Riding into the political sunset

Winston Peters will exit politics for the third time in his career. I spotted his ghost at Parliament the other day. He looked unusually grumpy.

Maybe it was just my hallucination, but after decades of observing him it was incredibly lifelike. After all, his mannerisms have become predictable. So, I sidled up to the apparition and asked if he found the election outcome a bit depressing.

“No, no. No, no. No, no. There’s no need for you to go into a fit of gloom and doom at this point in time,” he replied curtly.

Ok. But perhaps he had some thoughts on Ardern’s campaign?

“Can I finish? Can I finish? Look, Mr Hong, you’ll do much better if you listened for a second.”

I began to apologise, but he must have thought I was interrupting — “No, no, no, no, stop right, stop right there. Stop right there, Leonard.”

Instead of carrying on, he just glared at me. After a few moments I asked if this was the true end of his political career.

“Look, look, this is just now speculating on what neither you or I or anybody else, including the experts, could possibly prognosticate this far out.

“Why would you make a statement like that? Try and be neutral and unbiased. If you are going to ask questions back it up with some certainty.”

Now I understood what it’s like to be a press gallery reporter. Poor things.

“I’m not giving you my comment on that,” Peters continued. “But I do believe in a thing called commercial accountability, as we also believe in political and journalistic accountability.”

I gave him one final chance to say something nice to say about David Seymour and Gerry Brownlee.

“If Nelson Mandela can walk out of Robben Island after 27 years and forgive his oppressors, so can I.

“I could’ve been the Prime Minister years ago if I was prepared to suck up to the right-wing ideology for the National Party. I think that we’ve covered the subject as comprehensively as we can possibly do it.”

I raised my eyebrows. Again, he must have thought I was about to ask a question.

“I’ve got a message for my friends in the media, and it’s all bad. Most of them have been arrogant, quiche eating, chardonnay drinking, pinkie finger-pointing snobbery – and fart blossoms.

“I have never heard such obsequious, subservient grovelling, kowtowing, palm-kissing nonsense.”

And so, the inimitable, Right Honourable Winston Peters walked into the political sunset. Generations of journalists will miss his wordy ways of not answering questions.

We wish him unexcited calm in retirement. It would be a New Zealand First.

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