TAURANGA - If Winston Peters looked and sounded as good most of the time as he did on Saturday night, he might not now be in such electoral strife in Tauranga.



The best of Winston Peters the dresser, the politician and the father was evident during the fraught hours late on election night.



He arrived at his base at Tauranga Racecourse in a striking black shirt with a diamante top button, no tie, grey suit, very stylish.



It was near midnight. There was no final result, but he was still trailing Katherine O'Regan, and his disbelieving people needed consoling.

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His 19-year-old son, Joel, was there, back from Otago University. His 17-year-old daughter, Brittany, a student at Otumoetai College, was there too, supporting a dad who is as despised by voters as he is loved.



"It's been a campaign from hell, but it's too early to forecast what might happen in the next few hours, in fact the next few days," Mr Peters said, beginning his thanks to party workers.



Then a Mexican wave of cheers worked its way down from the television screen to the front. Mr Peters was the last to find out what it was about - the television progress report had put him back in front.



To the surprise of their fiercely protective father, his son and daughter decided to join him in a show of support on stage.



He struggled to inject some hope and dignity into what could still be a crushing loss.



"I want to thank the people of Tauranga, people in this city that kept us alive and supported us through some major battles for all these years. It's been a really marvellous experience - one that's not going to end tonight."



It was too much for the fragile emotions of a caring daughter - Brittany broke down.



Mr Peters forgot his politics for a moment or two and turned away to console her and her brother in a family embrace. No one else mattered as he kissed away her tears in a private moment shared live with the country.



He then introduced them: "My boy Joel and my girl Brittany, who you've not seen much of over the years because it is important in politics that you keep your family protected from the agony of politics."