You can hear the collective groan at the prospect of Winston Peters dragging out parallel coalition talks with National and Labour for over two months in order to get a government as he did in 1996.

The way the coalition was put together soured perceptions about it from the start and it never recovered.

Peters has learned lessons from that experience about the tolerance of the public. He is unlikely to antagonise them that way again.

But there are bound to be new ways of antagonising the public.


Already the possibility of Peters entertaining a coalition with Labour and the Greens with a razor-thin majority instead of the larger National Party with a plump majority will be perplexing many people.

Those people are not just diehard Tories, who have a vested interest in overstating what has been a practice rather than a convention - that the largest party has formed the Government.

Peters' problem is that he does little to prepare the voting public for post-election processes under MMP.

His default position is refusal to discuss anything like that and insult those who ask.

Newsroom, however, managed to extract an assurance from him in July that he wanted any decision made by October 12, that being the date on which constituency MPs are declared.

It may have sounded sensible at the time. But in fact three working weeks for two separate sets of talks may be woefully little time to conduct complex talks and make a decision.

Peters was entitled to call for patience by the public in this process.

But if it takes too long, there may be increasing pressure on National to try to deal with the Greens - despite the party's insistence it would not be possible.

Peters faces the complicating factor that these talks will happen in a period of upheaval for his party, which lost five sitting MPs at the election.

Already there has been trouble in the ranks: Richard Prosser has disregarded Peters' public instructions on election night and started to bad-mouth Peters, and says the leader wants to go with Labour.

The coalition discussions between Helen Clark and Peters in 2005 were far briefer than in 1996. But that is no indication that they will be as simple in 2017.

The alternative on offer, a complete mishmash of parties including Don Brash, Tariana Turia and Peters, was instantly dismissed as not a credible option.

Clark was the only option, knew what she wanted and did the business swiftly.

This may be a much longer ride.