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The Letter

The Letter
The Haps

It is a Labour/NZ First/United government. Your interest rates are going up.

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Winston Peters spent the weekend with his old friend from his National Party days, Philip Burdon, considering a letter from Don Brash which said that National has as much parliamentary support to form a government as Labour and inviting NZ First to join the centre/right negotiations.

No signatures

In fact Brash has not signed an agreement with any party. But then a month after the election, Helen Clark does not have a signed agreement with any party either. (Jim Anderton is a party only in his own mind). Neither leader could sign until they had Peters' signature and they knew the "cost" of government.

Clark's strategy

Helen's strategy was to create the image she had the numbers to form a "stable and durable" government and then hope the image translated into reality. It was working. Brash conceded. Clark was photographed meeting a succession of leaders. Clark's strategy started to come apart when it was realised that the Maori Party were not in parliament to support Labour and then that a deal with National was possible. A desperate Clark told Peters on Thursday she would do whatever it took to have his support. Peters has been writing out his cheque.

Why Brash was gaining

Politics is often more about personalities as it is about principle. Peter Dunne and Peters do not like Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons. The decision by Tariana Turia to invite the centre parties to meet to discuss whether they could work together was the break through. Brash, Dunne and Rodney Hide came, got on, and by Friday Brash could write to Peters saying they believed they could form a stable government. The group even met with Peters.

Everybody's Aunty

The public underestimates Tariana. She herself feels that Labour and Clark have done a PR hatchet job on her. But MPs like and admire her. MPs respect politicians who have the courage of their convictions. Tariana never makes personal attacks, so when she issued an invitation the leaders knew it was genuine.

Winston's strategy

On Friday he had reached an agreement "in principle" with Clark and Brash's letter was the last thing he wanted. Winston's experience has taught him that being "king maker" means you are to blame, like the person who comes between a husband and wife. Being in government has not been a good experience for him; he has ended up being sacked each time. So Winston's answer was to say he would support the largest party - no king making, avoid being sacked by being on the cross benches and stay relevant by extracting policy concessions. With parliament likely to vote 57/57 he could not abstain. He had to join and in for a penny, in for a pound.

What was he thinking?

We are all products of our experiences. In Peters' case it is from a series of "injustices". A poor Maori boy from up north found just because he was National he did not get the respect he felt he deserved. Muldoon was the politician who most influenced him. He shared Muldoon's hatred of Ruth Richardson, whose policies he sees as ideological and a vote loser. Peters thinks that Brash is another Ruth Richardson.


The loss of Tauranga is really hurting. Provincial elections are often very personal and this was no exception. The local National Party really did a job on him. "Where does he live?" "Why all the trips to the Cook Islands?" And more that a family newssheet like this could never repeat. While National sent no frontbenchers to Tauranga, figuring the party may need him, Peters blames Brash. In contrast Clark has, since the Foreshore legislation, gone out of her way to woo him. Labour strategists considered instructing voters to support him in Tauranga but could not because of fear of a back lash in the ethnic communities. Now Labour is saying that in return for a coalition deal they will help him in Tauranga. A deal maker.

Why Labour?

While Peters admires Clark's political skills he does not like her or her policies. His caucus prefers National or staying on the cross benches. Labour is the party his mother warned him against. Winston resents Clark’s refusal to offer him the finance portfolio and her spurning of NZ First until she needed him. In his heart he knows that Clark is the enemy. But by humiliating her to take him into her government on his terms, Peters feels he has won and he has wreaked vengeance on National.

Dunne is for Dunne

Dunne's strategy is to be a minister. He calculated that whoever Peters went with will be the government and that's who he will sign with.

The Greens

The Greens have been shafted. No sympathy. Their extreme views have meant they are irrelevant. Their policy concessions make them look silly.


Never had an MMP strategy. It’s too late to go looking for coalition partners after the election. Last week they came so close to the treasury benches.

Maori party

NZ has a new centre party. A major change in the country’s politics.


Have a seat and a lot of people who wished they had voted ACT, e.g. the country's Chinese community who feel betrayed by Labour.

What do you think?

Last week 83% of you were not happy at the thought of Anderton being Minister of Education, though a sizeable number of you made the very good point that anyone was better than Trevor Mallard. This week the first poll on the new government. Is it New Zealand the way you want? Vote at We will send your answers to the party leaders. PS The Reserve Bank has its say on the new government this week.


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