Winston Peters has made a career out of going around in circles with the media

RNZ

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters joins Morning Report for an extended interview as part of its Election 2017 special interview series. As in past elections, Peters could be 'kingmaker' or 'queenmaker' if his party has enough votes to make a coalition with National or Labour. He has also confirmed he would only make a coalition with Labour if he is told what the party's tax plans are.

OPINION: There would be no richer man than the one who found a way to write a how-to guide for interviewing Winston Peters.

The fiery, and at times outright ridiculous, interview with Peters on RNZ's Morning Report on Thursday morning was a classic example of how pear-shaped things can go when trying to get answers from the seasoned politician.

The NZ First leader treats every interview with a journalist like a game of sport - there's only one winner and as far as he's concerned it's never the journalist.

The 72-year-old has racked up 35 years in Parliament, which means home advantage is almost always on his side.

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And if he thinks for a minute the media is about to get one up on him he's not afraid, as Thursday morning proved, to send a staffer out to his car to rummage through his briefcase and find a document from more than a decade ago to make his point.

NZ First Leader Winston Peters carries documents from more than a decade ago around with him just in case he needs to ...
CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF

NZ First Leader Winston Peters carries documents from more than a decade ago around with him just in case he needs to make a point.

In the case of the RNZ interview, host Guyon Espiner had accused Peters of having been sacked as a Minister three times.

But Peters shot back: "The third time, can I just say, I've got a document in my bag downstairs that says what you just said is a lie."

About three minutes before the interview ended, Peters had a letter from former Prime Minister Helen Clark delivered to him in the studio, which he proceeded to read out and ended with: "There it is, the prime minister at the time, so please don't go and tell people that I was sacked. I never was".

The thing with Peters is that he's not an unapproachable person. I once met him at a fish and chip shop in Mangawhai Heads after he sent me a text to ask where I was.

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It was just days after he had hit the headlines for a superannuation overpayment and Peters had agreed to catch up ahead of a Northland candidates debate that night to talk about it.

Peters pulled up immaculately dressed in his suit - pocket square perfectly placed - and proceeded to sit down on the plastic chairs outside the local chippy to lay down the facts.

LAWRENCE SMITH/STUFF

Northland, one of the larger electorates in the country, demands a fair bit of NZ First leader Winston Peters' time. With clinics on both sides of the isthmus, he spends a large portion of his day travelling.

Recorder at the ready Peters then announced he'd already had his "last interview" on the matter and had nothing more to say.

It had the makings of a great interview. I was conducting it with a respected political leader at a takeaway shop in the middle of nowhere. But I walked away none the wiser.

Peters is famous for calling out the media (or as he likes to call it, the commentariat) for its "fake news" and opinions disguised as facts.

There's no line that's rolled off the politician's tongue more than "present company excluded" after he's just told a packed audience that the media are incompetent after whatever particular story of the day has got his back up.

His other speciality is in a stand-up when a reporter - with the exception being a political editor - asks him a question and he responds, "I'm not going to answer questions like that from a junior journalist".

Peters has been around as long as he has because he's charismatic and entertaining.

It's no secret the media often enjoy the bizarre exchanges with Peters as much as he does - besides, the Parliament ritual of bridge run just wouldn't be the same if he stopped and simply answered the questions.

 - Stuff

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