Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: Key and Goff no pushovers

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No one can call Phil Goff a loser. Photo / Dean Purcell
No one can call Phil Goff a loser. Photo / Dean Purcell

It's better to fall on principle than stand on lies and there's no way John Key will sink to Winston Peters' level, go back on his word and form a government by doing a deal with New Zealand First.

Not that he needs to after last night's votes were counted. But commentators like National Radio's Brent Edwards said it was "hard to believe" Key wouldn't renege if Peters was in a position of influence. Political scientists agreed Key could succumb to temptation. They underestimate his resolve.

A former forex dealer, Key has nerves of steel. He could stare down Winston Peters, the press gallery, the paparazzi, and then some. He knows when to hold 'em and knows when to fold 'em. Those who take calculated risks for a living don't make reckless gambles.

If, for instance, commentators imagined after "cuppagate" Key was going to back down and say yeah, use those tapes, they picked the wrong guy.

But Peters' victory will be short-lived. Think leopards and spots. Peters will do his best to bring down whatever house of cards we have as a government and, once more, taxpayers might have to pay to rebuild by going back to the polls.

Meanwhile, nobody can call Phil Goff a loser. Despite the negativism, he campaigned gutsily. Boxing coach Angelo Dundee once said when you're on the ropes, come out punching, and Goff did that.

Goff beat off David Cunliffe's efforts to sabotage him. Forget the oleaginous Cunliffe as future leader, David Shearer's the only viable prospect. David Parker's nice but a wonk and Andrew Little's mistrusted by his own caucus and didn't have an impact in New Plymouth. It didn't help that Act accommodated National with no candidate in New Plymouth - vote splitting on the right might have given Little security of a seat, not merely list placing.

Peters did one good thing for Key - he saved John Banks. Key's supporters shuddered at NZ First's resurrection.

But the Act Party of freedom and choice is well gone, replaced by National's little helpers.

The reason for its fall from grace was Rodney Hide, who drafted the obituaries when he let David Garrett into Parliament, knowing he'd obtained a passport with a dead baby's identity.

In some ways Banks surviving is a pity. Kiwis are over his and Don Brash's anachronisms, their racism and fiscal pain. They need to let young people rebuild.

- Herald on Sunday

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