The ultimate coalition winner may well be the party that first cries enough and walks out of negotiations citing an outrageous demand. It would look principled and honourable. And from then on there would only be upside.
It would certainly suit Labour. Jacinda Ardern ran a fantastic campaign to get a truly excellent result. But neither she nor her team appears ready for government. I don’t think the country is quite ready either. A good three years as leader of the opposition would see Ms Ardern grow into the role, prepare her team and ready the country for her leadership.
In three years’ time she won’t have the Winston Peters millstone around her prime ministerial neck.
It would suit the Greens, too. They won’t get much in government, they will have to battle New Zealand First, and they will be tainted by association. They need to win but they need to win a better election.
The next election will be perfect. They will be able to play the honest green broker and campaign in the middle. They can make it plain they’re for the environment, not old politics, and keep their options with both Labour and National open.
This is quite true. Jacinda has a choice of becoming Prime Minister now but a hobbled PM, or waiting three years and leading Labour/Greens to a majority Government. She would be wise to run away from Winston.
Dodging coalition with Mr Peters should also suit the Nats. They have had three good terms. Bill English has been prime minister. He is vindicated with a stunning election night result. But a fourth term with Mr Peters will wreck him and National possibly for years. It would only strengthen Labour and the Greens.
In opposition, National can regroup and refresh. The next generation can be brought forward. The party could be ready to win big in 2020.
Mr Peters has led New Zealand First into government with both National and Labour. Each time produced the same result. Each government was scandal-ridden, Mr Peters didn’t last, and National and Labour were voted out. The first time New Zealand First’s vote collapsed from 13 to 4%; the second time it was dumped out of Parliament.
There’s nothing about Mr Peters’ post-election behaviour to suggest he’s improved with age. Winning the negotiations looks like losing to me.
National would be better to walk away also. They’d be better to go into opposition now on 46% rather than opposition in three years time on 30%.