That went well. Six weeks of Winston Peters as Acting Prime Minister wasn't nearly the trauma his critics predicted. If anything, it was a reprieve. Up till then, this Coalition Government had been either frantic or chaotic. You choose your adjective.

But, Peters' polished performance could be bittersweet for the actual Prime Minister. When Jacinda Ardern officially gets back behind her desk tomorrow, it must be great to know that her 2IC hasn't blown everything to tiny pieces. However, it must also suck to come back to work with everyone discussing how good your maternity cover was at your job.

There are a few lessons Ardern could possibly learn from Peters' masterclass.


The first would be to slow down. Life under Peters felt calmer. The Government didn't grind to a complete halt, but the announcements were smaller, less surprising and less polarising. Which is another way of saying Winston didn't pull an oil and gas fright on us. Nor did he roll out a stupid idea like one year's free tertiary education.

There were still mini-crises. Teachers threatened strike action. Nurses walked off the job. The Health Minister made the mistake of going on holiday in the days leading up to the strike.

The Government made the mistake of announcing it was blowing $2.3 billion on war planes in the same week as telling nurses the bank was empty. But they all - with the exception of the Haumaha inquiry fluff - seemed less damaging than earlier errors under Ardern. Possibly because the Government wasn't already distracted fighting fires it had itself lit.

Lesson two. Be firm. You're the boss. Act like it. Ardern's got it in her. We all remember the time she got her finger out, pointed it at a TV host and told him off for his mid-century views on pregnancy in the workplace. It was fierce and we loved it.

But that strength hasn't been on display much since then. A head should've rolled when Labour HQ hid the summer camp scandal from Ardern. Possibly Broadcasting Minister Claire Curran should've been punished for the secret active-wear meeting with then RNZ-boss Carol Hirschfeld.

Winston, though, got his stern face on and it was great. For weeks, he refused to go on a TV show that picked a fight with him. He had a go at Australia over the shoddy way they treat our citizens, then he doubled down on it by dissing their copy-cat flag.

Australia deserved the shade. He nailed "stern but empathetic" when he told the nurses that, yes, he valued them but, no, there's no more money. You might not agree with him - and I don't - but he got the message across.

And the final lesson would be to make friends with business. In fact, this should be a priority. Business confidence is so low it's becoming a real worry. It's as low as it was during the global financial crisis.

Some of that's on Labour for frights like the oil and gas announcement. But a lot of it is unreasonable. A lot of it is just business packing a sad because its mates aren't running the show. Still, Ardern's got to turn that around and quick, or it could become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Again, Winston has arguably made a better fist of looking more pro-business than Ardern has. He's let it be known that he watered down Labour's plans to repeal 90-day trials. It was his lieutenant Shane Jones who dramatically grabbed his face as if he truly felt the oil and gas industry's pain while he helped the Government knee-cap it.

It's no insult to say Ardern could learn from Peters. He is the longest-serving sitting MP. I'd have been surprised if he hadn't done well. Only, it's taken most by surprise just how well.