Now we know. Winston loves Jacinda. With red rose in hand, the happy couple drive off on honeymoon. James Shaw snuggles into the back seat. Someone needs to carry the bags!

Left standing at the altar is a dejected Bill English. So close but so far. The family nod and mutter their sympathy. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

The 2017 and New Zealand's eighth MMP election, has provided the nation with its most dramatic post-electoral courtship yet. Eclipsing the very first riveting episode back in 1996.

From election night on, tensions have mounted. An expectant public has been teased and titivated. For nearly 4 weeks, a fawning and frenzied media scrum has been a spectacle in itself.


Having had a front row seat in 1996, the outcome for me was inevitable. Peters was always going to go with Labour. The pre-nuptial love dance was pure theatre. Scene on scene was played out as expected. But Winston was never going to fall into the National Party honey trap again.

Winston knew, as in 1996, going with National and the status quo would have been the kiss of death. As I discovered in my own tangles at that time, and Winston knows full well, you cannot win against the formidable government machine.

Back then, Winston had to deal with a hardened and cynical National Party-led Cabinet. With a phalanx of government officials all marching to the beat of the lead party drum, the odds then and now are overwhelming. There has to be regime change for the minor party's policy programme to progress.

Bill English's election night proclamation of a "moral victory" was the defining moment. Not in itself the fatal blow, but rather symptomatic of Bill and his party's inherent 'born to rule' psychological blind spot.

In the MMP era you need friends. Being the biggest party on election night with less than 51% of the vote provides no actual or moral anything. Over the past three years National and Bill English failed to cultivate political friends.

There were opportunities. Standing aside in Northland was one of them. Rapprochement and early accommodation with Winston Peters or Ron Mark in Wairarapa would have made the difference. So too, opening up a conversation with the Greens.

The Trump-like, bone-headed belligerence of National on the environment, as represented by English's right-hand man Nick Smith, exemplifies the flawed National Party born to rule character. Here too, English had his chance. A bold and early environment policy turnaround, and disposing of his dead weight buddy, could have made all the difference.

Actively engaging with the Greens and a savvy response to environmentally aware public sentiment on climate change, cleaning up our rivers and selling water, would have enough for National to hold the treasury benches. But Bill and the boys don't do sharing.

A good and mostly competent leader, Bill always possessed this inherent blind spot. It can be found in his capacity to ignore for years, the reality of people living in cars, of a health system under stress and a housing crisis of monumental proportions. Bill discovered poverty a week out from the election.

Winston Peters already has a legacy. He will be remembered as the founding father of the MMP era. Peters understands MMP better than anyone. As a result and despite the bemoaning chorus, New Zealand has grown, what in my view is one of the most successful and democratic systems of elected representation in the world.

A triumph for democracy in this country is that the newly elected Parliament has 27 representatives of Maori descent. Nowhere else in the world is there such representation of a conquered indigenous people. There are 38 women. Asian representation needs to grow and has every chance of doing so in this environment.

There are few places in the world that match the ensuing peace that comes from all the nation's voices having their day in the sun. Not many roadside bombs here.

Winston Peters made every one of the 189,000 votes for his party count. He picked up those votes and ensured that their voice was heard. Winston then translated that support into government policy, using every skill he possessed. He did his job.

Meanwhile 169,000 Green voters essentially have had their vote squandered. This is at a time when the environmental agenda should be dominating the political landscape. Bill English would have handed environmental management to the Greens on a plate.

The green voice has been rendered mute by a self-absorbed, soviet-styled Green Party. Look out in 2020 for a true green movement that will sweep aside the current politburo. This critical environmental voice needs replacing with far better political operatives.

What of the future for Bill English? The media hounds are barking for his exit from the stage.

My advice is learn from the theatre master Winston. The show's not over until the tall lady sings.

Neil Kirton is a Hawke's Bay Regional councillor. He is a former New Zealand First list MP and entered Parliament in 1996. He was Associate Minister of Health in the NZ First/National coalition government when Bill English was the Minister of Health. Mr Kirton left NZ First in 1998 to become an independent. All opinions are his and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.