In 2008 and 2011 John Key ruled out a coalition or confidence and supply deal with Winston Peters. I believe he should do the same again for 2014.
I say this aware that it means that if NZ First hold the balance of power, it will probably mean that they put Labour/Greens into Government. I think that would be a terrible thing for New Zealand in the short-term, but it will be worse for National in the long-term if they do do a deal with Winston.
Many people say you should never advocate opposition over government. You enter politics to get into Government, so you can implement the policies you think will be best for New Zealand. Jim Anderton once said that the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition. He had a point.
However I still think that refusing to do a deal with Winston is the best way to be in government long-term.
Let’s look at the two major possibilities if Peters does hold the balance of power. National does a deal with him, or we get a Labour/Green/NZ First (and maybe Mana) Government.
If National does a deal with him, they get a third term. That’s great, but does anyone think it will be a Government that can achieve much? Does anyone think that Peters will be committed to making the Government a success, rather than humiliating Key. It is well known Peters wants utu on Key, and the two ways to achieve that is either to sack him, or make him subservient to you. I think subservience is worse than sacking.
A third term Government is tough at the best of time, let alone with Peters in it. Can anyone see National having a chance of a fourth term? No. The reality is that National will probably lose office with a vote share down in the mid 30s. NZ First will probably fall apart again, or dip below 5% as being in Government has never worked for them before. So what you’ll face is National in opposition, with no potential coalition partners and needing over 45% to get back into Government. That means probably nine years of opposition. You don’t go from say 34% to 46% in one term.
But now let us look at the alternative. Say National gets 44%, Labour 32%, Greens 11% and NZ First 5%.
NZ First has the balance of power, and as National won’t cut a deal with them, they put a Labour/Greens/NZ First and maybe Mana Government into power.
Now that Government is going to be bad for New Zealand. They’ll effectively nationalise the energy sector, set up state owned building companies, insurance companies, hike taxes, drive up debt, and put spending back onto an unsustainable path. But there is also a very good chance that government will be very unstable. Peters and Turei and Norman in the same Government will be full of loathing. Peters has boasted he has never put the Greens into power, and doesn’t intend to. However he’ll have no choice but to back them if National won’t deal with him, and hence we’ll get a Government that will not do well.
National will be in opposition yes, but they will enter opposition on 44%, not 34%. They’ll only need to pick up 3% to get back into Government. If a Labour/Greens/NZ First Government doesn’t shed at least 3% after a term, I’d be amazed. In fact, they may not even last a full term. So yes National will go into opposition, but only for one term, not three.
So its a tough call John Key has to make. One can argue that for NZ’s sake, he should do whatever he can to stop Labour/Greens gaining power in 2014. But I argue that it would be in National’s long-term interest not to do a deal, as being in Government with Winston will be just too damaging. NZ First without Winston would be fine to deal with, but I don’t see any significant possibility of a third term with him in Government being conducive to good Government.
So my hope is that Winston isn’t the last cab off the rank, but he isn’t on the rank at all.