The delicate balancing act
By Richard Harman (author)
Yesterday was the first day of what you might call the great political void.
That is, the period when nothing much will happen while everyone waits for the final election results.
Some key political staff and advisors are taking the week off --- National's pollster, David Farrar is driving around the South Island; Winston Peters key campaign aide, Paul Carrad is skiing at Ruapehu.
Peters himself is back in Auckland.
Most people involved one way or another in the political world seem to believe that a few days’ pause after the election wouldn’t be a bad idea.
This will allow attitudes to adjust to forming a Government rather than contesting an election.
Peters himself plans to be in Wellington on Wednesday for a caucus meeting which will welcome his two new MPs, Mark Patterson and Jenny Marcroft.
The party is hoping that the special votes will also see the return of Mahesh Bindra who is number 10 on their list.
NZ First also believes that National's overall vote share will drop when the Specials are counted because proportionately more will go to the Greens and Labour.
According to one statistician, it is possible National could drop by one per cent which would see it lose two seats --- Nicola Willis and Maureen Pugh would both be out.
There are some rumbles about other MPs from within National.
Party sources say the Speaker, David Carter, recognises that he may be sacrificed as part of any agreement with NZ First.
That would allow Willis, who the party regards as a rising star, to be returned to Parliament in his place on the list.
Other than that National is not giving much away and POLITIK could find no one ready to confirm a Newshub report that Gerry Brownlee and Todd McClay would be National's negotiators.
Other figures within National who are close to NZ First MPs or Peters himself say they know nothing.
Newshub also suggested that Peters’ longtime lawyer, Brian Henry, would be on the NZ First negotiating team but there was no confirmation of that from NZ First last night either.
This current “cooling off” period may ultimately prove to be important.
It may be that some of the raw emotion present on Sunday abates and more strategic approaches to the negotiations emerge.
One source close to the Peters camp says that Peters sees the opportunity to consolidate the role of a third party more effectively by joining a three-party coalition and showing that NZ First could restrain both Labour and the Greens from their more extreme policies.
But what NZ First might consider extreme – such as the water tax or Maori involvement in water allocation --- might also be seen as bottom lines by Labour and the Greens.
Ultimately who forms the Government will depend on who wants it more.
There are certainly voices within National, mainly but not entirely on the backbench, who feel that a three-way deal involving NZ First, Labour and the Greens would be doomed to fail and that National could be back in power in three years.
Those same voices believe that in 2020 New Zealand would not re-elect a National Government for what would be five terms.
Better to be out now than out than for what could be a lot longer period then.
Equally, there are voices within Labour (but probably not the Greens) who feel that three years in Opposition would strengthen their leadership and allow new MPs to take over some senior roles ready for what they believe would be nine years in Government.
So funny, these negotiations will be as much about who forms the Government from 2020 onwards as who forms the Government next month.