Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson's grip over Covid-19 management loosened this week as Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters made a grand re-entry to Wellington like the political swashbuckler he is.
Switching effortlessly between playing the hero or the villain, depending on the issue, Winston Peters' input had immediate effect.
He trod on toes, took different points of view and emphasis, and has shaken Labour out of its one stint this term of being utterly in control.
The Labour-led Government has gone after five weeks. The Coalition is back. The Deputy Prime Minister is back and so is the New Zealand First leader.
While Ardern has dampened prospects of a trans-Tasman bubble and said it may have to operate with quarantining, Peters has been more gung-ho and said it could happen without quarantining.
While Ardern has avoided making distinctions between the health and economic trade-offs in dealing with Covid-19, Peters made it clear which side he is on.
Revealing that the Ministry of Health had wanted a blanket shutdown of the border to all in a televised live speech to the country was designed to put him firmly on the other side.
He told Ardern in advance he was going to reveal the information, but it served as a warning to Labour that he won't be playing Happy Families up to the September 19 election.
Peters has a unique position and voice within Government and he is clearly going to use it.
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His challenge is in asserting the difference from Labour without any sense of instability.
The risks are low given that Covid-19 appears to have eliminated the Opposition for the time being as a viable Government.
National has been slaughtered in the polls, as reinforced by the latest leaked poll from Labour's pollsters, UMR, putting National at 29 per cent and Labour on 55 per cent.
Peters' party has gained some advantage despite being virtually invisible during the lockdown.
It has picked up National supporters who wanted to rally around the Government in the emergency but can't make to the leap to Labour.
But even on 6 per cent Peters is also fighting for survival.
If 2002 were repeating itself, Peters would have reason to be confident. As National's support slid 10 points over five months to 21 per cent, New Zealand First was a beneficiary. It went from about 2 per cent to 10 per cent at the actual election.
But comparisons with 2002 are not necessarily valid. The economy was not an issue in 2002. The books were in surplus, unemployment was 5 per cent. In this crisis, events move as quickly as they normally do in a year.
Under alert level 4, with the country in a fragile state, it was easy to slavishly follow the Government line. Discipline was king. Anybody who raised questions was pilloried.
That applied to the Press Gallery which, on the whole, has asked perfectly reasonable questions, and to National, which has been punished even when pointing out the blindingly obvious - that level 4 was extended because the systems weren't ready for level 3.
Peters' return to the Wellington spotlight will automatically put a greater spotlight on the health and economic trade-off.
There should be greater acceptance of debate and legitimacy for Opposition MPs and their questions and some of that was evident in the past week.
There has been and will continue to be greater scrutiny of how Australia handled Covid-19 and whether it ends up having less damage to its economy for the same outcome.
There has been and will continue to be greater debate about the legality of the initial lockdown order, albeit a retrospective and largely academic debate.
And there has finally been some decent debate about the iwi checkpoints that sprang up around the country around level 4.
Until now, it has been brushed under the carpet with Ardern simply dismissing concerns, and saying it was all about reacting to fear in their communities.
Checkpoints were set up in various communities – coincidentally communities where the Maori Party or Mana Movement is strongest – to stop travellers and find out if they had a good reason to be on the road.
It is now clear what happened after questions from Opposition MPs of Police during the Epidemic Response select committee.
The Police had a choice to make: either disband them at the start of the lockdown knowing it would lead to protest, arrests and potentially a bigger problem; or for those that could not be persuaded to disband their unlawful checkpoints, effectively legalise them by joining them.
They are now police and community checkpoints and because they have the imprimatur of the Police, motorists are obliged to stop at these checkpoints.
The Police found a pragmatic way out of a potentially inflammatory situation.
It is not ideal. It makes the Police look weak. But they calculated that a national state of emergency was not the time to rark up the situation.
They have said categorically that such checkpoints must cease when the country goes to alert level 2.
Peters waded into the debate yesterday claiming, wrongly as it happens, that motorists are not required to stop and they can drive right through.
He may not have caught up with the fact that the Police now attend every checkpoint and have joint ownership of them.
But like the Police, Peters found a way to support the checkpoints because not to do so would create bigger problems for the Government than to do so.
Bigger tests will come, most likely after the Budget on May 14 which must be presented as a united front to tackle the effects of the virus.
But after that, political constraints will be ease and Peters will be set loose again.