Winston Peters is well practised in dumping a box load of papers and expecting others to make sense of them.

Way back when he barely had a fleck of grey in his curly locks he had his then sidekick Tau Henare struggling into Parliament's bear pit with a wine box full of the complex transactions being carried out by companies ripping off the tax system through the Cook Islands.

Over the next few days National and Labour will pore their way through another paper dump, a New Zealand First political wish list and the party who agrees to most of it is likely to win the Treasury crown on Thursday.

Peters was right to wait for the special vote count before yesterday sitting down and talking turkey. Before it a coalition with Labour and The Greens would have just a one-seat majority. With both parties picking up a seat from National, the majority is still with the caretaker Government, but only just.


There are now just two seats in it, if you remove Act from National that is and Peters would most certainly demand that, leaving National's majority at five seats, while with Labour it's three and that allows Peters to look more kindly towards the centre left.

Bill English's reaction to losing two seats was blinkered, describing the election result as good and pointing out that for the first time since 1969 National has outpolled Labour in four successive elections, it's an historic achievement he crowed.

Well it would be if it wasn't for MMP which requires 50 per cent plus one and now with 56, National doesn't cut it. Peters rightly points out that the so-called moral mandate, to crown the party with the most votes, doesn't exist in this environment.

What does exist is cutting the best deal and Peters is still comfortably sitting in the dealer's seat. As Kenny Rogers sang in The Gambler, you never count your money when you're sitting at the table, there'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done.

So the cards have been dealt and over the next few days they'll be counting the cost of doing the deal as Peters contemplates with his colleagues which side holds the full house.

That'll be declared, probably late on Thursday, which is a tight timeframe. That would indicate that the coalition telephone book of demands thrown into the mix first first time he was in the dealer's chair in 1996 won't be repeated this time.

New Zealand First is likely to offer confidence, but like it did with Labour in 2005, reserve the right to oppose measures other than the Budget. In return there'll be the baubles of office and the side which offers the most on that front in the coming days will be the one sitting at the Cabinet table.