Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Key: Power-sharing off the table

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / APN
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / APN

John Key this morning scoffed at speculation that National might consider any power-sharing arrangement with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as though it were complete fantasy.

But the notion is not that off-the-planet that is hasn't been contemplated. Here's some of the context.

Back in 1996, at the final stages of coalition negotiations, NZ First asked Labour for a power sharing arrangement in which Peters would be Prime Minister for some of the term and Helen Clark the other.

It was a closely guarded secret at the time but sources in both NZ First and Labour have confirmed that to me in recent years.

The request happened after National had agreed to NZ First's request to make Peters the Treasurer for three years, which he eventually became.

Peters' negotiators went back to Labour and made it clear one thing would beat that, Prime Minister for some of the time.

It was instantly rejected by Labour. Peters himself did not make the request of Labour. One of his negotiators did.

RNZ's Kathryn Ryan alluded to the issue on Nine to Noon yesterday. She was in the Press Gallery in 2005 when the issue last arose. Some of Peters' backbenchers - there were 13 MPs then - had been having subterranean talks with National backbenchers about giving Peters a stint at being Prime Minister. I wrote about it in May 2005 after getting it confirmed from three NZ First sources and two National sources.

Peters at the time wasn't exactly furious but said if any of his MPs had a mind to their list ranking they would not be discussing it.

As the election got closer and his party's poll ratings started to slide, he became grumpier and grumpier and blamed his fall in support on the story.

Nothing like power-sharing actually eventuated; Peters became Labour's foreign minister and his party supported Labour for its third term.

Herald correspondent John Armstrong raised the power-sharing issue at the weekend in his political column following Key's decision last week to lift his ban on working with NZ First post-election.

In light of John's column, I asked the Prime Minister this morning if he would rule out a power-sharing deal and he said "that's not on the table."

Pressed further, he said ''No, Winston Peters won't become Prime Minister."

ZB's Barry Soper asked him if it were put on the table, would he consider it, and Key said No.


Until now, former Prime Minister Helen Clark has been extremely guarded in her comments about wanting the top job at the United Nations.

But in an interview with The Guardian, one of her favourite papers, she contemplates the possibility: "If there's enough support for the style of leadership that I have, it will be interesting."

The successor for Ban Ki Moon will need to be found next year so it's not surprising Clark is more willing to discuss it.

- NZ Herald

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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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