The release of background papers on the handover to Winston Peters as Acting Prime Minister includes an exchange of how Peters was to be addressed in a letter setting out his duties.

PM Jacinda Ardern proposed opening it with "Dear Deputy Prime Minister" but was overruled by her then chief press secretary, Mike Jaspers.

"It feels like a Dear Winston moment really," he wrote in an email.

How National Party leader Simon Bridges must wish it had been a Dear John letter moment.


For those who enjoy a bit of political theatre, the skirmishes between Peters and Bridges are reason to celebrate the decision to put Peters into the role of Acting Prime Minister.

Ardern is difficult for Bridges to tackle - it's hard to get a hit when your opponent is smiling. But Peters' shift into the job has made things more lively.

Like Bridges, Peters was a lawyer before going into politics and both use those skills as weapons. Both are solicitous of their robust crops of hair.

Both have held aspirations to be Prime Minister. Both have some wit and claim the other lacks it.

If not for some fundamental personality differences, it is even possible Peters would see a bit of himself in Bridges, a Winston the Younger so to speak.

But the pair also have history. Bridges' main crimes are that he is young and that he beat Peters.

That dates back to 2008 when Peters was trying to regain the Tauranga seat after losing it to National's Bob Clarkson in 2005 by 703 votes. The young Bridges won it by 11,700 votes, or as Bridges said this week "a whopping".

Peters is not one to forget. He has been known to call Bridges "Simple Simon".


He relished every moment when Bridges, then Minister of Transport, fronted on National's backfiring pledge for 10 bridges in the Northland by-election.

In return, Bridges takes jabs at Peters at his public meetings - always delivered with a grin.

Since Peters became Acting PM, Bridges has leapt upon any opportunity to return fire, from Peters apparently muddling a policy on "winter warmer" payments to his inadvertently late appearance for a television interview.

He could argue Peters threw the first punch.

For a long time now Peters has claimed Bridges' did not have the necessary "warrant" to be a Crown prosecutor.

It is Peters who is wrong - a Crown prosecutor does not get a warrant. Crown Solicitors do get a warrant and then appoint lawyers to act as Crown prosecutors.

That was one of Bridges' roles as a lawyer working under a Crown Solicitor in Tauranga from 2001 to 2008.

Called out on this, Peters was unabashed. He grinned and adjusted his argument to suit.

The revised version amounts to saying Bridges might technically have been a Crown prosecutor but he was not a partner in the law firm in Tauranga.

Again, being a partner is irrelevant to whether Bridges was a Crown prosecutor. The only difference being a partner would have made was to the size of self-importance and salary package.

Peters' aim is to try and make it look as if Bridges was not the hot-shot lawyer he might want to be seen as.

So when he was confronted with Peters' claim yet again this week, Bridges chose to rub in a bit of salt in return by remembering the good old days.

Bridges' good old days equate to Peters' bad old days. That was 2008 when the aforementioned "whopping" took place - and which Bridges said was the root of Peters' grudge. "I know that would have hurt."

Having repeatedly attacked Bridges for something there was no grounds to attack him on, Peters surprisingly restrained himself from gunning at Bridges where there may have been grounds to do so.

That was when Bridges went on Radio Hauraki the day after the birth of Ardern's baby.

The interview ended up canvassing the effects of Ardern's new baby on his polling, the chances the baby would grow up a Tory and whether the baby should go to school with boy's clothes on.

Given the chance to have a shot, Peters replied in Latin.

"Res ipsa loquitur," he said, translated as "the thing speaks for itself."

He had something to say about Bridges' jibe about the baby's parents having "pinko ideas" (slang for communist), which Bridges attributed to "funny ideas" Ardern picked up at university.

Of course, Bridges himself had been a Young Nat when he was at university which could again be described as res ipsa loquitur when it comes to funny ideas.

Peters' analysis was that university tended to make people "snobbish and arrogant".

Peters, too, had been to university. When this was put to him, he just grinned and said, yes, he had.

Res ipsa loquitur strikes yet again.