The dress rehearsal for Winston Peters' role as Acting Prime Minister in Parliament began as a bit of a game of Grant Says.

The real Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has wound up her time in Parliament and although she is yet to formally hand over the reins to Peters for a six-week stint of ultimate power, Peters has taken over her duties at Parliament.

The first Question Time was yesterday and National Party leader Simon Bridges went for the obvious topic – NZ First forcing Labour to drop plans to repeal the "three strikes" legislation.

That left Peters in the awkward position of answering questions about his own stance on that policy while he was supposed to be pretending to be the Prime Minister who had quite a different stance.


Given Justice Minister Andrew Little had previously said NZ First had backed the repeal as part of wider reforms in Cabinet, Bridges sniffed a u-turn by NZ First.

Bridges wanted to know if the proposal had gone through a Cabinet committee. "You wait and see, all right? It's not a yes, it's not a no, it's time for you to be patient," Peters told him.

Things got slightly less opaque after that, thanks to Labour's Grant Robertson.

Bridges asked if Little was right to say NZ First was at the table when Cabinet agreed to reforms including three strikes. Enter Robertson, sitting two down from Peters, who said quietly to Peters: "Yes."

Peters stood: "Yes."

The next question asked if there was a breach of protocol around consulting coalition partners.

Grant Robertson mouthed "no" at Peters.

Peters stood: "No."


The ease of this prompted a delighted laugh from Robertson until he realised media had spotted him and Peters' supply of answers dried up.

Bridges went on and on, trying to find out whether the three strikes law was off the table for a limited time or in perpetuity. The answer appeared to be somewhere in between the two.

He then asked Peters whether the Prime Minister agreed with Little's description of three strikes as "the high-water mark of political stupidity". The real PM may well have, the Acting PM was less certain: "Every member ... is entitled to their view."

The pair jousted on and on until finally Peters reached for the last resort of the desperate - the polls. Those are the same polls he constantly dismisses as bogus and something he has no time for.

He said there was a "serious rise in the Government's polling position" and a Victoria University study had confidence in the Government "above 50 per cent, in fact we're above 60 per cent".

He did not mention those polls which had NZ First down at 3 per cent, which is every other poll.

It was Act leader David Seymour who really got under Peters' skin.

The day before Peters had lodged legal action against senior civil servants and former ministers Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley over the leak of details of his superannuation overpayments in 2017.

Seymour stood, innocent as a mouse, and asked about fraud in the welfare system.

Seymour then launched into a follow-up about a scenario – purely hypothetical of course – in which somebody might end up being paid more super than their circumstances allowed for.

Peters cried "sub judice" and "lies" but Seymour went on with a further question. Speaker Trevor Mallard intervened, ignoring Peters' plea to let him answer by saying "I can handle it, he's about to get it."

Unlike Dancing with the Stars, the decision on whether Seymour got to continue was not down to a public vote.

Mallard was having none of it, deeming such questions as outside the Prime Minister's responsibility.