National leader Simon Bridges has ruled out working with NZ First after this year’s election, telling voters he can’t trust the party.
Bridges’ move, announced at a caucus retreat in Havelock North, sets the stage for a no-holds barred election campaign between the three parties that make up the Government and National.
It echoes a move made by then-oppositon leader John Key ahead of the 2008 election, when he too ruled out working with NZ First.
Bridges said Kiwi voters deserved to have a clear choice between National and the coalition – and that a vote for NZ First was a vote for Labour and the Greens.
“Our decisions will be about what’s best for New Zealanders, not what’s best for NZ First,” Bridges said.
“I don’t believe we can work with NZ Fist and have a constructive trusting relationship.”
Bridges pointed to decision of NZ First leader Winston Peters to sue several National Party ministers during coalition negotiations as a factor in the bad blood between the parties.
National would have been idiots to think that Winston would go with them in 2020, after his decision and behaviour in 2017. He lodged a secret lawsuit against senior National MPs the day before the election, and then pretended to negotiate with them. What he did with his lawsuit was such an act of bad faith, that you could never have a working relationship with him.
So in reality Winston has ruled himself out, rather than National.
If National had left the door open to Winston, it would only have benefited Winston, Labour and the Greens.
I guarantee you Winston will try and claim that he isn’t really ruled out, and National will still negotiate with him if he holds the balance of power. But this is not true. If Winston holds the so called balance of power, there will be a Labour–Green-NZ First Government again. A vote for Winston will be a vote to continue with Labour and the Greens.
Bravo to Simon Bridges and the National caucus for making the right decision. Normally you don’t rule parties out, because MMP is about coalitions and you don’t want to reduce your options. But they have correctly concluded that Winston would never ever go with them in 2020, so why allow him to deceive the public and pretend he might?
The public now have a clear choice.