National: Let’s NOT do this!

Richard Harman has sources inside the National party who have provided this interesting background

Pressure from the National Party organisation appears to have been influential in persuading the National negotiating team not to make any concessions to NZ First during the government formation talks.

POLITIK understands that the NZ First team were surprised by how little National was prepared to give in the talks regarding policy.

Instead, they offered five Cabinet posts — more than Labour.

But NZ First Leader Winston Peters always said they wanted policy gains – not baubles of office.

The reluctance to concede policy sits awkwardly alongside comments made by Bill English on election night.

Asked if he was willing to move on the immigration issue to meet New Zealand First’s call for a cut English, said: “We respect the negotiation process.

“Mr Peters has got some well-known positions.

“We would expect to be working from tomorrow on how we could find common ground with him on those positions which do represent policies which are different from ours.

“That’s the coalition-forming process.

“We know we have to give ground.”

But those comments now appear to have provoked a reaction from the party organisation.

By the end of the week after the election, POLITIK was talking to party officials who though they wanted anonymity wanted it made public that the party was not willing to give its negotiators a blank check to concede NZ First’s demands.

At the same time, the party was putting pressure on its board to ensure that it had final sign off any proposal put to NZ First.This had not been a priority in previous government formations.

One insider described previous approvals as “pro forma”.

The approval meeting took place by telephone conference at 1230 last Thursday.

After that call, a relieved official told POLITIK that the negotiators had not made any major concessions to NZ First

There were other pressures.

On September 26, three days after the election, the National party’s pollster, David Farrar, on his bKiwblog said: “Twenty-two of the best 23 seats for NZ First are National held seats.

“This will also make it very interesting for them if they decide to support a Labour-led Government.

“I’m not sure all those provincial and rural voters that voted NZ First will be keen on the inevitable political correctness and anti-agriculture policies that will eventuate from such a Government.

“I’d say there would be a huge backlash.

“This is why I’m quite keen to have Winston go with Labour and Greens.

“ It will be sad for the country, but good for National in the long term as they’d ride a wave of discontent in 2020 and only need to pick up two more seats to govern. “

These comments from Farrar were frequently quoted by National Party sources spoken to by POLITIK over the past few weeks as a reason for the negotiators not to do a deal with NZ First.

But within the caucus, there were different views.

POLITIK is also aware of a proposal floated by back benchers immediately after the election and discussed with at least one Cabinet Minister that would have seen National offer NZ First electorate deals and help the party become a provincial country party.

One of the authors of that proposal told POLITIK that it had gone no further. He didn’t know why.

Even the makeup of the negotiating team was the subject of some speculation among the MPs.

There had been a group – including Ministers Mark Mitchell and Alfred Ngaro — who had maintained social contact with NZ First MPs when the House was sitting.

Some MPs were surprised these Ministers were not part of the negotiating team.

Altogether, it looks like National were determined to [not] give anything away to NZ First even if that meant going into opposition.

There was no negotiation.  Just a “take it or leave it”.

Whichever way you want to interpret this, people who are blaming Winston exclusively are blind to the Born To Rule attitude with a fair wallop of arrogance and party hierarchy interference that screwed almost half of the voters out of a National-led government and a whole lot of money.

It seems the old tuskers in National would rather crap on Winston from a great height rather than deliver the policies that a lot of people voted for.

 

Richard Harman, Politik

 


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