This was the right thing for them to do, for one simple reason. I posted back in December 2013 that this decision came down to simple maths. If Key thought the Conservatives could muster double the votes that a decision to back the Conservatives would cost National in the centre-ground, then he should do the deal. If not, he should not.
All the stuff about Winston running was a bit of a late sideshow, as the decision had likely already been made.1
This morning’s Stuff report says: “A deal was unlikely to be worth it for Key, if the Conservatives were not polling over 3.5 per cent.” Assuming this figure came from within National somewhere, this shows he is estimating that almost 2% of the country would switch from National to a change party if they did the deal.
Key has clearly come to the correct realisation that enough middle ground New Zealanders find Colin Craig and the Conservatives so toxic that supporting him would cost the right more than it would gain. Colin, Key has decided, was was just too crazy for New Zealanders to stomach. Good call.
All the talk this afternoon will be of principle – or as close as they can come to it while still nodding to United Future and ACT. That talk will be a charade. It came down to simple numbers.