The cartoon in Monday's Chronicle draws a circle around the circumstances we're in.

In picturing the election outcome as a mixture of Married At First Sight and The Bachelor, our cartoonist captures the current meme of politics as an extension of reality TV.

Winston Peters has been wooed and won twice before and each of those matches ended in acrimony.

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Jay Kuten: Blind loyalty holds -- even when it makes no sense

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I've never been completely certain of where Peters' heart lies with respect to the issues of party policy. Perhaps it's the fact that he's been in both National and Labour governments.

His own familial origins make for easy speculation. On his Maori father's side he can claim adherence to Ngati Wai and from his Scottish mother to Clan McIness, two seemingly contrasting worlds.

I'm not necessarily positing internal conflict here - especially as I disavow any attempt at dime-store psychoanalysis at a distance. In the United States there are people in my profession, whom I know and have reason otherwise to respect, who are wasting their time and their professional reputations on speculations about President Trump's supposed diagnosis.

But I wrote here a few years ago, when Peters returned to Parliament in 2011 - having been rejected by the voters of Tauranga in 2008 - that there were two Winstons.

Winston-in-office was more of a standard issue politician, scrambling for power, no matter the party; out-of-office Winston seemed different, truly populist rather than self-interested, and passionate about the issues.

The columns written in this newspaper by out-of-office Winston were provocative, well-written and challenging of the government and the status quo. One representative column, entitled Time to start Crying over Milk Prices, takes on the banks, the retail food businesses, the telecommunications industry and the petroleum companies. In doing so, he sounded downright bolshy (in both senses).

Prices in food, gasoline and telecommunications are not only too high, according to out-of-office Winston, but because of their political clout these industries subvert market factors. The industries and the respective prices should be regulated, he says.

Once elected, Winston-in-office is strangely silent on these very issues, the air seeming to have gone out of them with the elevation of his personal balloon to Parliament's heights.

Now he's involved in a new courtship, having been placed by our electoral system in the position of kingmaking, the process resembling more one of those medieval marriages of convenience than any democratic process.

The argument in favour of a conjunction with National rests on the larger number of voters who chose National as a reflection of popular political will. That proposition falls flat when the votes of Labour and the Greens are added. The difference is only 45,000 in National's favour - not exactly a rousing mandate or a clear choice.

If policy is to be the decisive factor in the determination of the next government, then the issues that Winston Peters has promoted ought to loom large. Of interest to our own hopes is Peters' stated intention to turn back government agencies to the regions with resulting increased employment locally.

He has campaigned as a populist nationalist who wants to restrict ownership of residential land and farmland to New Zealand citizens. He'd like to reduce immigration, and he is opposed to asset sales, especially to non-New Zealanders.

He would like to buy back the three energy companies that were sold off under National despite public opposition to their sale. He opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership or any version that includes the Investor State Dispute Settlement provision. While he has other arrows in his quiver, a sharp one is the re-entry to the Pike River mine.

Most of these demands fit with the way forward for Labour and probably also the Greens, much less so for a hook-up with National.

Either way, it seems particularly unfitting for democracy that when 2.6 million New Zealanders cast a vote, the final decision on the next government would be left to the singular plebiscite of one man.

Jay Kuten
Jay Kuten

Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.