Will Win­ston of­fer Hob­son’s choice?

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - Heather du Plessis-Allan u@HDPA

The the­ory is Win­ston Peters is go­ing to sur­prise us all by not go­ing into coali­tion.

At Auck­land air­port this week, on my way down to Welling­ton, I bumped into a man from the cap­i­tal.

He warned me I was head­ing back into a town go­ing crazy with an­tic­i­pa­tion.

Welling­to­ni­ans have a re­la­tion­ship to pol­i­tics that closely re­sem­bles a junkie’s to his glue bag.

Now there’s a vac­uum. Noth­ing’s hap­pen­ing. No one knows what Win­ston’s think­ing. So Welling­ton has turned to wild spec­u­la­tion.

Af­ter the man from the cap­i­tal told me this, we laughed at silly old Welling­to­ni­ans then got down to the busi­ness of wild spec­u­la­tion.

He told me the lat­est the­ory go­ing around town, that Win­ston Peters is go­ing to sur­prise us all by not go­ing into coali­tion. In­stead, he may sup­port ei­ther Labour or Na­tional from the cross benches.

Which means no Deputy Prime Min­is­ter’s job, no min­is­te­rial posts, no gov­ern­ment limos.

Af­ter you’ve re­cov­ered from your ini­tial dis­be­lief at the prospect of Peters for­go­ing the baubles of of­fice, there is a logic to it.

Firstly, ask your­self what Peters wants.

If your an­swer is along the lines of get­ting the best avail­able job you’re never go­ing to buy this ar­gu­ment. But if your an­swer is more about se­cur­ing a legacy, this starts to sound plau­si­ble.

Be­com­ing the first Ma¯ ori Prime Min­is­ter has gone, so one of the only ways left to do that is to en­sure New Zealand First can sur­vive years be­yond his re­tire­ment and, sorry to go there, his life.

Re­mem­ber ev­ery mi­nor party in the his­tory of MMP has suf­fered af­ter the ini­tial thrill of join­ing a coali­tion, like a male pray­ing man­tis get­ting lucky but then be­ing eaten by his lover.

The Al­liance died in Labour’s em­brace, United Fu­ture died (very slowly), Act is still alive but the flesh is turn­ing, and New Zealand First once broke apart and another time got voted out of Par­lia­ment.

Sec­ondly, this sce­nario saves Peters from a tough de­ci­sion. Labour prob­a­bly ap­peals more for a num­ber of rea­sons, not least that the al­ter­na­tive is prop­ping up a fourth-term Gov­ern­ment with nine years of bag­gage and big trust is­sues.

But that al­ter­na­tive, Na­tional, still won the elec­tion fair and square in the minds of many New Zealan­ders. And I wouldn’t un­der­es­ti­mate that sen­ti­ment, even un­der MMP.

And fi­nally, look­ing re­spon­si­ble will undo years of self-in­flicted cred­i­bil­ity dam­age. Re­mem­ber how Peters said he didn’t want the baubles of of­fice be­fore tak­ing the baubles of of­fice in 2005?

Re­mem­ber the Owen Glenn fi­asco? Re­mem­ber last week’s petu­lant press con­fer­ence?

Much of that can be for­given if he sur­prises us all with an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally re­spon­si­ble de­ci­sion.

Any­way, that’s what they’re say­ing in Welling­ton.

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