‘I’ll show them what I’ve got’

Win­ston Peters talks Churchill and the psy­chol­ogy of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and has ad­vice for US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - by Clare de Lore

Win­ston Peters talks Churchill and the psy­chol­ogy of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and has ad­vice for US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Len and Joan Peters named their son, born in 1945, af­ter the wartime leader who saved Bri­tain from the Nazis. Like his name­sake, Win­ston Peters is tena­cious and has sur­vived pol­i­tics over decades of ups and downs, although he is quick to ex­plain he has no il­lu­sions that he’s in Churchill’s league.

Peters is one of 11 chil­dren born in North­land to par­ents who en­sured their kids got a good ed­u­ca­tion de­spite lim­ited means. He didn’t shine at school but stud­ied hard enough to get into law school in Auck­land and worked as a bar­ris­ter and solic­i­tor be­fore en­ter­ing Par­lia­ment.

His po­lit­i­cal ca­reer has been one of ex­tremes, be­gin­ning with an elec­toral chal­lenge that over­threw an elected mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, sev­eral high­pro­file cam­paigns, serv­ing in gov­ern­ments un­der Na­tional Prime Min­is­ter Jim Bol­ger, then leav­ing Na­tional to set up New Zealand First. He was in Na­tional Prime Min­is­ter Jenny Ship­ley’s Cab­i­net un­til she fired him. He then served in the Labourled Gov­ern­ment of He­len Clark as For­eign Min­is­ter but out­side Cab­i­net. There was a pe­riod in the wilder­ness when, in 2008, he lost his Tau­ranga seat and his 24-year-old party failed to reach the 5% MMP thresh­old and so had no one in Par­lia­ment.

Peters and part­ner Jan Trot­man have homes in Auck­land and Whananaki, from where Peters serves his North­land elec­torate. He has two adult chil­dren and en­joys fish­ing, horse rac­ing and read­ing, es­pe­cially po­lit­i­cal bi­og­ra­phy.

Is it true that you keep a book about Churchill by your bed and read some­thing about him most nights?

Yes, that is true, I have for a long, long time. One of the best books I read about him was by former Prime Min­is­ter HH Asquith’s daugh­ter Vi­o­let Bon­ham Carter Win­ston Churchill As I Knew Him. It is very in­sight­ful, and as the fore­word says, the dif­fer­ence about this book is that the au­thor is in Win­ston’s league. That is the rea­son I read it, and it is fas­ci­nat­ing about Churchill’s for­ma­tive years.

You share a name, but he grew up as a man of means whereas you, for ex­am­ple, did your home­work in an old wa­ter tank at Whananaki, I gather. Is that true?

It is true. I am not putting my­self in any way, shape or form in Churchill’s league, but there were cer­tain com­mon­al­i­ties. We were both bad stu­dents, had in­de­pen­dence of think­ing, were pre­pared to make our own way and saw that what you do is go­ing to de­ter­mine your fu­ture in more ben­e­fi­cial ways than peo­ple think. Some­times what looks like a disas­ter to many com­men­ta­tors is ac­tu­ally a crit­i­cal part of one’s de­vel­op­ment.

What are you cur­rently read­ing about Churchill?

When Boris John­son [Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary] came here re­cently, some­one got him to send me his book called The Churchill Fac­tor, which was a best­seller for Boris. He sent me the book with his best wishes.

“Trump lacks ex­pe­ri­ence and an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the his­toric di­men­sion in which he is op­er­at­ing. This is not cow­boy ter­ri­tory …”

Are you a fan of both Boris and Churchill?

Ad­mirer is a bet­ter word to use; I am a se­ri­ous ad­mirer of Churchill. He was an amaz­ing per­son­al­ity in many ways, with many di­men­sions to him. Boris John­son, con­trary to his pub­lic im­age, is an ex­traor­di­nar­ily bright, clever guy.

Does he im­press you?

In a char­ac­ter­less world where peo­ple are be­ing dumbed down by con­form­ity, he has re­fused to do so and so con­se­quently he is very like­able. He has a cer­tain flair about him. I think it must be stul­ti­fy­ing for him in the For­eign Af­fairs set­ting. But he is do­ing his best to break free, so to speak.

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