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John MacDonald: Willis, Seymour or Peters? Who I think should be Deputy PM

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Nov 2023, 1:30PM
Photo / Michael Craig
Photo / Michael Craig

John MacDonald: Willis, Seymour or Peters? Who I think should be Deputy PM

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Nov 2023, 1:30PM

It appears Christopher Luxon’s tight lid on things could be about to blow, with all this talk about who is and who isn’t going to be Deputy Prime Minister in the new government.

If I was National’s deputy leader Nicola Willis, I’d be finding it hard to keep the smile on the dial. But she’s managing it so far, from what I’ve seen of her on TV outside the hotel in Auckland.

Because I would have thought that she was a shoe-in to be 2-I-C. But not so. Well, not according to ACT leader David Seymour. He's saying that, of the three parties signing up to the coalition, ACT is the second-largest (based on share of the vote) and so it should get more seats around the Cabinet table than NZ First.

And one of those seats should be the Deputy Prime Minister’s seat.

As one reporter pointed out, if that was to happen - if we had Christoher Luxon Prime Minister and David Seymour deputy - they would be the least experienced PM and Deputy combo in New Zealand history. Because neither of them have been in Cabinet before and Luxon is only into his second term in Parliament.

What that reporter didn’t say, is that if Nicola Willis is deputy - the Luxon/Willis combo would be even less experienced. Because Seymour has four years more experience as an MP than Nicola Willis. He got into Parliament in 2014. Nicola Willis was elected four years later.

And like Luxon and Seymour, Nicola Willis has never been a Cabinet minister before, either.

So, if choosing who of the three becomes Deputy Prime Minister based on experience, Winston Peters wins hands down, doesn’t he? What’s more, he knows what the job is all about.

He’s been Deputy Prime Minister twice. The first time with Jim Bolger. The second time with Jacinda Ardern. And you’d be crazy not to think that, right now, he’ll be gunning to be Deputy Prime Minister for a third time. I would if I was him. You would too, wouldn’t you?

But, until Luxon put down the pre-election welcome mat for NZ First, Seymour was probably thinking that if it wasn’t going to be Nicola Willis, then he’d be the person for the job.

Because, there was ACT, polling above the 10 percent mark a lot of the time. The final result wasn’t quite what he would have expected. ACT ended up getting 8.64 percent (or 11 seats) while NZ First got 6.08 percent (or 8 seats).

So, with just three seats difference between them, I think Seymour’s belief that ACT is the dominant minor coalition partner is a bit of a stretch.

And I can’t work out whether this is Seymour throwing his toys out of the cot because he’s already been told he won’t be Deputy Prime Minister. Or is he warming us up to the fact that he is?

But I think for Christopher Luxon to trot out this line that the Deputy Prime Minister role is not much more than “ceremonial”. That was the word he used yesterday. He said it’s a ceremonial role. Just someone who looks after the shop when the PM’s not around. They don’t really do much.

For him to say that, either shows just how inexperienced he is. Or that’s what he told David Seymour when he told him he’s not going to be 2-I-C. And so now, we’ve got Seymour going against the whole confidential approach they’ve taken during these coalition talks, and he’s telling us why he should be deputy.

Luxon’s very obviously brassed-off. He threw-in another Weetbix joke when he was asked about it. But you can see through that. He wasn’t laughing on the inside. And he said as much when he pointed out that all parties had agreed to keep the talks confidential.

He also said that he want “the right person in the right place - with the right skills, abilities and experience and competency to do the job.”

So if he wants someone with “experience”, then Winston’s his man.

And if he wants a deputy he can rely on and trust they aren’t going to go AWOL when he’s off pressing the flesh around the world, David Seymour isn’t his man.

Because, what David Seymour’s been doing over the past 24 hours, tells me he is completely unfit to be Deputy Prime Minister. What’s more, this is the guy who threatened before the election not to go into coalition and to sit in the cross-benches because “he’s not there for the baubles of power”.

What a load of old nonsense that turned out to be. But, even though Winston Peters has been Deputy Prime Minister twice before, there is no way the leader of a party that only scraped past the five percent threshold should be Deputy Prime Minister.

That’s why I’m in no doubt that the person who should be Deputy Prime Minister, is Nicola Willis.

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