Life without NZ First
By Richard Harman (author)
Polling released over the weekend will strengthen the thinking in some National Party quarters that the party should aim to wipe New Zealand First out at the next election.
The One News Colmar Brunton poll shows NZ First on 5 percent (down 2.2 points on election night) while National was on 46 percent support, up 1.6 points on its election night result of 44.4 percent.
Labour was on 39 percent (up 2.1 points on election night), NZ First was and the Greens up slightly from 6.3 percent to 7 percent.
NZ First’s precarious position, hovering just above the five per cent threshold will embolden those within National who believe the party should “sponsor” the creation of a new Conservative Party.
POLITIK understands the proposal has been talked about at various National Party electorate and regional meetings in recent weeks.
The party would aim to take on NZ First in rural and provincial areas as well as taking on Labour among the Pacific Island vote in the cities.
Already there are suggestions that a conservative National MP might step forward to lead such a party.
The Tamaki MP Simon O’Connor has been named by a number of National Party people spoken to by POLITIK as one possibility.
But there could be others. In some people’s ideal scenarios, that might be Judith Collins.
The party would be offered an electorate deal which would mean that it would not have to reach the five per cent threshold to get seats to get into Parliament.
But there are competing arguments within National.
There are some MPs who believe that the party mishandled the coalition negotiations by including Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett within the National Party team.
It is now clear that there was a source within NZ First who was trying to warn National of the dangers of including Joyce and Bennett in the negotiations.
On September 26, Newshub’s Paddy Gower reported that “A New Zealand First source has told Newshub Peters is particularly resentful towards Steven Joyce, whom he personally detests.’
Gower claimed that Peter was now wanted utu - revenge.
Peters responded with an attack on Newshub.
““Their TV news broadcasts the last two nights have been fiction, and grossly misleading,' a statement said.
“ I will not be explaining what parts are fictional.
“Some of it is barefaced lies.
“This news broadcaster is claiming sources that don’t exist.”
But before the Newshub story appeared POLITIK had already spoken to a senior NZ source who said the same thing; that Peters wanted revenge against Joyce.
After the decision was made for NZ First to go with Labour, the same source said their original comments (the day after the election) had been made with the approval of Peters.
There are National MPs who appear to have heard the same warning and who believe that the inclusion of Joyce in the negotiating team fatally doomed any chance of doing a deal with NZ First.
This school of thought would argue that time will change the political dynamics of the next three years; that by 2020 NZ First could well have a new leader and without Peters NZ First might be easier for National to deal with.
At the same time, the departure from National of Bill English, Paula Bennett and Steven Joyce would make dealing with NZ First easier anyway.
NZ First will continue to hold the balance of power over the term of this Government; the question will be whether National thinks they might still be in with a chance or whether National elects to forget any chance of doing a deal with NZ First and instead sets out to find a surrogate to take them on head-on.