There's been some interesting machinations by some parts of the business community as they have fuelled the prospect that National's Bill English should make Greens co-leader James Shaw a coalition offer he can't refuse.

Shaw would undoubtedly jump at the offer of the finance portfolio (as well as Deputy Prime Minister) in a coalition government between National and the Greens; that is if his party was open to forging an accommodation.

But there has been no evidence (yet) that English did grasp the notion to try and tempt Shaw with major roles in a National-led Cabinet - as business intermediaries have suggested and bloggers and journalists have promoted.

If anything, what the behind scenes business players have achieved is to embolden English to do what he should have done much earlier which was to call New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and say he wanted to get on with the post-election negotiations.


Negotiations that would be circumscribed by the tight timeframe Peters has laid out before he declares which major party he will effectively allow to form a government.

English does have status in this game. But he appeared to forget (of was he fearful of being rebuffed?) that he should also play for the advantage.

Not simply wait for Peters to dictate the play.

His overture appears to have prompted a courteous response from the NZ First leader.

This is welcome.

What was promoted to several journalists went like this.

If the Bolger Government could have successfully offered Peters the role of Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister after the 1996 election, why shouldnt English do the same with the Greens co-leader and secure National-led government for another three years?

There is a fundamental issue with anointing Shaw as the next Finance Minister.


First, he has made it clear that it would be difficult to perform an about face after his party campaigned to change the Government.

Second, the offer overstates the Greens share of the vote at the 2017 election.

When Peters and Bolger reached agreement on the prime roles for the NZ First Leader in a coalition government, it was off the back of a much stronger showing by the junior party. Peters campaign resulted in NZ First achieving 13.4 per cent of the vote at the 1996 election. NZ First held 17 seats in 1996 (Peters Tauranga seat, five Maori seats and 11 list seats). This gave Peters a stronger claim to legitimacy compared to the Greens which can only (at this stage) muster seven seats. That may change after the special votes are confirmed.

Third, there is a major economic gulf that would have to be bridged before English could agree to Shaw fronting such a significant role in a National-led Government.

Bolger finessed a similar situation by making Bill Birch finance minister - effectively putting him as number two to Peters as Treasurer. But tensions still emerged which suggests a cross-benches accommodation - such as that forged by Helen Clark in 2005 - would work better.

The fact is English does have a strong claim to lead the next government. Nationals 46 per cent of the party vote is just marginally behind John Keys wins in 2011 and 2014. English also had to contest against a charismatic Labour leader in Jacinda Ardern. With Labour on 35.8 per cent, NZ First on 7.5 per cent and the Greens on 5.9 per cent, National was clearly number one on election night. There has been little to hint it will lose pole position after the special votes are counted.


What English must get on with is looking for the common ground with NZ First.

On election night he said: I think the mandate National has is clearly stronger than Labour, thats reflected in the votes, particularly in the way that as the campaign went on Nationals support strengthened considerably, which indicates that people want to see the the economic success continue, and not be disrupted by a significant change in economic policy direction.

But the voters have also indicated that there are issues they would expect to be addressed where they see Mr Peters as having some of the answers there and we would expect to get on and discuss that with him.

Peters has keep his agenda close to his chest.

There are some major areas where NZ Firsts policies would sit better with a Labour-led Government, including changing the Reserve Bank Act, increasing government spending and tightening immigration.

But English is a realist.


National knows it will have to give ground to form a government and that negotiations mean compromise.

And right now the only figure even talking about a potential dance with Bill English is Winston Peters, not, James Shaw.

Pressure is now on the Greens from business allies to shift base.

They are in a strong position to achieve policy wins - not just Ministerial jobs - from National and thus change the thrust of the next Government, if not the Government itself.