There were seven in the bed but when they all rolled over two little ones fell out and the third was left clinging to the piping on the side of the mattress.

That was Act leader David Seymour - the sole survivor of the "minnows" after the massacre that was the 2017 election.

It would be fair to presume Seymour is somewhat dejected about this turn of events. He is not. Never mind that Seymour's status is that of nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land - as the Beatles would put it.

He is suffused with the lightness of being.


Part of that is the relief of having survived at all given the demise of the Maori Party and United Future, and the massive cut in the vote of the Green Party as the behemoths swallowed up most of the vote.

Even better is that at the moment he is the only politician whose fate is not in the hands of NZ First leader Winston Peters. While Labour, National and the Greens tip toe round, trying to decide what they can trade away and wary of inadvertently upsetting the great decider, Seymour is free as a bird.

Seymour took himself out of the equation for a government almost the moment the votes were counted on election night. That was simple realism rather than principle.

He declared he was happy to "take one for the team" - the team presumably being National and Act rather than his own team of one.

He recognised two things on that night: one that he was superfluous to requirements and would be declared as such by either National leader Bill English or NZ First's Winston Peters if he did not do so himself.

The second thing he recognised was that it was perhaps a time for reflection anyway, having seen his party hit its lowest ever election result.

Seymour told the Herald his new position in the cross benches was "a new world of opportunity".

"Now we've got a respite from being in government as a small party just in time."

The "just in time" meant just before he suffered the same fate as other small parties consigned to the scrap heap after spending time in a government throughout the history of MMP.

He rather gleefully forecast the next three years will be "a disaster" whichever way Peters goes.

"Disaster" for a government equates to a field day for the opposition.

That gives him more opportunities as a side line referee.

But Seymour also faces the task of trying to build Act back up for the 2020 election.

Seymour is well aware National may not renew its Epsom deal for a further term unless he can indeed build Act up again to offer more than one MP. He rates his chances through measures such as his End of Life Choice Bill and Act's traditional low tax, minimum red tape platform.

Epsom is also the model for other potential deals. National is the victim of its own success and now has a shortage of potential support partners on the right.

One of the rumours spreading about talks with NZ First is that National might look at an Epsom-style deal in Northland or Whangarei in 2020 to send the seat Peters' way or Shane Jones' way.

It may come to nothing. It looks cynical and desperate and Peters would never agree publicly to any deal, but when Labour told its supporters to vote for Peters in the Northland byelection in 2015 he did not exactly dissuade them.

NZ First is not far enough above the 5 per cent threshold to withstand much downward movement.

Peters will be aware of the possibility his vote could shrink further as a result of being part of a government and of the future of his party once he goes.

He will not want a 2008 repeat.

Should National decide to use a future deal in Northland as a lure for NZ First, it could call on the instruction of its most experienced sacrificial lamb: Epsom candidate Paul Goldsmith.

For the third successive election, Goldsmith managed the perverse success of getting a lower personal vote than the election before.

In 2011 he got 13,574 votes and Act candidate John Banks' majority was just 2261. In 2014, Goldsmith drove himself harder and managed to shed 2400 supporters - securing 11,700 votes to give Act's Seymour a 4250 majority.

This election it seems Goldsmith had excelled himself - on election night he got a magnificently mere count of 8549 votes to give Seymour a lead of almost 4800.

Rarely has New Zealand politics delivered such a competent loser.