Key Points:

What conveniently short memories some people have. As National's pipedream of outright victory slowly evaporates, it's trying to frighten voters into thinking a coalition which excluded National and Act would be a dangerous thing.

National leader John Key says a "Helen Clark-led government cobbled together with all sort of different parties" with "competing interests" would not be in the best interests of New Zealand.

A Herald readers' panel last week went even further. Of the 100 who replied, 60 per cent said if a coalition headed by a party that "lost" the election (in the current state of the polls, read Labour), took office, they would not regard it as the rightful or legitimate government.

Only 20 per cent said they would accept it while the other 20 per cent were "unsure." I'm not sure what this means. An exodus of our readers' panel to the Ureweras to join the Tuhoe revolutionaries? At least that would give the 600 extra policeman that National is promising, something to do!

The irony is that three years ago, Mr Key's predecessor Dr Brash was trying to stitch up a coalition of the disparate, every bit as scary as his "five-headed monster."

And Dr Brash was doing it from the "illegitimate" position of being leader of the "losing" big party.

In September 2005, Labour won 45,506 more votes than National, ending up with 41.

10 per cent of votes to National's 39.10 per cent. Did Dr Brash stand back like some quaint gentleman cricketer and say, "jolly bad luck chaps, Helen is the rightful ruler"?

Of course he didn't. He did what John Key will do and tried to sweet-talk the small parties into his bed.

After three weeks of intense lobbying, Dr Brash wrote to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters claiming he had lured the Maori Party, United First and Act New Zealand into his camp and was "willing and able to enter into discussions with New Zealand First to form a National-led government.

I'd like to discuss with you the key policy platforms that would, with NZ First's involvement, form the basis of such a government".

The plans turned to custard, and Mr Peters and fellow chameleon, Peter Dunne from United Future, donned their red wigs instead.

It was only after he lost this tussle that Dr Brash's comments about MMP became reminiscent of Mr Key's recent statements. Out-manoeuvred and sour, he called the coalition "very Mickey Mouse" and "the structure inherently unstable".

Whatever you think of the last three years, "inherently unstable" is not a fair description. Maybe he was thinking back to 1996 to 1999, and National's disastrous failure to manage a coalition with its one-time colleague, Winston Peters.

The sniping about MMP is a smokescreen for the critics' inability to adjust to the new rules. They're talking horse racing when the game is now chess. Or as former Labour leader Mike Moore once put it, under MMP, "silver and bronze can beat a gold."

The Maori Party recently called for compulsory New Zealand history lessons for immigrants. Why just immigrants?

Why not for political candidates and voters as well? Then the historically-challenged would be less likely to get away with talk of coalition-forming as some form of unnatural behaviour.

They'd learn that under the old first past the post system we were ruled by coalitions as well. It's just that in those bad old days, the deal-making and policy scraps between factions went on within the big umbrella parties out of public view.

The National Party arose in 1936 out of a coalition between the rural based Reform Party and the city-based Liberals. This unholy alliance put aside any differences to fight the greater enemy without, the emerging worker-based Labour Party.

As a one-time student activist and longtime observer of politics, I rather miss the turmoil and secrecy of the old-style, smoked-filled rooms style of decision making.

It was good sport for a journalist, though whether it was good governance is debatable. The general public was most often left out of the decision making until the in-party compromises had been made.

Within Labour, the warfare between conservative unionists and the liberal university-educated wing on social issues was often torrid. As were debates between the Greens-within, who weren't as enamoured with growth as the job-focused workers.

Amongst the Nats, the tension between urban liberals and conservative farmer folk and their subsidised lifestyles was often palpable. In the 80s, both major parties were split by the New Right economic infection.

Under MMP, the extremists, the oddballs and the single-issue enthusiasts, have been able to create homes for themselves, and, if they can attract public support, get a say at the country's top decision-making table.

Compromises are done, deals are brokered as before. The difference is, the process under MMP is transparent, and voters can participate. How can either of these changes be considered bad?