Soper on Winston, Jacinda and the secret agreement

Barry Soper writes:

Winston Peters stands alongside her, hands clasped front of him, in a haven’t-I-done-well posture, with a permanent smirk on his face.

When asked a question, he defers to her, telling us this is the Prime Minister’s press conference. On the odd occasion he will answer, although briefly and without the usual barking aggression he’s displayed to the media when she’s not around.

He’s an old-fashioned conservative and such displays would be impolite.

The puppet master with the ventriloquist’s dummy.

But in Parliament’s bear pit this puppy dog becomes a Rottweiler as Jacinda Ardern sits meekly, smiling broadly as he delivers to her opponents the sort of bark that she could only dream of. It’s now five weeks since she accepted Winston Peters’ proposal, but that behind-closed-doors proposal puts the power firmly in his pin-striped suit.

It’s altogether too cute to say their 38-page coalition agreement’s become 33 because some frugal official decided to reduce the font size. If that was truly the case even his eyesight would struggle to consult their Bible, which will need to be done from time to time over the next three years, although the power will always be indelibly etched on his political brain.

Peters was keen to have the document released – she wasn’t, after being advised it’d undermine her leadership. After all, if the?Next?magazine interview with her is to be believed (published the day before she stepped into Andrew Little’s loafers) she was the reluctant leader while her sidekick Peters has led his party since she was contemplating her high school career.

This little part of Soper’s opinion piece is the best part. It says that he suspects that the secret agreement shows that everything the government does has to be run by Peters first, that Jacinda is essentially PM in name only.

As a relatively new deputy leader contemplating the possibility of leadership, that unbeknown to her was about to fall into her lap, she reflected on being Little’s deputy saying she couldn’t imagine doing much more than that because of her anxieties. She said she constantly worried about things and there comes a point, she opined, where certain jobs are just really bad for you.

She has never adequately explained those “anxieties”, or her time spent in hospital just a few years ago.

Ardern said all the things she wanted to achieve could be achieved by simply being a minister which she’d be happy with. Well two months later she was Prime Minister but with the old political maestro calling the shots.

And if she for some reason can’t go on calling them herself then the coalition deal sees him stepping up to the plate – Prime Minister Winston Peters, unlikely but possible, which many have said he could have achieved in his own right if he’d remained on the National Party team.

Ardern, whose favourite coffee cup bears the inscription “I will not obsess,” given to her by a London flatmate, says it’s a fair reflection of her. She told?Next?she’s risk averse, reflecting that’s why politics “is such a terrible place for me to be.”

Standing alongside her is the political risk-taker extraordinaire and guess where he’d love to be?

I’d give her six months. The toll is already showing. She does not look happy in the house. All we are getting now instead of “relentless positividdy” is relentless stern face.


-NZ Herald