In a previous post I demonstrated why Maori Party Special votes will lose it an overhang seat. This will come off Labour or National. Maori will continue to hold 4 seats. If it comes off Labour this means Centre Right Conservative Family Values parties will hold 61 votes of a 121 seat parliament. Labour may still have 50 seats to Nationals 49. If they both drop to 49 this strategy becomes more plausible. if Labour increases to a 2 seat lead there is a higher probability that it will be able to lead. Obvious numbers and the country is full of pundits not knowing what is going on.
The strategy for Dr Brash and his team should be clear. The country needs to get rid of Labour from the government benches but to rule in close coalition needs a stable coalition. If I was in the National strategist's position I would make the following calls.
ACT - Well done. Shut up and be happy you are back in parliament. You will not be in a formal coalition but we expect confidence. Say nothing to antagonise Winston and make our job harder. The more ACT criticise the centrism of the policies to be suggested below, the more likely a centre Right coalition would be acceptable to New Zealand
United Future - Your share of the vote has dropped substantially as your family values supporters have rejected your alliance with the anti family Labour government. You can look forward to irrelevance under a Labour coalition or at least 1 seat in Cabinet under a National government. National should agree to ensure that at least 3 pro family pro United pieces of legislation for which you will be given full credit will be passed in the next term. None of National's policies are in fundamental conflict with United Future values in the way that Labour & the Greens are. Peter Dunne will have negotiations with Labour but may find their terms unacceptable. Bets are off now that the electoral landscape has changed. Labour will be forced to offer a seat in Cabinet but Peter Dunne must go with the party closest to his values. With National out of the picture from the 2002 vote he tried to exercise a moderating influence for the family. Nationals tax policy is open to negotiation to be nuanced to satisfy United Future concerns about hitting poor or needy families. I would suggest that it would be skewed much further towards the lower end of the scale. the no tax low threshold is increased and the top threshold is left as it is to balance off. Net result is a policy that would give far more money back to low income New Zealanders and UF/NZF would be allowed to take credit for that influence on National.
Maori Party. Maori want as much money for their people as they can. National must agree to fast track settlement negotiations without the deadline. Perhaps Tau Henare as Maori Affairs minister. Seat Reform is off the agenda as National does not have the mandate. With a pro business pro settlement agenda the only thing is funding for Maori organisations. Face is saved in both sides by ensuring that health funding is able to focus on ethnic background as a cause of ill health and Te Wananga is not scrapped, just made more accountable. Maori will never enter a formal coalition but talks with the Maori party are fundamental to ensuring that public support for the direction of National policy is not whipped up by taunts of racism. That has always been rubbish but could easily turn into a nasty issue. Keynsian development policies for poor areas which happen to include a high proportion of Maori (far north and East Coast) would be obvious sweeteners. Not race based, but Maori woudl benefit. National must change some of its policies after discussions with the maori party. Not for anything in return apart from 1 or 2 public statements that the Maori party look forward to working with a National lead government. That would be enough to take the sting out of the racism accusations that will inevitably fly.
With Maori, ACT and United Future dealt with the most delicate part of the strategy must be followed with New Zealand First.
NZ First. Dr Brash has dealt honourably with Winston and pays him due respect. Image is very important for the man who appeals to older heartland New Zealanders. He will not want to go with Labour and be treated as a necessary irrelevance. Winston lost his seat and pride means a lot to this man. In Jane Cliftons book he is described as a very hard worker in the background despite his public image. He actually showed a great deal of integrity over wine box. Whatever you may feel about his muck raking with Clarkson that is political par for the course. National must let bygones be bygones and certainly I have seen nothing in this campaign where Dr Brash has resiled from his preparedness to work with Winston.
The first contact that is seen by the public must be on Winstons terms. National must not carry the slightest hint of arrogance. Nor smarminess. Just respect for the position he holds and the mandate he has as the third largest party in government. Dr Brash is intrinsically honest - unlike Clark - and I feel he should conduct all negotiation with Winston directly. mano a mano.
Winston is anti immigration because his supporters fear what New Zealand is becoming. It is becoming more Asian. Older people who grew up when New Zealand was one of the richest countries in the world support Winston because he reassures them. Winston knows that he cannot ignore them. He cannot do what he did in 1996. He will consult and he will be seen to go with the party that offers what his people are comfortable with.
Winston did not cope well with the collective responsibility of Cabinet. He is the sort of man who places little emphasis on riding in a Ministerial car. With the exception of Brash and Clark this feeling is almost unknown in politicians. His natural stance is a battler, not one of the establishment. During the entire course of his political career he has rejected and fought against the establishment. Over the last 6 years he has dimmed to a certain irrelevance. With another 3 years of overseeing a Labour coalition he and spitting the dummy over legislation like the seabed & foreshore he will fade into irrelevance and his party will not make the threshold next time. An ignoble end to a long career as a battler against the establishment. What will he have achieved from 24 years as a politician. Nothing!
National must offer the chance for him to be seen to be responsible for bringing National to the Centre. The vote has shown that National was unable to convince people that they were not economic puritans who would sacrifice the poor at the market altar.
The best way to give Winston a legacy is to give him credit for bringing in compulsory individual superannuation savings accounts. It was his policy and his unpopularity that caused it to fail back in the 90’s. Agreeing a method to implement that now and give NZF full credit would lead to a successful coalition negotiation with NZF. New Zealand needs heavy Capital investment. Not in residential housing but in business. Superannuation savings offer that. Give Winston a place in Cabinet with responsibility for something that is core but not core. He does not need to take responsibility for the day to day. He needs to have responsibility for part of the vision. Superannuation should be that part of the vision.
NZF and UF offer a face saving way for the 3 parties to dominate the centre. Driving for growth and avoiding the socialist trend are what will bring New Zealand back onto the right track. For the last 6 years new Zealand has been lucky. But reinforcing welfare spending and making people earning $100,000 per year into beneficiaries is madness. The people who voted for Winston and the other people who did not vote for national did so out of fear that National policies would be too disruptive. Some of them are instinctively Labour and some instinctively National. They can all be convinced that a National lead Government would be better than a Labour lead one.
New Zealand needs to travel I a path that moves away from state reliance and welfare. If the market tendencies of National and ACT are moderated by NZF/UF and we start to travel down that path then I think the leaders of National will have done a good thing by getting rid of the nanny statists in control now.
Labour will seek to hold power with increasing desperation. Clark is arrogant and full of hubris. She will offend nearly everyone involved in the negotiations. National must capitalise on that and on the integrity and humility of Dr Brash.
The Labour strategists will attempt to win the public battle. They had a more seat at the close of play on election night and will do everything possible to push UF & NZF into accepting their terms because “they are morally obliged to”. When the Maori seat disappears this will be a nonsense.
The danger is that either Peter Dunne or Winston Peters will fall for this line and make a public statement assuring their support for Labour. If this happens, negotiations are over for the short term. National should resist the urge to bottle them and get on with designing a set of policies that would be acceptable to Centre New Zealand. When they have power, superior growth without the hard times required by the eighties/early nineties reforms will ensure continuing voter support.
If Labour do regain the Treasury benches they will not last. Their coalition will be unstable and at any time the defection of UF/NZF to National would change the Government. Change in Government may not happen on Monday, but it will happen.