Matthew Hooton articulates his theory yet again on Nine to Noon today. It goes like this:
- After the election Winston Peters will hold the balance of power.
- He can then say to both National and Labour ‘whoever makes me Prime Minister gets to be in government.’
- National refuses (why?) But Labour accepts.
- And it doesn’t matter that Labour leader Andrew Little has ruled this outcome out, because the decision – Hooton reckons – could be made by Grant Robertson, in exchange for being Foreign Minister, and on the Green’s side, by Metiria Turei and James Shaw in exchange for Ministerial portfolios.
- So a vote for Labour is clearly a vote for Winston Peters as Prime Minister!
The problem with all of this takes us back to the oldest rule of democratic politics. Learn to count. Let’s say that New Zealand First has ten MPs. Plus Grant, Meyt and James, who are supposedly backing this deal in exchange for senior portfolios. That’s thirteen. They still need 48 MPs in Labour and the Greens to support the arrangement and form a government. And the majority of those MPs, in exchange for ditching the Labour leader and putting a guy they mostly really don’t like from another party in charge of their government, which is likely to be very unstable and very unpopular and lead to an extended term in opposition or, possibly, electoral annihilation, will get nothing. There simply aren’t enough baubles to hand out to make the deal palatable to everyone.
We think of parties as blocs of votes because under normal conditions MPs will always give support to their own party to form a government. But there’s no way you’d get the whole of the Labour caucus to back this. And I’m pretty confident the same is true of National. ‘You want us to ditch John Key and Bill English and put Peters in charge of the country so that Joyce can be Finance Minister?’ Why would they say yes to that?
No one who knows anything about politics believes this could work. And Hooton knows a lot about politics. It’s a line, manufactured to create fear about the potential dire consequences of voting Labour, without any relationship to political reality. It’s stupid.