Peter Dunne’s resignation makes it highly unlikely, given its current poll ratings, that National could form a Government with only its remaining support partners; ACT and the Maori Party.
It also effectively removes National’s total seats tally by one and altogether adds up to the high likelihood that regardless of whether National or Labour leads the next Government, Winston Peters and NZ First will have to be part of it.
Meanwhile, Labour is dismissing a report from one of its candidates that the party is preparing to set aside $10 billion to meet NZ First coalition demands.
Dunne’s value to National has been that though he scores less than one per cent of the party vote; not enough to qualify for a seat; he wins an electorate seat.
Thus National effectively gets an extra MP plus all of the MPs its own list vote entitles it to.
Even if its candidate, Brett Hudson, now wins Ohariu National will still only get the total number of MPs that its party vote entitles it to.
Prime Minister Bill English was putting a brave face on events yesterday and was refusing to concede that Dunne’s resignation meant National would have to do a deal with NZ First to form a Government.
“No, we don’t concede that,” he said.
“We are working hard to lift our party vote because we would want to form a strong Government after September 23 and if we can successfully lift our vote, then that is real possibility.”
But to be absolutely confident of that National would need between 58 and 60 seats.
That would mean National would need at least 47% of the overall vote.
The Curia public poll average currently has National on 44.8%.
And what is starting to emerge as an additional complication is that the Maori Party may no longer be as loyal to National as it has been in Government.
A statement on Sunday from Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox has only reinforced those suspicions.
“I know our people lean left and they’d love to see us in a coalition arrangement with Jacinda, Metiria not anymore, but somebody from the Greens and Marama Fox and Te Ururoa Flavell,” Fox told TV3’s “The Hui”.
What all this adds up to is that privately both within the Beehive, and at the top of the party, there is a recognition that English will be unlikely to be able to form another Government without NZ First.
At the same time, Labour has made its choice clear as it continues to raid the Greens voters.
Yesterday it proposed the same railcar from Auckland to Hamilton and Tauranga that the Greens supported last week.
Meanwhile, the Labour candidate for Wairarapa, Kieran McAnulty, is reported to have told the Dannevirke Chamber of Commerce that Labour would keep $10 billion aside for coalition costs.
“If we have to make a deal with Winston Peters, it’s not going to be cheap,” Mr McAnulty said.
But Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson spoke to McAnulty after POLITIK questioned him about the report and said the comments were meant as “ tongue and cheek”.
“If we end up in discussions with potential partners we will do so in good faith,” Robertson said.
“Our budget does not have a specific allocation for coalition partners.
“As in the Budget, on our fiscal plan there is room for unannounced policies and the forward spending allowance (from whence Nats got their health money today!)”
Meanwhile, the right-wing Taxpayers’ Union claims that NZ First has promised $23 billion in new spending over the next three years
There will be more detail available on how much extra cash is in the system for both main parties to fund their promises with and to accommodate Peters tomorrow when Treasury releases the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update.