So, the election happened. And rather than seeing the stunning Jacindamania victory we were hoping for, instead we’re left with an uncomfortable situation for everyone. National has clearly lost its mandate: their vote dropped, despite sucking up the 4% bigot vote from the Conservatives, and their coalition partners were eliminated. But Labour hasn’t won one either, even in combination with the Greens. While the special votes will probably shift a few seats around, that overall outcome won’t change. The Greens have already said that they won’t support National, and despite the verbage from pundits desperate to make word-count, they’re not going to change their mind (hint: its in the name. They’re Greens, so supporting dolphin-murdering, river-poisoning, National-Park-mining environmental vandals is off the table, even if you ignore the commitment to social justice). So its basicly a question of who Winston decides to support.
If he supports National in a Black-Blue government, its pretty much a re-run of 1996: tough on crime, shitting on immigrants and beneficiaries. No more privatisation, and no increase in the pension age, but it will also mean broadly the status quo with added nastiness. Especially to Maori. Winston wants to eliminate the Maori seats, and English has refused to rule it out. Which tells us that the big difference between English and John Key is that English is a racist, just like Don Brash.
If he supports Labour, then things get messier, because it will also need to involve the Greens. There’s significant common ground there over housing, worker’s rights and economic justice, but also significant differences around climate change and fresh water. While a Red-Black-Green “Kenya” or “Afghan” coalition with all three parties in Cabinet is possible, the differences (and Winston’s hostility to the Greens) may mean that one party sits out and simply provides confidence and supply. And TBH, given how government with Winston usually goes, I think the Greens should take that option: demand one big concession for confidence and supply, but promise nothing else, and effectively sit on the cross-benches to keep Winston honest. They’d lose the ability to push the government in a greener direction, but TBH I think the extra power to veto stuff is more important – and more likely to appeal to their supporters. Being in Cabinet with Winston when he shits on immigrants and refugees is probably not a place the Greens want to be.
Regardless, I expect whatever government which emerges to be unstable. Winston will throw a tantrum and walk out, or he’ll want to retire to a corrupt sinecure appointment in London or Washington. And if he goes left, there’s the added danger of National encouraging waka-jumpers. On current numbers, they only need to bribe two junior NZFirst MPs with Ministerial salaries to have a majority, and as we’ve seen from 1997, they’re not above that. Its not going to be a comfortable term. But it will probably be an exciting one.