I find myself extremely relaxed over what decision Winston Peters may make. This wasn’t the case in 1996 when the tension over the decision was huge.
What I have found interesting is that a fair number of National MPs are pretty sanguine over the outcome also. Like me, they would rather National was in government – but they definitely see downsides also in being chosen by Winston – especially if he demands too high a price.
Obviously, I would like to see Bill English remain prime minister. I think he’d continue to do a great job, and would manage a government that makes both economic and social progress. A change of government would see huge backwards steps in areas such as education. I think New Zealand would be worse off if National is not in government.
But from a selfish point of view, not being chosen by Mr Peters will probably be better for National in the long term, and they may have a golden opportunity to knock out both the Greens and NZ First and send Labour back into a lengthy term of opposition.
What happens if he chooses Labour and you have a government propped up by both Greens and NZ First? A number of things.
Most governments that enter opposition have lost lots of seats, are dis-spirited, irrelevant, and out of touch with the electorate. It takes a while for the electorate to want to hear from them.
National will have more seats in the House than Labour and Greens combined. They are only 3% away from being able to govern again. So they only need to gain 1% a year. A party entering opposition with 45% of the vote is very different to one entering with 30% of the vote.
National will be in opposition because Mr Peters went with Labour, not because they had a bad election result. Pretty much every National MP thinks National ran a good campaign, and Mr English was a great campaigner. So it won’t be infighting as Labour has done in opposition. It will be a hungry beast that will want to devour the government.
Around half the population live in provincial or rural NZ (outside three main cities).
Government is about hard choices and compromise. The Greens are not good at compromise.
Even if he only gives Labour supply and confidence, he will still be seen as responsible for enabling their policies, their political correctness etc.
Yes he will get some policy gains, but most of them Labour and Greens will claim they were going to do anyway.
If the economy does go South, National will campaign hard to pin this on Mr Peters choosing Labour and the Greens. And National is seen as vastly more credible on economic issues so attacks from them have more resonance than Grant Robertson complaining about the level of debt under National.
So the options for National are a fourth term of government or being an incredibly strong opposition with a real chance to knock out Labour’s coalition partners and send them into opposition after one term.
It is close to six of one and half a dozen of the other. Either way National wins.