Winston Peters has been a staple for the 6pm news for as long as I can remember, which makes sense as he was first elected into parliament in 1978. This increasingly grey-ing and frowning man is sort of the uncle that everyone clashes with ideologically at the annual family dinner - but you know the dinner would not be the same without him.
Peters, sometime in June, will take the position of Acting Prime Minister in place of Jacinda Ardern as she will be giving birth to her first child and taking six weeks of maternity leave before returning to her position as Prime Minister.
This is not a new role to Peters as he was the Deputy Prime Minster from 1996 – 1998 under the National Party, led by Jim Bolger. In 1997, Jenny Shipley gained support from the rest of the National Party, forcing Bolger to resign and becoming the Prime Minister herself. She then sacked Peters due to conflicts within the party in August 1998.
It’s quite easy to assume that he will run with the power that the position brings, but he genuinely can’t. Ardern and the Cabinet still hold so much control as to what and when things get passed. I also do not believe that Peters will rock the boat that much. He is arriving at the end of his career, so I don’t think he would want to tarnish his newly found reputation as a left-wing ally.
Peters has faced public mistrust before, most of which had legitimate reasoning behind it, but this will be the first time that he will be in a major leading position for a left-wing party. Although Labour’s coalition with New Zealand First do bring them more into of a political centre than they would have been if it were just Labour and the Green’s. Regardless, this is still new territory for him, which further backs up the thinking that no rash thing will come to pass as the cost of it messing up is too high.
What will be the most interesting is what Peters will do with the power he now has over the media. In the past, Peters has refused to speak to a majority of the press, aside from his few favourites. If Peters chooses to restrict media involvement, it will be a sharp change from what we are currently used to with Ardern, an absolute superstar when it comes to multiple interviews and television appearances.
There is a growing fear hanging in the air about what Peters will do in his position of acting Prime Minister, but at the moment it seems better to leave any speculation and just wait out and see what he decides to do within the short-term role.