Why my heart wants Winston to choose Labour

OPINION

David Farrar

Being chosen by Winston Peters is a double-edged sword

I find myself extremely relaxed over what decision Winston Peters may make. This wasn’t the case in 1996 when the tension over the decision was huge.

What I have found interesting is that a fair number of National MPs are pretty sanguine over the outcome also. Like me, they would rather National was in government – but they definitely see downsides also in being chosen by Winston – especially if he demands too high a price.

Obviously, I would like to see Bill English remain prime minister. I think he’d continue to do a great job, and would manage a government that makes both economic and social progress. A change of government would see huge backwards steps in areas such as education. I think New Zealand would be worse off if National is not in government.

But from a selfish point of view, not being chosen by Mr Peters will probably be better for National in the long term, and they may have a golden opportunity to knock out both the Greens and NZ First and send Labour back into a lengthy term of opposition.

What happens if he chooses Labour and you have a government propped up by both Greens and NZ First? A number of things.

A backlash.
For the first time the biggest party isn’t government. Sure the political scientists and Twitterati will proclaim that is how MMP works. But they are not representative of the population. Never before has there been a change of government by negotiation, rather than a clear election result. In 1999 and 2008 the government changed on the night. In 1996 and 2005 when there was a hung Parliament between blocs, the largest party got to govern. Those who say there will be no backlash don’t understand that not everyone is a political scientist. Many will see the government as illegitimate. It will be called the coalition of the losers.

Jacinda gets tainted
If Winston doesn’t go with Labour, Jacinda Ardern is massively favoured to become prime minister in 2020 and could well govern for a lengthy period after that. But if she becomes prime minister despite “losing” in 2017, then she will be seen as not having earned the job by some. Her honeymoon will be shortened. She is prime minister because Mr Peters chose her, not because she won an election. National wants to find a way to remove the stardust around Ms Ardern. Well having Mr Peters choose her will do just that.

A strong opposition
Emma Espiner has written on how National will be the Opposition from Hell if Mr Peters goes with Labour. She concludes by telling Ms Ardern and Greens leader James Shaw that if Mr Peters goes with National, it could be a lot worse. She is right. Go read her article. Ms Espiner incidentally is a former Labour staffer so no secret Tory.

Most governments that enter opposition have lost lots of seats, are dis-spirited, irrelevant, and out of touch with the electorate. It takes a while for the electorate to want to hear from them.

National will have more seats in the House than Labour and Greens combined. They are only 3% away from being able to govern again. So they only need to gain 1% a year. A party entering opposition with 45% of the vote is very different to one entering with 30% of the vote.

National will be in opposition because Mr Peters went with Labour, not because they had a bad election result. Pretty much every National MP thinks National ran a good campaign, and Mr English was a great campaigner. So it won’t be infighting as Labour has done in opposition. It will be a hungry beast that will want to devour the government.

Most electorate MPs will be in opposition
As I blogged yesterday it would be a first to have more electorates held by the opposition. In fact of the 64 general seats National has 41 and Labour 22. That means you will have the local MP railing against the government in two-thirds of the country. That can and will have an impact.

Government infighting
On economic policies there are some common areas between Labour, Greens and NZ First. On other issues there are massive differences. Mr Peters attacks refugees. Greens have a refugee MP. Mr Peters is against the Maori seats and Labour holds them all. Mr Peters is a fan of Donald Trump and Brexit, while Labour and Greens see them as totally bad.

The government will start off with discipline, but especially in this age of social media, the three parties will end up constantly slighting each other

A provincial/rural backlash
Mr Peters choosing Labour and the Greens (regardless of whether or not Greens get ministers) will go down like cold sick in much of rural and provincial New Zealand.

Around half the population live in provincial or rural NZ (outside three main cities).

Greens may be toast
If the Greens do get to be part of government, it may be their last one. No minor party without an electorate seat has survived a term in government.

Government is about hard choices and compromise. The Greens are not good at compromise.

NZ First may be toast
Winston has a slightly bigger safety margin than the Greens, but also no electorate seat. A provincial/rural backlash will hit him the hardest.

Even if he only gives Labour supply and confidence, he will still be seen as responsible for enabling their policies, their political correctness etc.

Yes he will get some policy gains, but most of them Labour and Greens will claim they were going to do anyway.

It’s the economy stupid
Yes National is leaving behind a pretty good surplus but the spending demands of the three parties is huge. Add to that the fact they have lots of other policies that will all negatively impact the economy and you have a reasonable chance of rising unemployment, higher interest rates and higher inflation.

Also bear in mind that a global economic shock is overdue.

If the economy does go South, National will campaign hard to pin this on Mr Peters choosing Labour and the Greens. And National is seen as vastly more credible on economic issues so attacks from them have more resonance than Grant Robertson complaining about the level of debt under National.

Summary

My head wants Winston Peters to choose National as that is better for New Zealand
It would be a shame to hand over education policies to the teacher unions, industrial relations policies to the labour unions, welfare policy to the unemployed workers union etc.  I especially want the social investment approach to continue as this is what makes the biggest difference in helping the most vulnerable in society.

But my heart wants Winston Peters to go with Labour and Greens as that is better for National
The chance to make Labour a one-term government and knock both NZ First and Greens out of Parliament is enticing. Of course there is no guarantee. A Labour/Greens/NZ First government might govern for nine years of stability. But National is positioned to be an incredibly strong opposition that could make life hell for the government. You only get a honeymoon when you win an election. You don’t get one when it is a coalition of the losers.

So the options for National are a fourth term of government or being an incredibly strong opposition with a real chance to knock out Labour’s coalition partners and send them into opposition after one term.

It is close to six of one and half a dozen of the other. Either way National wins.

So ultimately does heart triumph over head? For my 2c I hope so.

Pollster and political commentator David Farrar posts at Kiwiblog.


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So we win when we lose? Great.

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I'm inclined to agree, although I think Winston might be under better control if he picks National, ultimately doing less damage to the country. Next election will probably 'be Jacindas anyway because 5 in a row just won't happen. Winston and his gang will be gone forevermore . Then Labour Greens can get on with wrecking the show.

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What will National do with another three years? Continuing not talking about productivity lagging Australia (contrary to their earlier ambitions), importing as many people as fast as possible to provide a pretense of economic growth, and continue trying to push the housing market up via WFF, the Accommodation Supplement and the FHB grant? Instead of addressing actual issues?

Continue trying to sell as much off into foreign ownership including state-private partnership ownership?

Neato.

It's going to take a long time for NZ to recover from the mess National has been creating. In a way, it would be good for National to actually have to face the consequences of some of the mess they've been building up. Things are delicately poised right now.

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Dont agree with Mr Farrars' logic. A bird in the hand,beats the hell out of whatever is lurking behind a facade of the unknown.
Why allow the potential economy destruction in three years, of NZs way of life, by Parties like Labour/Green cabal who have a hidden agenda ,yet to be revealed should they get the treasury benches. A bit like the CGT ambush that was laying in wait,in the election campaign. Give us your vote and we will tell your our CGT ambush after the election.As i said about Mr Farrars logic. I respect what he says,certainly wouldn't trust the socialists Labour/Green cabal.

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David has given up just like his mate Hooty. The only time you say you never really want something after all is when you know you can't have it...

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What social investment approach is Mr Farrar referring to? I don't care which political party you side with, however, to imply that the National Party have been helping the most vulnerable is a disgrace.

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You are kidding right?? The government spends over $24 billion a year on Social Welfare (plus $15 billion on Health and $12 billion on Education). We have the lowest rates of Elderly poverty in the world - are you dismissing them? Unbelievable how the Elderly are so invisible to society.

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Over half of the Social Welfare budget is given out to the elderly, in fact, and regardless of need. Less than half is apportioned according to need - and of this, we're spending far too much supplementing wages (via Working for Families) and subsidising property investors (via the Accommodation Supplement and FHB's grant) than we should be, and indeed than we would be if we bit the bullet and tackled issues such as the housing crisis properly. These last three are papering over the cracks caused by the housing crisis...just wasteful redistribution of taxes.

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I agree. Homelessness has gone through the roof under national. All the comfortable rich have got richer and our debt is astronomical. Surplus is just creative accounting. Just look at GiltrapMotors new building on GNRd ridge, packed with the most expensive luxury cars you can buy, if you are rich.ha, Barry your living in a delusion. Wake up and open your eyes to the real world

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David goes rogue sometimes.
This is one of them. If National are not in Government they are not winning.

The rumoured demise of the Labour Party was turned around in the time it took to convince Ardern she should be leader. Labour and National don’t just disappear.

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I disagree Kate. Yes the Nats would not be "winning" now but the point is they are likely to be better off in the long run.

Thank you David for articulating what I have been instinctively feeling. This is the first election I can remember where I haven't been seriously concerned about the result. Even less so after "the result" has become known and we await the 'outcome'.

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Interesting opinion, and rather blaze approach to NZ's future. Our National Debt clock is 86 Billion and rising, this "surplus" you speak of is so foreign. I'm laughing on the inside (google it yourself). You can't obliterate parties, or democracy, not everyone will agree with the majority, welcome to earth. I wholly disagree with what you've written.

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I too want Winston to go with Labour for largely the same reasons as outlined in the article. Both my head and my heart want that. I can think of no better way to guarantee another three-term National Government from 2020 (or sooner) than for a coalition of the losers to gain the Treasury benches this week. Bill English as the Leader of the Opposition for the next three years (or less) will do to Adern what Muldoon did to Rowling in 1974/75.

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Yeah , nah.
I say , nail your colours to the mast , and put your best foot forward.
The political landscape in 2020 is anyone's guess, and cannot be relied on .
Imagine the All Blacks deliberately playing a losing game in the first half as a winning strategy. Yeah right.

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Isnt MMP the perfect symbol of NZ. Constantly stripping from success and rewarding failure.

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That's the Kiwi way! Maori have just done it in their tens of thousands in the last couple of weeks.

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Should Winston only agree on Supply & Confidence to allow Labour to form a minority Govt Labours legislation can still be defeated by Winston voting against and should Taxinda try and force Winston by calling a vote of confidence he could vote for thus keeping a Labour Govt in power that is unable to achieve much. A mid term election in these circumstances would likely destroy Winston so a reason for Winston to tread carefully in this scenario on what legislation he supports. The permutations however are fascinating and would provide much entertainment.

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If the Greens hadn't shot themselves in the foot during the campaign, you'd probably find the Labour/Greens would have gained more votes than National.

That is academic now. The one thing that isn't is the deteriorating smokes and mirrors surplus. With declining house prices, a good portion of those owners wont be able to load the credit card expenses onto their mortgage anymore.

Nationals governance has largely been based on stimulating house prices by allowing banks to get away with lending more and encourage mass immigration the current infrastructure investment cant cope with. Classic short term ideology, engineered by ex (shorting expert) bankster Key.

All these deferred costs and reduced taxes will be coming home to roust over the next three year period, and one only hopes that Labour & NZ First understand it is likely to be a one term government if they take on this challenge.

They say timing is everything, and that's why the villain of all this has left for Hawaii. Maybe Trump can organise with North Korea to do some testing up that way.

What we do know is some serious spending is needed on mental health and its causes, unless we want to end up like the US and the flawed neo liberal economic ideology they are following.

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Yes! And Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and the Tooth Fairy really exists!

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Does anyone else find it depressing that David and a number of posts above would prefer what they see as best for them as National supporters over what they see as being best for the country?

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Think long term, as obviously National supporters do. NZ could recover when National is returned within three years if Winston first goes with Labour. However, if he destroys National while wrecking NZ, who will be there to restore our country?

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Do you seriously believe that. Wow, you are the self interest and greed that is ruining this country. Maybe if Labour / Greens ruin our country you might leave with all your self interested greedy mates. That would indeed be great for NZ

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That's where you are dead wrong. National voters are thinking about what is best for the country and the surest way they can think of achieving that is to limit to the shortest possible time possible a Labour-NZF-Green government.

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When did "the country" become a synonym for "my property portfolio and low wage bill"?

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It never has. You understand, right, that the so-called housing crisis only exists in Auckland and not outside of it where the majority of New Zealanders and New Zealand voters live? That's why Labour has failed so miserably to bring about a change in Government. Its vote has gone back up to where it was the last time it failed to win an election because it simply cannot deal with the reality of people's lives in this country. First of all, it invented a manufacturing crisis where none existed, then it invented a health crisis where none existed and now it's invented a housing crisis which doesn't exist for most New Zealanders.

You guys on the Left just need to get real. Stop making things up in your Wellington bubble and echo chamber. You'll never get anywhere until you do.

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Tis you that needs to get real, Steve. Missed the fact it's even reached Tokoroa (of all places) now? Not to mention Wellington. The obsession with property and the pumping up of private debt didn't end well for Ireland, with it ultimately turning into public debt when they had to bail out the banks.

Bet you have private health insurance, don't you? There's no trouble in healthcare land when it's only other folk who are troubled by it.

Some of us actually give a murine posterior about those who are less well-off than ourselves.

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Oh dear Bob, reality means different things to different people. "It" "reachingTokoroa", or even your sacred Wellington, is surely a good thing, a sign "it" is not a bubble but a genuine case of supply and demand. Nowhere "of all places" is exempt from the market unless the market is legislated out.

And your snipe about private health insurance exposes you, I'm afraid.

The sooner you realise that all kiwis care about "those who are less well off than ourselves", the sooner you will be in touch with reality.

Get real, Bob.

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I have private health insurance too, because I'm realistic enough to know that you don't want to expose yourself to the government's underinvestment in health in various parts of NZ - in fact, I have too many friends who work in Auckland's hospitals to leave myself at the mercy of public health alone.

But that doesn't mean I'd rather a $20 tax cut than have outcomes improved for others.

You need to get out more if you think NZers all have equal opportunity, even though we all pay the concept at least lip service.

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I always have a wee chuckle when commenters roll out the "supply and demand" excuse whilst completely ignoring the fact the speculative investment (ie. the primary driver behind an asset bubble) is a contributing factor behind the DEMAND side of the supply/demand equation. Completely disincentivise investing for capital gains in residential property and see what happens to values.

If you think a housing crisis reaching somewhere like Tokoroa is a good thing for this country, you are simply proving Bob's original assertion - that National voters are simply out to protect their property portfolios at any social cost - present and future.

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Can anyone see Winston as Deputy to either main party because I can’t.

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It's hard to imagine any party wanting him as deputy. The man cannot answer a simple question, can't remember saying the coalition would be all sorted by the 12th, can't remember ever having any bottom lines. He treats journalists simply doing their job with arrogance and rudeness. After his latest bit of nonsense about the difficulty of getting the invisible board together, surely both English and Aderne must be feeling like walking away and preserving their dignity.

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P.S. And now he can't remember saying some board members had to go to a funeral.

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Ironically, I would prefer that Winston chose National for the similar reasons.
My reasons are these:
(i) 1998 and all that... the two parties haven't worked well in the past.
(ii) No New Zealand government has lasted longer than four terms in office- not even the Holyoake administration of the sixties- therefore incumbency fatigue would be a consideration
(iii) It would sour the National/ACT working relationship
(iv) Overseas UK and Australian political momentum seems to be moving toward the centre-left and the last election suggested that New Zealand is no different
(v) An urban backlash? A National/NZF coalition might be too heavily weighted against urban business and other interests.

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