forthcoming from Asia and the Middle East…
PS: Of course all this was written before the big announcement last night. But already I've started hearing interviews like the one above. Asked why he went back on his pre-election promise, Winston's answer is that the parties were split 57/57, with him as kingmaker.
So is he saying that in all the post-election scenarios he imagined when making his pre-election promise, none saw him holding the balance of power? It doesn't seem very likely.