By the end of today there could be a new Government. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is expected to announce whether he will go with National or Labour/Greens.
This – unlike 1996 – has not taken 9 weeks. Nor has it involved a coalition document so hefty that I was told a wheel barrow – which might be slight exaggeration – was needed to get it into Parliament on the day that that Government was announced. The size of the coalition document was allegedly a testament to the number of concessions that Mr Peters extracted from National before going with them.
Being a former National M.P. himself, I suspect that he will form a Government with Mr English. Contrary to popular belief I do not expect him to be granted the Prime Minister’s job. Nor do I expect him to be Deputy Prime Minister. This is a National Government that will be wanting to leave a legacy and that will most certainly mean a fourth consecutive term with a National Prime Minister.
In return for that, I expect some hefty policy concessions will be made. Substantial support for railways will probably be one; significant reductions in the number of immigrants able to come here and a change in housing ownership rules to either permit only permanent residents and citizens or possibly just citizens to own property. National will also have make significant concessions on rural investment and agricultural policy as well, given the inroads New Zealand First made in the rural areas.
I do not know how serious Prime Minister Bill English is about pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement forward. This might prove to be a sticking point and one of the places where Mr Peters might find the Labour/Greens camp to be more promising.
Labour and the Greens have a tougher job of negotiating with Mr Peters, although on health, social welfare and education they are much more closely aligned. Like National, if Mr Peters goes with Labour and the Greens, I doubt very much Labour leader Jacinda Ardern will surrender the Prime Minister role, though she might say yes to him having the Deputy role. If not, then Labour would have to make quite substantial concessions across the board.
Labour will want investment in mental health – something I think Mr Peters will be more than happy to do. There may be other areas where they see eye to eye, such as environmental policy.
The best bets for my priorities are definitely with a New Zealand First/Labour/Green coalition. Like everyone else I will have to grit my teeth and wonder how much more gnashing they will take if Mr Peters goes with National. But if he does that, my support for New Zealand First will dry up completely.