Man with populist touch

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The Independent Online
As a rugby player in his youth, Winston Peters was a talented if sometimes erratic player, according to his biographer. An individualist and competitive by nature, he was not noted as a passer of the ball and was fond of talking to the referee, writes David Barber.

These are traits he has carried forward into his political career. A loner and a maverick, he was kicked out of the National Party Cabinet for persistently criticising government policy. He then single-handedly built his New Zealand First party - from himself being the sole MP in 1993, to two, four and now 17 holding the balance of power in parliament.

This is his big test - whether at the age of 51 he can become a team player working in a coalition government.

Always impeccably dressed and groomed, he is adored (especially by elderly women) or hated by New Zealanders. He attracted the biggest crowds of any party leader during the campaign, tapping support from the socially conservative and the elderly and adding a big following among Maoris.

One of 11 children, his father was Maori, his mother Scottish.A populist, he wants "New Zealand for New Zealanders".

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