No pressure Winston but the clock is ticking
With Winston Peters there’s usually a bit of method and a bit of madness.
And that has proved to be the case in this concentrated week of coalition talks, which ended last night at Parliament.
It was always madness for him to set such a tight deadline (October 12) by which a decision on the next government would be made by New Zealand First.
It is certainly madness for him to deny he set a deadline in the first place — as he did yesterday — when there is plenty of evidence that he did.
But despite having set an impossible deadline, it wasn’t such a bad thing to have.
It brought a focus and a discipline to a process that would otherwise have operated under Parkinson’s law — “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”.
Having conducted talks with National and Labour under five days of pressure, the New Zealand First caucus and board should not make their decision under pressure.
That is likely to be the real reason for Peters withholding the names of New Zealand First board members — not to protect the privacy of a group that has been previously widely publicised — but to minimise the pressure on them.
Peters hinted that a decision might not be known until Monday.
It would not be unreasonable for the board and caucus to take two or three days to assess and debate the two agreements from National and Labour unless one is overwhelmingly better than the other.
If that means a Sunday or Monday decision, so be it — so long as the party is starting its deliberations on Friday and is not taking two days to get to Wellington.
Peters gave an assurance this week that the board was on standby to come to Wellington to join the caucus for a discussion. The message may not have been passed on to the board.
They have an excuse to take some time. But they have no excuse not to be ready.
Peters has been relatively goodnatured over the week, but he needs to take care about the expectations he set including for himself. If he keeps the media in the dark, he is keeping the public in the dark.
If he sets himself up for failure, he is not helping his colleagues or party.
If the decision stretches beyond Monday, people will lose patience.