National to stick with ACT, UnitedFuture and Maori
MICHAEL FOX AND LAURA WALTERS
Prime Minister John Key has confirmed electorate deals with ACT and United Future, but ruled out accommodating the Conservative Party.
Key said they had “carefully considered” a deal with the Conservatives in East Coast Bays, where leader Colin Craig is standing, but decided it was “a bridge too far”.
Key said it became increasingly clear that the only way Craig could win East Coast Bays, Foreign Minister Murray McCully’s seat, was for McCully not to stand.
“We weighed up a lot of different factors but my preference has always been to give voters a choice... even in Epsom and Ohariu we’re absolutely giving National voters a choice, and many of them, I’m sure, will give two ticks for blue. But in the case of East Coast Bays it became pretty clear that unless we pulled our candidates and didn't give National voters a choice, it was very unlikely that Colin Craig would get there, and on that basis we didn't feel comfortable with that.”
Key said Craig’s often controversial reputation was not a significant factor in the decision, nor was NZ First leader Winston Peters’ veiled threat to stand in East Coast Bays if National and the Conservatives struck a deal, he said.
Craig said he was neither surprised nor disappointed by the decision, saying the Conservative Party had never requested a deal to get a “free run” into Parliament.
“I don’t think I can beat Murray McCully, but my goal was always to maximise party vote,” he said.
Craig was confident the Conservatives could secure 5 per cent of the party vote to get into Parliament without a deal from National.
“We feel we need to get there on our own merits, We think that’s a much better way to get into Parliament.”
Key said they wanted National’s supporters in Epsom to back ACT’s David Seymour, and for those in Ohariu to back UnitedFuture’s Peter Dunne, with their candidate votes.
“We will continue to seek to maximise our party votes in those electorates and that’s what National party candidates will be working hard to do.”
But he would not be following his own advice in Epsom, where he lives, with his two ticks going to National.
He denied this was a case of telling voters to do one thing and doing another himself, saying that while he was an Epsom resident, he was first and foremost the National Party leader.
“My primary responsibility is to the National Party and around the country our strong message is two ticks for National.”
Key said he believed it was important for voters to be fully informed before elections.
National’s partnership with ACT, the Maori Party and UnitedFuture had been a successful combination and they wanted to continue with that, and they would look to form partnerships with those parties post-election, even if National was able to govern alone.
Key reiterated National would also consider working with NZ First and the Conservatives after the election.
He called Peters to come clean over who he would prefer to deal with post-election.
Peters has consistently refused to say.
Key said since 1996 there had never been a majority government, and parties needed to provide the public with that information.
“I would’ve thought all parties owe it to say who they would work with and who they won’t.”
Key said he would also encourage voters on the Maori roll to back the Maori Party candidates in their electorates, but to give National their party votes.
ACT leader Jamie Whyte said they could have won Epsom anyway, but welcomed the announcement, which he said would not come as a surprise to anyone.
“I think everybody was expecting it, so I don't think it changes things really.”
Whyte said that with this all but guaranteeing ACT a seat in Parliament, it would boost their party vote throughout New Zealand as supporters knew their vote would not be wasted.
Prime Minister John Key has said it is difficult under MMP for one party to win an absolute majority, so the big parties will almost always need support parties to form a government.
However, if small parties on the same side of the political fence fail to reach the 5 per cent threshold, their votes are wasted and in effect are distributed around the other successful parties
The only way to avoid that is if a minor party wins an electorate seat, when the party qualifies for its share of the seats.
For that reason National has effectively given a "nod and a wink" to its supporters in seats where its allies stand, such as ACT in Epsom and UnitedFuture in Ohariu.
In the past leaders, including Key, have sent the signal by having a - literal - cup of tea with allies, but this time around he has said he will be more up-front about the deals and he has encouraged National voters to give their electorate votes to David Seymour in Epsom and to Peter Dunne in Ohariu.
In the past National has been the main player in such deals.
However, Labour also did it in 1999, when the Greens were struggling to reach 5 per cent, by helping Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons win the Coromandel seat.
In 1999 and 2002 in Epsom National's Richard Worth easily beat ACT's Rodney Hide but ACT won more than 7 per cent of the vote so their future was assured.
But in 2005 ACT's support slumped to 1.5 per cent and, partly because National supporters voted strategically, Hide won a 3102 majority bringing a second MP, Heather Roy, in on his coat tails.
Hide easily defeated Worth again in 2008, and although ACT only won 3.65 per cent of the vote it qualified for five seats overall.
In 2011 Paul Goldsmith for National made it clear he did not want to win the seat and campaigned for the party vote only. Key's infamous "cup of tea" with ACT's John Banks ensured National voters again voted strategically and ensured ACT survived, even though the party only won just over 1 per cent.
In Ohariu National did not stand a candidate in 1999 and Peter Dunne won easily.
National did stand in 2002 but Dunne kept a big majority to 12,534 and went into Government backing Labour.
In 2005 Dunne's majority was trimmed to 7702 and National was beaten into third place by Labour's Charles Chauvel. National leader Don Brash and Dunne had a cuppa just before the election to show they could work together, but after the election Dunne backed Labour and became a minister.
In 2008, with a three-way race, Dunne beat Chauvel again, but this time by only 1006 votes although the party vote was too low to bring in any more MPs. Prior to the election he and Key held a joint press conference where they said they could work together. Dunne went into Government as a minister with National.
In 2011 National gave a broad hint to its supporters, although candidate Katrina Shanks didn't follow it, and Dunne beat Chauvel by 1392 votes although again his party vote was too low to add to the party's tally of MPs.