John Armstrong: NZ First is bound to end up being a small tail on a very large Labour or National dog

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At the grave risk of sounding like a cracked record, it is worth repeating that the role of "kingmaker" is not quite what it is cracked up to be.

Sure, any political party which is able to position itself as pivotal in determining who governs is able to exercise an inordinate amount of power.

That party can secure major concessions in terms of policy changes and getting a share of seats around the Cabinet table in return for promising to back Budget-related matters while voting against Opposition-sponsored no confidence motions.

Mr Peters had previously stated one or more of his board members had a funeral to attend, but walked it back when pressed.
Source: 1 NEWS

Exactly what prizes will come New Zealand First's way will be known once Winston Peters reveals who is the victor in his playing the two major parties off against one another.

The script that is likely to prevail when Peters makes that announcement has already been written. He will be deemed to have extracted a heavy price in exchange for his party’s support.

That is because some observers choose to forget that the prime role of the kingmaker is to crown whomever the kingmaker’s party decides to designate as king or queen. It is not to be king or queen.

The announcement will be portrayed as a simple story of big winners and big losers.

Our Political Editor reflects on a day when Winston Peters told the nation they would have to wait for a decision over a coalition deal.
Source: 1 NEWS

It is far more complicated than that.

When the crowning ceremony is over, the ratios of who holds how much power will change drastically.

Once the bidding war for his or her affections has finished, the kingmaker is forced to haggle from a position of weakness for any further concessions not nailed down in any coalition agreement.

The minor party leader is once again a minor party leader. When that party has registered barely 7 per cent of the vote, its sway is correspondingly limited.

If that leader consequently cannot get his or her way on things that matter to his or her party, he or she cannot do much more than invoke the “agree to disagree” clause in the Cabinet Manual. But that might not stop the major partner still doing something unpopular for which the minor partner will likely get the blame for being too weak to block.

The minor partner is left with only one weapon in its arsenal.

That is the threat to pull down the governing arrangement to which it has signed up and force a general election at which that party is likely to be rewarded by being on the receiving end of a real thumping.

That is a long way of saying that when it comes to tails wagging dogs, New Zealand First is bound to end up being a small tail on a very large Labour or National dog no matter how much and how loud Peters might bark.

The Labour team was all smiles after emerging from the talks this evening.
Source: 1 NEWS

Those griping about a party which registered barely 7 per cent of the vote at last month’s election seemingly having a 100 per cent say in who governs ought to think about that.

New Zealand First is frighteningly vulnerable.

It is essentially a "protest" party. Beyond being the default choice of the elderly, Peters' party lacks a strong voter catchment upon which to draw.

That was demonstrated by the desertion of voters back to Labour. For all his cachet and charisma, Peters was unable to turn back the Jacinda Ardern-driven tsunami which swept all before it.

If he couldn't, there is no chance of whomever (eventually) succeeds him as leader doing so, regardless of whether that is Shane Jones or Ron Mark.

The equation is simple: if Peters opts to back National, a revitalised Labour will crush his party at the 2020 election.

If he favours Labour, New Zealand First will lose major component of its support - the intensely conservative-minded who find National to be too liberal for their thinking and who would not be happy with Peters adopting an economic agenda endorsed by the Greens.

The most notable remark he has made during this week’s talks is that whatever decision he makes will cause "disappointment and anguish".

He is absolutely right.

With New Zealand First now hovering a mere two percentage points above the threshold, the disappointment will be the sound of previously staunch supporters voting with their feet.

The anguish will be on the faces of those who remain but fear what lies ahead for Peters' Party.

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