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There was an air of inevitability around the polls this week.
It pays to be restrained in putting too much weight into any one poll, but the trends are what matter and the trends are suggesting Winston Peters and New Zealand First might break 5% and make it back to parliament.
All manner of pundits have come out and suggested that Christopher Luxon should make a call and do what he’s refused to do in the race so far, follow in John Key’s footsteps and rule out working with New Zealand First after the election.
I think Luxon’s best opportunity has passed.
Back in May, I wrote that the National leader was strategically well-positioned to rule out Peters, so long as he managed the process as delicately as might be possible. He’d need to be respectful and deferential to New Zealand First’s supporters, explaining that it was less about the party’s leader and more about forming a simple, clean, two-party coalition to counteract what he continues to describe as a potential ‘coalition of chaos’ on the other side.
Given Winston Peters’ and David Seymour’s open distain for each other, the ‘coalition of chaos’ barb is now much better suited to the centre-right block.
Think about the reaction if Christopher Luxon ruled out working with New Zealand First, today. It’s not impossible it would have the desired effect from National’s perspective, but it comes with much greater risk than when New Zealand First was polling at 3%.
“Why have you ruled them out now, when you’ve been asked so many times over the last few months?”
“... Ahhh... because for the first time it actually looks like he’s gonna’ get in?”
It would martyr Winston Peters. It would play into the narrative that the major parties were colluding to exclude him and New Zealand First from parliament. It would breathe oxygen into his campaign and potentially galvanise his support base.
If Luxon had ruled out New Zealand First while they were polling at 3%, it wouldn’t have mattered if none of those 3% changed their minds and the vote was essentially wasted. But it potentially would have stopped new supporters from coming across in the subsequent months and deciding to back Winston Peters.
Now the party’s hitting 5%, and it’s a totally different equation.
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