Winston Peters is no stranger to coalition negotiations and the situation he finds himself in has not arisen by accident. It is the planned outcome of a deliberate strategy to position his New Zealand First party in an MMP environment, as likely to hold the balance of power in the event neither of the two biggest parties commands a majority of seats in Parliament.

So successful has this strategy been that he has become accustomed to being courted by suitors, and to extracting from the main rivals for his hand the best deal he can get - both for himself and his voters. He is under no illusion that his charm or good looks are the lure, it is rather the dowry - in this case, nine MPs - that he can bring to the agreed arrangement.

I suggest that this time, however, it may not be only the numbers that matter. For Jacinda Ardern, intent on building on her success in denying a majority to National by forming instead a Labour-led government, Winston may have more to offer than simply making up the necessary majority.

It is not just that a relatively inexperienced prime minister, heading a party that has been out of government for nine years, might welcome someone of Winston's experience and political savvy. Winston could in addition bring to a new government - one committed to a change of direction and an uplift in the energy needed to deal with our obvious and many problems - some policy perspectives that could be very helpful, and some potential ministers of real ability.


First, he already takes a position very close to Labour's on those issues that are the legacy of mishandling or neglect after nine years of National Government. His reinforcement of Labour's proposed remedies for those problems would certainly help to bring solutions closer. And he would help to identify others that need attention, such as the neglect of our manufacturing base.

There are two further issues (and no doubt more), not at present high on Labour's agenda, where his political experience and independent view could strengthen the performance of a new government.

The first is the difficult question of how to take the maximum advantage from our increasingly close economic relationship with China without in effect being absorbed into the greater Chinese economy. That can only be achieved if we have a clear understanding of what is actually happening and recognise the full implications of each new step that is taken.

The National Government has shown little concern for or understanding of this issue. Their links with Chinese interests, both as individuals and as a political party, have induced them to applaud the upsides while closing their eyes to the actual and potential downsides.

Winston will not be so starry-eyed, he knows the maintenance of some semblance of sovereignty and independence is not an ignoble goal. The greater realism he could bring to a new government on this issue would be of considerable value.

Even more positively, Winston seems to have a more up-to-date understanding than most of recent developments in modern monetary policy and theory. The widespread use, post the Global Financial Crisis, of "quantitative easing" to bail out banks has removed some of the mistaken phobias concerning an obvious (and Keynes-endorsed) tool for funding productive investment and stimulating economic activity.

Why, forward-looking observers ask, should government-created new money be reserved for bailing out the banks? Why not use it for other purposes, like new infrastructure projects, that serve public and not just private banking interests?

Paradoxically, perhaps, Winston may be more likely than today's Labour party to recall the successful precedent set by Michael Joseph Savage's government in the 1930s, when thousands of state houses were built to house the homeless using money created by that government for that purpose.


Thinking of this kind could revolutionise the prospects of a new government and usher in a new era of a stronger and more integrated society and a more securely based economy.

If the instincts of a new Labour government were encouraged and their implementation facilitated by an experienced campaigner like Winston Peters, the future prospects of both Labour and New Zealand First would be greatly enhanced - so too, the prospects for the country.