Old boxer bounces back

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

BILL English would surely have breathed the big­gest sigh of re­lief of his life last night.

De­spite crack­ing hardy for the past week, and hav­ing his con­fi­dence boosted by a cou­ple of favourable polls, he must have had se­ri­ous doubts whether he could fi­nally put the hoodoo of 2002 back in its box. He has.

De­spite flirt­ing with Ardern, vot­ers who looked like they were go­ing to swipe left and stand Bill up on his date with the ninth floor of the Bee­hive, in­stead swiped right and set him up for the next three years.

But he won’t have it all his own way.

Even with the rusted on sup­port of Act’s David Sey­mour, he still needs one more vote in Par­lia­ment to gov­ern, based on pro­jected fig­ures.

All the other par­ties to­gether don’t have the num­bers to form an al­ter­na­tive, so it looks like Na­tional and NZ First will have to come to some sort of agree­ment. But with those num­bers, Win­ston Pe­ters doesn’t have the whip hand he would have hoped for.

Pe­ters will drive a hard bar­gain. The ques­tion is how long it will take.

He’s not likely to draw ne­go­ti­a­tions out for two months, as he did in 1996, but equally he might not snap up the baubles of of­fice like in 2005.

They say win­ners are grin­ners, but Ardern has ev­ery rea­son to do her best Cheshire cat, de­spite be­ing pipped at the post. She’s dragged the Labour Party back from the polling twi­light zone of the ter­ri­ble 20s, and she has a Green Party at her side that just a few weeks ago was star­ing into the abyss of elec­toral obliv­ion.

The world is a far less safe and sta­ble place than it was in the Key years, even with the chal­lenges of weath­er­ing the fall­out from the 2008 GFC and re­build­ing Christchurch.

The world’s most pow­er­ful coun­try is be­ing led by a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian with the per­son­al­ity of a seven-year old, who seems to take per­verse de­light in pok­ing North Korea. If things go pear shaped in the Korean penin­sula, it will af­fect all our big­gest trad­ing part­ners. Add to that post-Brexit un­cer­tainty in the UK and the Euro­pean Union, and our eco­nomic prospects, firmly pinned on free trade, may not be so rosy.

Bill English will be hop­ing fer­vently none of these night­mare sce­nar­ios hap­pens. But if they do, he’ll have a hard row to hoe for the next three years, and Bill’s night­mare could turn into Jacinda’s dream in 2020.

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