Remember one thing as coalition talks begin in earnest: the theme tune of government formation is the sound of doors being slammed ajar.
Those at the sharp end of the negotiations will always have “options”. Everything will be on the table —and will remain so long after they have been off the table.
Source: 1 NEWS
Nothing wil be ruled in. And nothing will be ruled out.
If something is ruled out then something else is being ruled in. If something is ruled out, it begs the question of what else is being ruled out.
Once you start going down the list of “options” on the table which might be similarly ruled out, they will be ruled in unless it is confirmed they have been ruled out.
This nightmare riddle could be heard being played out this week as James Shaw tried to put the lid on speculation surrounding the far-fetched possibility of National and the Greens joining forces and forming a two-party government.
Shaw curtly dismissed speculation of a “teal deal” between National and the Greens as variously “PR”,“fluff” and “noise”.
Then just to confuse everybody, he refused to categorically rule out such a deal.
The lesson is that trying to interpret or draw conclusions from anything said by any politician in the current limbo between last month’s election and the swearing-in as prime minister of which ever leader emerges from the negotiations as the one designated to fill that role is pretty pointless.
A case in point is the current theory that Winston Peters and the other New Zealand First MPs will sit on Parliament’s cross-benches rather than the Government benches and give assurances of provision of confidence and supply to either a Labour or National minority government while exercising veto rights on legislation promoted by that government.
The speculation appears to be based on two things: first, that Peters has flagged adopting such a model in the past and second, that he has set such a tight timetable for the government-formation talks that it will be impossible to hammer out the level of policy detail which is normally part-and-parcel of a coalition agreement.
The assumption that Peters will prefer the cross-benches may be correct.
But there are good reasons why it will not happen. Under such an arrangement, Cabinet ministers can still exercise a lot of power without having to get the approval of Parliament for their actions.
Those ministers will simply not put forward legislation if they know it is going to be knocked back.
One option would be to have a variation on the model used by Peters the last time he was similarly placed to exercise leverage on the structure of a government. That was back in 2005 when he became Foreign Minister in a Labour-led government.
Peters could allow some of his colleagues to take up ministerial posts while he sat outside the government in some sort of “party supremo” role which would see him responsible for preserving and promoting New Zealand First’s identity and independence.
But that is pure hypothesis.
There is one thing you can make guarantees about. The notion that either National or Labour might prefer to sit out the next three years in Opposition in the hope that the 2020 election might produce a more clear-cut result in their favour is ludicrous.
Bill English has not spent a near life-time in politics to then tear up his warrant as prime minister after just 10 months in the job.
While Andrew Little was Labour’s leader, that party’s MPs had to make the necessary psychological adjustment to the more than distinct possibility that nine years out of government would become 12.
It could be argued that Jacinda Ardern might well benefit from spending three years as Leader of the Opposition before —as such a script decrees — she sweeps into power in 2020.
But she did not give her all in fighting an election campaign to become prime minister in order to settle for second best.
And to a man and woman, her parliamentary colleagues will feel the same way.