David Cormack is bored.
After a painstaking two week wait, the special votes have now been counted and they went exactly as expected. The Green party picks up one MP, welcoming Golriz Ghahraman into the fold, while Labour also picks up one MP - Angie Warren-Clark. National loses two MPs, Maureen Pugh and Nicola Willis. Interestingly, Maureen was screwed by special votes at the 2014 election too. She’s obviously the MP of Cusp for National.
If you are a Labour/Green supporter, this was the ideal outcome. If you were a National supporter this was the nightmare scenario, if you were a NZ First supporter it’s provided about as much clarity as one of Winston’s bottom lines and if you were an ACT supporter you’re probably David Seymour.
The Labour/Greens will be very pleased with this. It’s closed the gap on National so that Labour and the Greens have 54 seats, and National has 56. This means that a coalition with NZ First has a bit more breathing room for the left with 63 seats now, instead of the wafer thin 61 on provisional results.
It still means that a straight National and NZ First coalition is cleanest with 65 seats out of 120 but it does mean that it’s much more viable for Winston to go with Labour and the Greens than it was two weeks ago. And while the Greens’ total of 8 MPs is just under 60 percent of the number they had last time it was crucial to Winston’s ego that they had fewer MPs than him. If the Greens had managed to get two seats from the specials and draw level with NZ First then it’s likely that he would have been a lot more inclined to go with the Nats. Wherever he goes he’s got to be the second biggest party.
So what will this mean for coalition talks?
Winston has just that much more power to extract things now. A 61/59 parliament would have been very iffy. It would have meant that a Labour-led government was relying on the fringes of the Greens and the fringes of NZ First to agree on everything with no scope for floor-crossing or Neil Kirtoning your way through dissent. But now you’ve got space for an angry MP from each side to express dissatisfaction with any bill being presented and still have enough to pass legislation. Jacinda can breathe a sigh of relief.
This means Winston can walk into negotiations with both Labour and National and have in his pocket a credible government on either side of the house.
But what does Winston want? He’s notorious for not wanting to do too much. So maybe a Winston Fund to match the Cullen Fund would be in order. That would sure make him beam that beautiful smile of his, give his name something enduring while at the same time meaning he doesn’t have to do too much for it. A lot of the commentariat believe that he wants some things for Northland, but the good people of Northland voted him out. So does he want to reward them? Maybe the offer of the government standing aside for him in an electorate to ensure the longevity of his party would be appealing.
If you’re a National supporter, you’ll still feel entitled to form a government. But it’s less likely Steven Joyce will retain Finance. Winston’s big-boy trousers just became man-sized. So he’s going to gun for Joyce.
Ultimately the specials have been good for the left, bad for the Nats, and confusing for NZFirst.
And David Seymour will still be David Seymour. Just nobody cares.