The ins and outs of possible coalitions on the left are far more absorbing, but Alex asked for it... so here's my humble take on some of the coalition issues facing the right (and a sneaky mention of Shane Jones)
Back on my previous post, Alex Coleman asked me to stop looking at potential government variants on the left and look at what a National-led government would look like, especially (at least this is what I took him to mean) if New Zealand First holds the "balance of responsibility".
It's an interesting question. But only so interesting. John Key has repeatedly said that he would prefer the government to stay as it is for another term: National, Maori Party, ACT, United Future. So we know exactly where he stands on that. Key has ruled out Labour, the Greens, and Mana as possible partners. He has, after two elections of ruling out any coalition with New Zealand First, said he could now work with it, but has since gone out of his way to insult and belittle the party and its leader.
But hey, that's politics and anyone who remembers how Winston Peters and Jim Bolger spoke about each other before joining forces know that harsh words can be put aside if needed. I noted that in Question Time last week Key and Peters were questioning each others' integrity – but both with grins on their faces.
Key has also allowed for the fact that the Conservatives could yet be crucial to National in a third term, but has also been rather belittling of them. Key has scoffed at its leader Colin Craig and said that National wouldn't be talking about a deal to give it a seat (a la ACT in Epsom) until a few weeks from the election. That is, we'll reach out if we need you, but only if we really, really need you.
ACT and United Future are, respectively, utterly reliant and almost utterly on National for survival. And while ACT has the chance of a second seat, it's unlikely either will grow sufficiently to be a critical player in post-election talks. In short, we know that if National can form a government, they will both have some place in it but little power. So it's really not as interesting as the possible Labour-Greens-New Zealand First dynamics on the left where the power is more evenly spread.
The Maori Party will go with whoever's in power. Done and done. If they are kingmakers, however, it's an open question. And one I have written about.
Still, the question of what influence New Zealand First might have on a National-led government is interesting and worthy of more thought.
As Alex asked: "Can you see Winston sitting in Cabinet with the latest ACT sock-puppet?" The short answer is that under current polling, he wouldn't get the chance to. National will continue with its existing partners. And the second answer is that if National needed New Zealand First to govern, it wouldn't need ACT, so he wouldn't have to. National would hate it, but you'd assume they'd ditch ACT and deal with Peters & co rather than accept defeat.
ACT, much like the Green Party, is boxed in. But National isn't as reliant on ACT as Labour is on the Greens... so it's not as interesting coalitionally speaking.
Thing is, if National and New Zealand First are looking to form a government, the one-seat parties on the right are both probably unnecssary and therefore irrelevant.
Still, there could yet be one or two seats in it, so what about New Zealand First's ability to work with other parties to the right of centre?
Well, you say you haven't seen anything on this, Alex, but The Nation (Patrick Gower interviewing) did ask Peters about it back in March. Here's a bit of the transcript:
Quick look at the other parties. Can you work with UF in government?
Well, you know, can I tell you the truth? In 2005 I was the one who went to Peter Dunne and said to him, Peter do you want to be a minister. Not Helen Clark.
Will you make him a minister again in the next government? Would you give him the go-ahead?
Well no. Given how he’s behaved…
So he’s out. What about the Maori Party? Can you work with them?
I’m not working with a party that believes in racial separatism.So it's hard to imagine New Zealand First working with United Future. The Maori Party? Outright impossible.The other that could be in the mix is the Conservative Party. I'd be pretty confident in putting it in the same basket as the Maori Party. Peters won't have a bar of Colin Craig, won't give him the time of day. I can't see them sitting alongside each other in cabinet.So, I hope that helps Alex. Now can we get back to talking about prospects on the left? (Kidding!).Although... now that Shane Jones is quitting, the Greens might get an easier run through the campaign and in the meantime Labour will have to find someone else to do its designated hitting. While Jones has had the air of what Paddy Gower has called "a kamikaze" about him this year, this move is a shock to the party. And it's a waste. Labour is losing its most effective communicator this year; it really is all on Cunliffe to connect now.