The only person smiling now will be Winston

The final numbers are in and National has lost two seats and the fruit-cakes on the left gained two.

But the only person smiling will be Winston Peters as no bloc can govern without him. 

Everything has changed yet nothing has changed for Jacinda Ardern and Bill English after the big swing to the Left in special votes.

English’s hand is a lot weaker than the one he held on election night, and Ardern’s stronger.

But the big winner is Winston Peters, and he is still the one holding all the cards.

Ardern’s hand isn’t that strong because it relies on the Greens and their willingness to take one up the chook.

Special votes have given Peters more leverage in the negotiations with National because English can no longer claim the stronger mandate to govern.

That was always going to be a huge impediment to Peters going with the Ardern when election night results had National ahead of the combined Labour-Greens vote by 46 per cent to 41 per cent.

But special votes have narrowed that gap to just over a point – 44.4 per cent to 43.2 per cent.

It’s a whole new ball game.

Indeed it is. But two parties are inherently more stable than three. And all signs are pointing to the Greens insisting on baubles.

English is accentuating the positive – National is still 10 seats ahead of Labour, a number he will keep repeating.

But the country is now almost evenly divided between those who voted for change, and those who voted for the status quo.

And going with Winston would be a change if he chose National.

Peters can now get down to the brass tacks of negotiating on policy and concessions – likely to include big wins for pensioners, and big wins for regional New Zealand.

Expect him to push National hard on the retirement age, and push Labour hard on water taxes. Foreign housing speculators are also bound to be in the mix.

But while special votes levelled the playing field it’s still not a straight drag race.

Peters still has to weigh up whether NZ First will risk being held hostage to another minor party in coalition, the Greens – a party he distrusts and has previously refused to do business with.

His attitude to the Greens may or may not have mellowed, but Peters previous inclination has been that two’s company and three’s a crowd.

Peters has seen every iteration of coalition and still burns over National getting one past NZ First in 1996 by adding “when fiscal conditions allow” to many of its coalition promises. That turned out to be a useful outclause.

So the Greens may not be a deal breaker like the Alliance was in 1996.

But Ardern and the Greens co-leader James Shaw will need to commit to an iron-clad agreement that they won’t use their combined clout to marginalise NZ First once the deal is done.

James Shaw’s arrogance is spiking any deals right now.

 

-Fairfax


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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