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

Key plays wait-and-see on party favours

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Mark Mitchell

National will leave decisions about endorsement of other parties such as Act and the Conservatives possibly as late as the election campaign, Prime Minister John Key said yesterday, although he is still coy about when that will be.

He said reserving decisions on electoral accommodation would have been the case no matter who had won the Act leadership contest and Epsom selection.


Novice politician Jamie Whyte was elected Act leader at the week and David Seymour Act's Epsom candidate for the 2014 election, to replace outgoing leader and Epsom MP John Banks.

Asked to explain why National would consider Act if it was polling zero per cent, Mr Key said at his post cabinet press conference: "That's a really good question and put it to me two or three weeks before an election ...I'll have a much clearer idea of what their polling is like."

However he made the point that Act's win in Epsom in 2008 "that effecitvely got Naitonal over the line:" the electorate seat allowed it bring in four more MPs for its 3.65 per cent of the party vote nationwide, despite polling below the 5 per cent threshold.

That suggests that all things being equal, voters in Epsom will get a direct message from National that it is in National's interests for it to elect an Act MP.

"I am quite keen to be as transparent as I can be prior to the election."

Under questioning, Mr Key would not be drawn on the fact that National could even gain an advantage backing Act in Epsom even if Act's party vote across the country remained at zero per cent because it could create an overhang.

If Act polled zero and was entitled to none of the 120 MPs allocated under the party vote result, but it won Epsom, it would still be able to keep Epsom and the Parliament would increase by a seat to 121, called an overhang, which would boost the numbers in the right bloc.

Mr Key has outlined a two-step process by National on coalitions to replace the symbolic "cup of tea" photo opportunity between him and other party leaders.

The first step took place on January 21 when he stated the parties that National could work with after the election - Act, United Future, Maori Party, Conservative and New Zealand First - and said he will make more explicit statements about electorate seats closer to the election.

Mr Key hinted that if the election were held before the G20 in Australia in mid November it would well in advance - meaning late September or October.

He indicated would not want it so close to the event that the issue who was Prime Minister had not been decided.

"If we had an election exactly around that time would New sure to be represented by the Prime Minister?" he said when asked what factors would determine the date.

It could also take a long time to form a Government if the election result were a complicated, such as the scenario in the latest political poll showing New Zealand First holding the balance of power, and specials not being finalised for two weeks.

"It's just not a straight forward process if you don't have a clean outcome."

Asked if that meant he was suggesting an election before the G20, he said "or after."

Labour leader David Cunliffe said the G20 invite was a "nice to have"and should not be a factor in determining the election date. He said he was more concerned about the timing of the Royal visit.

"New Zealand is not even a member of the G20 so the G20 is not going to bat an eyelid whether we are there or not.

A more important factor was the timing of the Royal visit in late April - the usual convention was that any such visits should be at least 6 months before an election. "I'd really challenge him to say whether he was going to abide by that convention."

He also believed there should be a full term of Parliament, rather than breaking up to go to the polls early but believed the Prime Minister wanted to go early before the polls slid too far against him.

- NZ Herald

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