Bill English and Jacinda Ardern have already failed the 80 per cent of New Zealanders who voted for the major parties. All because they refuse to phone each other.

The tail is wagging the dog.

So the first thing Bill English should do is start being a leader.

Pick up the phone. Ring up Jacinda and say: Let's set some sensible rules for any coalition.


Rule one: New Zealand is not a secret society, it is an open democracy. Let us publish all of Winston Peters' demands.

Rule two: All policies must be costed. Let us instruct the Treasury to cost all of Peters' demands and publish the costings.

Rule three: Neither party will agree to any coalition until all the policies are published and have been costed.

Nothing will moderate Peters more than publication.

Bill should then say to Jacinda: "If Peters will not agree to these rules why not form a grand coalition? That is what most New Zealanders want.

"We can form an interim government and put these rules into law. The Treasury will be instructed to cost all parties manifestos.

"If the minor parties refuse reasonable coalition rules, let us say we will abolish MMP and hold a new election under First Past the Post".

If Jacinda Ardern refuses to agree then her credibility will be zero.

Then Bill should ring James Shaw: "James the Greens are already being cut out of the negotiations. Do the Greens want to continue their 18 years of being totally futile? Here is my offer - National is serious about climate change. We are willing to offer you the position of Minister of Climate Change.

"Either the Greens are serious that climate change is the biggest issue facing New Zealand or you are really reds flying under a green flag."


And the third person Bill should ring would be Peters: "Here are the rules Winston. We are telling the public what your demands are. We will not agree to any policy that is not fully costed.

"National is willing to offer you Foreign Affairs". (The further away the better).

"National is willing to discuss your policy requests but we will tell the public what you are asking for."

But my last piece of advice is the most important. Hang in tough.

What is worse than being in Opposition is to be part of a bad government.

The next three years could be challenging. We already have the teachers threatening strikes for double-digit pay rises.

Labour is showing its inexperience in even contemplating forming an unstable coalition of the losers. Such a government will have no moral authority.

If it lasts three years at the next election the Greens and New Zealand First will be wiped out and Labour will go into opposition for a generation.

As the biggest party National is in a strong position. It is time for Bill English to act like a Prime Minister and give some leadership.

Richard Prebble was the Act Party leader from 1996 to 2004. He was an Act MP for nine years and a Labour MP for 18 years.