COMMENT:

NZ First leader Winston Peters is on his best behaviour.

He is sitting on a sofa next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in her office as the two celebrate their first anniversary.

Peters is more awkward than Ardern. He rarely looks at her and sits, self-conscious, his hands clasped before him.

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It is all a bit happy, happy, joy, joy and for a long time he has held himself above this type of thing with another party's leader, beyond when required for policy announcements.

They are the ultimate odd couple. Peters' age and political beliefs are in stark contrast to Arderns, as is their approach to politics.

Over the past week Ardern preached kindness in politics during National's week of turmoil over MP Jami-Lee Ross.

As she did so, Peters was out whacking at the pinata of chaos with undisguised glee.

Peters' starts grinning when Ardern is asked whether Peters epitomises the milk of human kindness.

Ardern also grins. "I'm going to do things in my way, but politics would be a dull place without the experience, the humour that the Deputy Prime Minister brings."

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and deputy Grant Robertson react to a statement by NZ First leader Winston Peters on his choice of coalition partner on October 19 last year. Photo / Clarke Gayford
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and deputy Grant Robertson react to a statement by NZ First leader Winston Peters on his choice of coalition partner on October 19 last year. Photo / Clarke Gayford

She points out he's been on the receiving end of a bit of flak coming the other way. Peters grabs at this as his excuse.

"I'm not proud of this, but there's been nobody in New Zealand politics as pilloried and put down as I have been, and had as many court cases as I have to stand up for things I believe in."

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As the tiny violins start to play, Ardern adds more. She claims Peters is "much misunderstood."

"I do think perhaps there is a perception out there that is not necessarily in alignment with my experience working together."

She turns to him as he starts to laugh. "I hope I'm not ruining your reputation here by saying that. The relationship with media might be just a different thing."

Peters is less combative when Ardern is around.

Asked if she has a moderating influence over him, he says his mother did. "There is a thing called respect, behaving yourself in that circumstance without being a gender issue."

The two had barely spoken until after the 2018 election when they held days of negotiations and Peters' chose Ardern and Labour over the National Party.

They have had some troubles, most notably over policy differences. There was the 90-day trials for employers and the three-strikes legislation in law and order.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters in her Beehive office. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters in her Beehive office. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Communication has not always been top notch – just this week NZ First was not told of Ardern's decision to rule out any further regional fuel taxes before she did so.

Ahead lies debate over Labour's plans for industrial relations reforms.

Ardern said so far not a single problem had been insurmountable.

While she marks the anniversary by talking about housing and the environment, National's leader Simon Bridges is releasing his version of the year just gone, pointing to high petrol prices, strikes and the number of working groups Labour set up.

If Peters has had any regrets over his decision a year ago, he is not showing them.

He deems his experience with Labour and the Government's progress "most satisfactory."

Despite all of this, he won't give Ardern any commitment beyond 2020 – not even the hope of kindness on the campaign trail.

"The band will start playing in 2020, the dance will start and you've gotta see how things might go at the end of the dance, if you want to see it in political terms. We have never made choices before the election."

Ardern insists they have not thought about 2020. It is unlikely Peters has not.

Neither have mentioned the Green Party – Ardern will have an event with their leadership on Friday to mark that anniversary.

On current polls, the Greens and Labour could form a government together without NZ First.

The NZ First Party is at five per cent in the polls – the threshold to get back into Parliament.

The problem might be staying on the dance floor at all.