…it was a dark and stomry night…really it was as best I can remember. It was in Wellington in 1992.
I was in Murray McCully’s office, observing (I guess you could call it that) a most memorable event. It was the night that key members of the National party caucus met in McCully’s office to draft the expulsion motion to throw Winston Peters from their caucus and to set in motion his eventual resignation from the party and the forming of NZ First.
Many MPs were there, including Doug Kidd, Doug Graham, Maurice Williamson, John Banks, John Carter, Wyatt Creech, Max Bradford, John Luxton, Philip Burdon and others, all perched on chairs, arms of sofas, tables and desks. Some like Ruth Richardson popped in for a few moments to read over the document, such as it was, and nod and give the assent or to suggest a change of a word or two.
I was there because my father had been summoned to help draft the motion, he was the Northern Regional Chair and sat on the party management council who were ultimately going to have to deal with the fall out. We were supposed to be going for dinner…we were very late.
It was a scrappy little document, much dog-eared and rumpled from all the handling and scribbling. Finally a call was made and Bill Birch was summoned and the drinks came out.
Bill Birch came down and perched on the edge of McCully’s desk, he was handed the scrappy little piece of paper…he pulled out his glasses, perched them on the end of nose and peered at the document. After a few moments he nodded and placed that piece of paper in his suit breast pocket. Then he picked up a Glass, it has barely a finger of Scotch in the bottom…and he toyed with it.
Someone asked in the hushed tones if this was the right thing to do…Bill Birch stared imperiously around the room and then launched into a quiet speech about all the things that he like about Winston…then all the things he could tolerate about Winston.
I can’t remember it word for word but Birch explained how he could accept his drinking, his drunkenness, his philandering, his absenteeism and many other faults…it was a substantial list…but he came to the conclusion.
“There are many things I can accept about Winston Peters, but the one thing I cannot accept is he tells fucking lies.”
And with that he put down the glass with the Scotch untouched, turned and walked out commenting as he went that he better go and tell the Prime Minister.
The next day Winston Peters was suspended from caucus and the rest, as they say is history.
It should be noted that ultimately Winston Peters tried to sue the party in the High Court when they subsequently banned him from standing, after his loss he resigned and formed NZ First contesting the 1993 election and winning Tauranga with Tau Henare winning Norther Maori.
I have never forgotten that night…for many reasons, but two which stand out was hearing Bill Birch swear, it was the first time and only time. The other was watching him toy with that glass as he listed Winston Peters’ many, many failings.
Now Winston has his own situations that has many of the hall marks of that wintry, stormy night in 1992.