Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: Winston Peters reflects on being PM

Gareth Morgan as an ambassador to Pyongyang in a chicken suit? Well why not? Photo / Martin Sykes
Gareth Morgan as an ambassador to Pyongyang in a chicken suit? Well why not? Photo / Martin Sykes

The 9th Floor, a series of extended filmed interviews by Radio New Zealand's Guyon Espiner with former prime ministers of New Zealand, has been greeted with near universal acclaim. And justly so: they are richly replete with history, humanity and pathos, and available on a range of platforms, including RNZ,, and the Hokitika Homewares blog.

The fourth in the series, featuring Jenny Shipley, airs today, but that is likely to be overshadowed by news that a time capsule was discovered yesterday in the bowels of the Bowen State Building - a capsule, it can now be confirmed, buried in the year 2029.

It contains, among other items, a disposable retinal chip, an inflatable President Zuckerberg Doll and a scrawled but when you think about it quite straightforward explanation of the science involved in sending a time capsule into the past.

I shan't bore you with the details of that here, however; instead I want to share another of the capsule's contents: a transcript of a future episode from RNZ (or, rather, RadNewz as it was renamed following a sponsorship drive) of The 9th Floor (or, rather, The Third Floor Mezzanine, as it was renamed following the relocation of the seat of government to a Levin office block) in which Espiner meets former prime minister Winston Peters, a spritely 84 years young, aboard his opulent house boat.

Guyon Espiner: It was a tumultuous campaign, 2017, wasn't it? What are your memories of that time?

Winston Peters: What's that supposed to mean?

GE: I was just wondering, I suppose, about your recollections of the campaign.

WP: I'll tell you what I was wondering. I was wondering what kind of a name "Guyon" is.


WP: Not just me, either. Ordinary New Zealanders are wondering what kind of a name that is, and with the greatest respect what kind of a name is it?

GE: I suppose, Mr Peters -

WP: You suppose a lot, Mr Espiner.

GE: Do you regret any of the rhetoric that you employed in that campaign?

WP: If you'll stop interrupting.

GE: I wasn't interrupting.

WP: There you go again.

GE: Go again what?

WP: If you'll let me finish.

GE: Please do.

WP: If I could tell you the things I know, you'd fall out of your chair. They're donkey deep, all of them.

GE: I suppose what I'm getting at is the fanning of the flames of racial division, and - this was discussed at great length at the time - the adoption of the kind of rhetoric we had become used to from the last president in the final days of the republic.

WP: Demonstrably false.

GE: Are you saying you didn't adopt Donald Trump rhetoric?

WP: I'm saying you should do some research, show some intellectual fortitude, integrity, or decency instead of coming here with your Johnny-come-lately balderdash.

GE: I've been a political journalist for more than 30 years.

WP: That's right.

GE: Do you deny that in the 2017 campaign you attacked, to take one example, "fake news snowflakes", that you called the prime minister "Crooked Billary", that you pledged to build a wall around the New Zealand Herald and make Asia pay for it?

WP: Did I?

GE: You tweeted it.

WP: That's right.

GE: In Russian.

WP: The failing Herald failed all on its own. A hotbed of quiche-eating fart-blossom bad hombres.

GE: With respect, Mr Peters, the New Zealand Herald has doubled its circulation over the last decade, as part of a global revival of print newspapers.

WP: Fake.

GE: And you were routinely accused of dog-whistle politics.

WP: Fake.

GE: You weren't accused of dog-whistle politics?

WP: It was loud hailer politics, nothing to do with any animals at all. I know things, and I will soon reveal them.

GE: Perhaps you could start by revealing something about the post-election negotiations. It was a long and agonising process -

WP: This is long and agonising, but carry on.

GE: Looking back, are you happy with the concessions you won for your support?

WP: What kind of a question is that?

GE: Well, the All Blacks on free-to-air television, as it used to be called - fine. The register of foreign buyers - fine. And the Super-Super Gold Card -

WP: Super-Super-Super Gold Card, get your facts straight.

GE: OK. But insisting on the appointment of Gareth Morgan as ambassador to Pyongyang seemed, you know, unusual.

WP: In a chicken suit.

GE: The chicken suit seemed especially unusual.

WP: This is more mumbo-jumbo nonsense from the so-called fourth estate. The truth, as you know perfectly well, is that the people sent him there. There was a referendum.

GE: There was.

WP: The people decided that he should wear a chicken suit, that's democracy, you might want to look that up.

GE: And you became prime minister.

WP: That's right.

GE: What are your memories of that time?

WP: Put it this way. Pepsi and Cola, Tweedledum and Tweedledumber. That's right. I knew things then and I know things now. These Cinderella-isers thought manual labour was the prime minister of Mexico. Toss-pots still had drunken heads, and the rain it raineth every day.

GE: And after your 21-day allotted premiership concluded -

WP: The greatest 21 days in the history of the country.

GE: - you became Foreign Minister and Lord High Admiral of the Winds and the Seas.

WP: That's right.

GE: And North Korea was on a knife edge.

WP: You mean Gareth?

GE: I mean the security situation.

WP: That's right.

GE: The world faced an unhinged, isolationist, cartoonish leader, part of a bizarre dynasty, surrounded by a terrified, sycophantic cabal, indifferent to democracy, impetuous, narcissistic, vengeful, capable of doing anything.

WP: That's right, but it wasn't just Washington. There was Kim Jong-wotsit in North Korea, too.

GE: And then everything changed.

WP: That's right.

GE: Can you remember the moment it happened?

WP: Of course I can. Given Australia's response we -

(A page is missing here; the transcript resumes with Peters apparently talking about Shane Jones.)

WP: ... and he showed his true colours, didn't he? It's one thing to steal a man's horse outside a saloon, it's something else to stay on his back riding out of town.

GE: So you started again.

WP: That's right. And New Zealand Firster will be a force to be reckoned with in September.

GE: But the prime minister has ruled out working with New Zealand Firster.

WP: Young Mr Key may say that now, but let's see how that cookie crumbles when we cross it. If you knew what I know, you would know what I know, if you know what I mean. This one goes all the way to the top.

GE: Thank you for your time.

- NZ Herald

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Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire is a Wellington bred, Auckland based journalist. He writes a weekly column for the NZ Herald, the NZ Listener's Internaut column, blogs for, and contributes to the Guardian. From 2000 to 2010 he worked at the Guardian in London, and edited the 2012 book The Arab Spring: Rebellion, Revolution and a New World Order.

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