I thought of the abrasive Rob Muldoon whose National Party lost the 1984 election in going for a fourth term, his sneering, chortling, and cruel sarcasm compared with two thoroughly decent main party leaders battling it out in a civilised manner.
How would this pre-Trump figure go in our consensus society where everyone feels entitled to not just an opinion, but the expectation that it be heard and acted upon? Would New Zealand's control freak king have got away with a fraction of his uncouth, ridiculing behaviour? Not a chance.
Bob Jones set up the New Zealand Party in counter to Muldoon's over-regulated society where government was in charge of everyone, including businesses, bringing Muldoon's pugnacious rule to an end. Would Bob Jones as a politician flourish in this politically correct age?
Labour wooed back Maori voters to wipe out the Maori Party. Kelvin Davis trounced Hone Harawira. Hopefully we'll see a new Hone with vision, not eyes turned back to a past he has rewritten to suit his warped beliefs. Winston lost the Northland seat; yet the street-fighter-cum-combative courtroom lawyer and master of the media is king-maker. If he runs with Labour/Greens then the admirable Kelvin Davis is the sacrificial lamb to his over-confident cousin Shane Jones, who is certain to gain a top post no matter who NZ First do a coalition with.
The feisty Ron Mark will add some starch to the armed services if he gets Defence. Note that the four mentioned are part-Maori. Both parties have another three or four weeks to ponder uncertain futures. Winston does not want his swansong to be judged poorly by posterity or indeed the present.
Though it's not for this columnist to say who Winston should put into power. The permutations are much too complex. I don't think a single suggestion from the media will make a scrap of difference to his decision. I suspect his partner, Jan Trotman, will, because she's one of the few people he trusts.
I met Winston at a Bob Jones cocktail party. He oozed self-confidence, but not the smug kind of his cousin Shane Jones (no relation whatsoever to Sir Bob). We met again a couple of times at the same venue and once ended up at another house where he and I had a mussel-shucking competition. He took 1 minute 5 seconds to open his. Mine took 9 seconds.
At two in the morning he did not appear affected by alcohol. His wit and humour as sharp as when we stood around in Bob's opulent, art-filled mansion. His smile reaches his eyes and crinkles up the surrounding skin made more leathery by heavy smoking. But who's seen a shot of him with a fag?
If in my last column I said no politician has charisma, I should have added, "But Winston Peters does have something." A something that I think is self-belief and toughness. However, some people who understand politics and politicians a lot more than I do accuse him of all sorts of things, the main ones being treachery and a populist streak. I'm trying to paint a picture, not a flattering portrait.
In a brief stint with my own slot at Radio Liberty, founded by property developer Dave Henderson of Christchurch, and helmed by Lindsay Perigo, I had Winston to interview by telephone. Paul Holmes made the mistake of questioning Winston's notorious whiskey consumption. Winston retorted, "You. Of all people, Mr Holmes. Taking me to task on my drinking."
We've all seen the king-maker make mincemeat of even inquisitional television interviewers. So I knew to come at him from the side and do it gently. I got what I thought listeners wanted, and Winston came away without feeling challenged or threatened and said he'd do it again "any time".
In the world's least corrupt country I don't think either major political party or coalition makes that much difference to our lives that we get angry, let alone want to revolt. Power does go to the heads of some ministers. Their pensions and travel perks are shameless acts of theft from taxpayers. But the country is ever so slightly better for having them.
If NZ First can't do a deal with National or Labour, would the unthinkable happen and the two biggies flat together? They don't have to share holidays. You'd think they would find a lot more in common than assumed. And feel joy at seeing that black swan slide silently off into the good night.