Given the two parties have met regularly over the past four decades, the debut of Winston Peters hosting the weekly Prime Minister's press conference was surprisingly like an awkward first date yesterday.

Peters was there as mere Deputy Prime Minister rather than Acting Prime Minister because that was a promotion he would not get until the Real Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern went into labour.

Ardern issued a reminder that had not yet happened an hour after Peters' press conference, putting on Instagram a photo of herself yesteday visiting her electorate office with the hashtag #PMfromSandringham.

So Peters' taking charge of Cabinet and the press conference was "a bit of a curtain raiser", he said.

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He began in serious enough fashion, speaking about his week ahead, the visit of EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and the decision by the nurses' union to reject a pay offer by the district health boards – pointing out the offer was larger than any National had put up.

Peters then called for questions for Health Minister David Clark, who was at his side.

After eight minutes, Peters looked at his watch, decided Clark had done enough talking and ushered him off. Clark fled like a scalded rabbit.

The key advice going into the post-Cabinet press conference came from former Prime Minister Sir John Key. It was for Peters not to lose his rag at the media.

It went completely against Peters' nature, who has lost enough rags to make quilts for the entire nation.

So began the circling.

It began with questions about the re-entry of Pike River and his own election campaign promise to be the first down the drift.

He confirmed that offer still stood and reminded everyone he was quite the mining expert having worked on the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme "11 miles underground".

"So it's nothing new. In terms of danger."

This will no doubt be music to the ears of Pike River Minister Andrew Little who is also the Justice Minister whose hopes of scrapping the "three strikes" law were scotched by Peters just last week.

Then he was asked how he would find out he was Acting PM. He said there were five possibilities, all of which would be effective.

Let him count the ways: "One is that one of the media people rings me and says it's happening as they already have and I've told them they're wrong. Or I get a phone call from the Prime Minister, that's number two. Number three is a text, number four my chief of staff tells me or number five my chief of staff tells me."

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters counts the ways he could be told he has become Acting PM. Photo / Marty Melville
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters counts the ways he could be told he has become Acting PM. Photo / Marty Melville

He gave a status update on Ardern, saying he had spoken to her twice on the phone. "Was she happy? Yes she was, thank you very much."

After any question Peters clearly deemed stupid Peters would glance toward his staff in the front row in an apparent reminder that he was not to lose rags.

His Deputy Prime Minister hat slipped and he became New Zealand First leader when asked about Shane Jones' comments about Fonterra and call for the resignation of chair John Wilson.

The Real Prime Minister had kept her answers short, saying Jones was airing a personal view "end of story."

Peters, however, had found new chapters to it. He blamed others in a "Chatham House rules" event for letting slip what Jones had said, which had prompted Jones' later public confession.

He had a crack at National, "the so-called party of the farmers".

He frantically clamped the Deputy PM hat back on for a question about trade from Iran, the economy, and National leader Simon Bridges' offer of bipartisan support for climate change.

Then came the Winston Peters, private citizen, hat to handle questions about his legal action against senior public servants and former ministers over the leak of his superannuation details.

Beyond occasional fractiousness his collection of rags remained largely intact when he wound up his press conference after 27 minutes.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters takes the stage for his first post-Cabinet press conference. Photo / Marty Melville
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters takes the stage for his first post-Cabinet press conference. Photo / Marty Melville

Media tossed a few more questions at him as he walked off. He ignored two before he cracked. He turned to answer the third, pausing mid-sentence to say he would not be answering questions from the side of the theatrette like the media wanted him to, even as he did just that.

That question was about whether there would be a second date or if he was considering scrapping the weekly press conferences.

The date was duly set for next Monday.