Politics

Group think: Which way will Winston leap?

As a nation awaits NZ First leader Winston Peters’ decision on which major party to support in government, we asked a gang of political experts and insiders for their predictions.

Steve Braunias

Which way do you think Winston will leap on October 12 or thereabouts?

National.

Why?

Partly because he merely has contempt for ACT whereas he seems to really hate and abhor the Greens; plus they’re not as easy to put to one side as ACT. But this issue of junior coalition partners is a minor matter. I think it’s a FPP riddle wrapped inside an MMP enigma: his choice is the same most people made on September 23 – National or Labour. I know he scorned  the “moral authority” line about National but I think he respects the fact of their 46% support and will want to do what is essentially the right thing. Someone or other called Labour-Greens the “coalition of losers”. It seems like a harsh thing to say but actually it’s fair, and I think Peters won’t want to be part of a loser triumvirate. He’s great at picking winners. He’ll go with National. Also he’ll be the equal or the better of English, alongside him in government; alongside Ardern, he’ll just look like a silly old second-rate prat.

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage

99.3%.

Steve Braunias is the editor of The Spinoff Review of Books

Simon Wilson

Which way will Winston leap?

Into the sea? I keep telling myself Winston will go with whichever party can give him the best deal on a strong new role for Northport, Whangarei’s port at Marsden Point. And that also means a new railway to connect it to Auckland. It’s more likely to be Labour than National.

On the other hand, he may be swayed by much more personal factors. Will he enjoy the prestige of being the wise old man showing the Labour kids what to do? Or would he rather play politics with the big boys and girls, among whom he feels he belongs? Both could just as easily turn out badly as well.

One thing that won’t count at all, in my view, is the idea that whoever he chooses will lose in 2020. Whoever leads this government will have every chance of going on to win again in 2020 if they perform well, or of crashing and burning if they do not. That will be up to them far more than it will be up to Winston.

On balance? I can’t call it.

Why?

Neither side can just say yes to that port and its railway, because there are major feasibility studies and planning processes to go through. Labour can commit to the process quite easily because it supports regional railways, but National doesn’t. However, National has no bottom lines and if that’s what it takes, they will also find a way to convince him they are committed to making it work.

When it comes to the people, Winston will be inclined to do what he did in 1996: go with those he feels culturally and socially closer to. National people are more like his people, so he finds it easier to recognise and value their strengths. He will perceive them as a stronger government, and will admire that.

But Labour has more policy alignment and he will like the prospect of bossing around an inexperienced Labour cabinet. Also, National cabinet members ooze entitlement and Winston has always hated that. Given the chance to work with a younger, fresher, less arrogant Labour team, he will know that it could be be a lot more fun. But he would also be lonely. Don’t underestimate that: age alienates. Labour’s key promise could well be to assure him Annette King will have a role in the PM’s office.

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.

50% each way.

Simon Wilson is the editor of The Spinoff Auckland.

Winston Peters heads to the polls in 2014. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Emma Espiner

Which will Winston leap?

National.

Why?

To fuck with us.

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.

50%

Emma Espiner is a political columnist and medical student.

Duncan Greive

Which way will Winston leap?

The Labour/Greens rowing boat.

Why?

I’ll give you five reasons even.

  1. Like TOP always was and remains, it’s about policy. There are far more numerous and significant areas of policy alignment – or at least plausibility – between NZ First and Labour/Greens than between National and NZ First.
  2. The worldview, the belief in the redemptive power of the state to solve its citizens’ problems – that barely exists in National and is the very core of NZ First and Labour.
  3. ‘Had enough?’ as a slogan hardly has room for ‘well here’s some more!’ as a response.
  4. Bill English is already redeemed. If he is not prime minister in a couple of weeks’ time, he has still cauterised the wound of 2002. In a weird way, even if Winston went the other way he can still leave, as Key did, undefeated. For a man whose whole brand is principle, a gracious exit, unbowed, would be perfect.
  5. It would also allow National to cede power with a narrative that could be woven to suggest it was on their terms: refusing to concede Winston’s wildest impulses. English and a whole generation of MPs could bow out over the next couple of years, allowing National to rejuvenate between elections, and refresh its benches, preparing for another crack in 2020. They will bet – and it’s not a bad one – that the three-legged stool will have collapsed by then, leaving open an electoral flight to safety.

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.

58%

Duncan Greive is the editor and publisher of The Spinoff.

Nicola Kean

Which way will Winston leap?

National.

Why?

Winston Peters is a conservative at heart, National has the bigger bloc – so there would be fewer moving parts – and his antipathy toward the Greens is well-known.

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.

60%. If you’d told me in February that Metiria Turei and Andrew Little would no longer be leaders of their respective parties and that United Future and the Māori Party would be out all together I wouldn’t have believed you. Who even knows what will happen?

Nicola Kean is the producer of The Nation on Three.

Winston Peters with his ‘no’ sign, used repeatedly at a press conference when facing questions about a $100,000 donation from expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn in February 2008.

Asher Emanuel

Which will Winston leap?

Left.

Why?

The National Party whose leader recently left Peters a plaintive voicemail is not the same party Peters formed government with in ’96. Nowadays National vigorously pursues a neoliberal approach to international economic integration and — despite any domestic concessions it might make to a coalition party — won’t easily be deterred. If there’s a theme to Peters’ policy positions it is a serious aversion to globalisation as its currently practiced and he’d be much more at home with its left skeptics and a prime minister who has at least once denounced neoliberalism, even if her party’s policies are yet to fully catch up. That and, of course, more trains.

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.

50.1%

Asher Emanuel is the co-creator of the Spinoff’s Policy tool.

Laila Harré

Which way will Winston leap?

Labour and Greens.

Why?

Upfront policy overlap and, most importantly, an opportunity to influence the direction of Government and secure meaningful portfolios for his succession team. Not because it will be easier than banking trophy policies from National, but because the work will be more meaningful. The Labour-NZ First-Green arrangement represents a far more secure platform for NZ First unity and contribution.

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.

60% (assuming the specials narrow the gap.

Laila Harré is a a former Alliance MP and leader of the Internet Party. She recently rejoined the Labour party.

Ben Thomas

Which way will Winston leap?

National.

Why?

The odds right now tip marginally towards a National government for a number of reasons. If the left bloc (Greens-Labour) don’t pick up at least one seat in the special votes (counted this Saturday), its chances of government are dead in the water, since the government won’t have a sufficient buffer from caucus defections, to which Peters is no stranger. There’s a chance Peters will remain on the cross-benches – that is, not formally joining or supporting a government, but abstaining on confidence and supply and negotiating on a case-by-case basis over legislation. That means a National minority government. This sort of arrangement would cut Peters and his senior MPs (Ron Mark, Tracy Martin, Shane Jones) out of ministerial slots, but he may opt for an amped-up version where he demands that major policy concessions are delivered by National ministers from his long list of bottom lines – for example, threatening to vote against the first budget unless the government moves Auckland’s port to Northland or delivers free-to-air All Blacks tests.

If the left picks up one or two seats, and Peters does enter into a formal agreement (coalition or confidence and supply) it’s still a toss up as to whether he would choose National (largest party, greater perception of legitimacy, dealing with only one other party, bigger buffer) or Labour-Greens (new government without baggage, fonder memories of government with Labour in 2005 than with National in 1996).

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.

51%

Ben Thomas is a public relations consultant, former National press secretary and current co-host of The Spinoff’s Gone By Lunchtime politics podcast.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters watches the election results under the watchful eye of the media at Tauranga Racecourse, November 1999. (Photo by David Hallett/Getty Images)

Danyl Mclauchlan

Which way do you think Winston will leap on October 12 or thereabouts?

National but this is less likely than it was on election night.

Why?

My sense is that Peters’ press conference on Wednesday and some of his behavior behind the scenes has changed the dynamic a bit since election night. There’s a dawning realisation that government with NZ First will probably be a poisoned chalice, with Peters giving into all his worse impulses secure in the knowledge that he’s all powerful and completely unaccountable. Opposition to such a government is looking more and more attractive for both major parties. At the same time they do feel this obligation to work with what the voters have given them and try and deliver a stable government. I still think a National-NZ First government is the most likely outcome, but I think National’s threshold for saying “You know what? Fuck it, let Labour and the Greens try and run the country with him” is lower than it was a week ago.

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.

50.1%

Danyl Mclauchlan is a novelist and Spinoff contributing writer who worked on the Greens’ election campaign.

Branko Marcetic

Which way will Winston leap?

Labour-Greens.

Why?

While there’s no reason I should by now believe Peters will act in any kind of predictable or even necessarily rational way, a National-NZ First coalition just makes so little sense that I can’t believe he’d go this route again. Take away, for a second, the fact that the NZ First rank-and-file loathe National with a passion, that little of NZ First’s anti-neoliberal vision comports with National’s policies, or that Peters has practically been campaigning on removing National from power. Even besides all this, the first NZ First-National coalition in ’96 was such a disaster, for both the party and its goals, that I can’t believe Peters would self-immolate again no matter how lavishly National bribes him this time. This is, after all, Peters’ last run, and he’s got a legacy to think about.

Peters has already modulated on the Māori seats referendum, the only real point of contention between him and Labour. And despite the idea that National has an overwhelming mandate, Labour-Greens – who should, with the demise of the minor parties, really be viewed as a single left-wing bloc, just as National is a single right-wing bloc – have only marginally less than National, a lead that will narrow further once the special votes come in. So aside from being in a somewhat awkward three-way coalition with the Greens, Peters has little reason not to go left.

Then again, he had even less reason to go with National in ’96 and he still did it, so what do I really know?

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.

65%

Branko Marcetic is a Spinoff contributing writer who has written extensively about NZ First.

Jenna Raeburn

Which way will Winston leap?

It would be smarter to go with National. A two party arrangement would be far more stable than a three-way and the negotiations more straightforward.

Why?

Importantly, National is a whopping ten points ahead of Labour. Many New Zealanders would find it confusing and unfair if National was unable to govern, despite being the largest party in Parliament by such a big margin.

Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.

60% confident!

Jenna Raeburn is a public relations consultant who worked on the 2017 National Campaign

Guy Williams

Which way will Winston leap?
 
NZ First/ACT/ Green. Minority government with confidence and supply from National and Ban 1080 who have snuck over the 5% threshold with special votes. And you won’t hear that in the lamestream media.
 
Why?
 
No one knows what the heck is going on, Labour seems stunned, and National has gone nuts and is now blaming their arch rival the Greens for not supporting them?? Even Winston seems uncharacteristically uncertain, everyone at this point is just guessing so you may as well go a bit silly with it.
Express your confidence in your prediction as a percentage.
 
100%
Guy Williams is a comedian, broadcaster and columnist. He supports the Green Party.

David Farrar

Thanks for the opportunity but trying to predict Winston is like wrestling pigs in mud. You just get dirty and Winston loves the attention.
David Farrar is a rightwing blogger at kiwiblog.co.nz.

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