When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked what she wanted from her Secret Santa, her request was the impossible: A bottle of sleep and relaxation.

National Party leader Bill English did not know what Secret Santa was - he seemed to think it would require him to dress in the appropriate garb and go to NZ Post to perform as Santa.

It may not be to his credit that he actually seemed open to this idea.

If he had known what it was, his request would have been equally impossible to deliver: A new friend to help lift National out of the slough of Opposition.


The past week has seen chatter in National circles (not necessarily the realistic circles) about National creating its own friend to take the place of those it had lost.

This could apparently be done by encouraging an MP or two to split off and set up their own National-adjacent party. All of this would be authorised and even orchestrated by the National Party.

Around National there are two schools of thoughts as to what this party could be.

The first was a conservative party in the traditional sense – Christian, morally and socially conservative. The other is for a conservative-green party along the lines of National's Blue-Greens group.

It all reeks of people with too much time on their hands and not enough sense, as English himself concurred.

That is not to say there is not space for a new party, especially now Parliament has shrunk to five.

For a start, there will be some conservative New Zealand First voters disappointed leader Winston Peters chose to side with the Labour Party.

There are votes floating around – at least 20 per cent of the population prefer not to vote for one of the major parties. The trick is to get them.

As someone in National observed, for a new party to succeed "it would require someone with the charisma of Winston Peters and the pockets of Gareth Morgan".

The three most recent attempts at getting new parties into Parliament have had the second – the Conservative Party's Colin Craig and Morgan himself with The Opportunities Party. There was also the ill-fated Internet Party with its founder Kim Dotcom. The first two did fairly well – but not well enough.

None made it over the bar.

The parties that have made it and lasted for any length of time were all formed when MMP was in its infancy. They tended to be created by MPs already in Parliament who left their old parties.

That was the case from Peters (NZ First) and Peter Dunne (United) to Act Party founders Richard Prebble and Roger Douglas.

Christian-based parties have always polled respectably but not always high enough to get into Parliament. Many self-immolated before they could make it.

But such a party cannot be engineered by National itself. Voters would see right through it as a cynical move – and that means a high risk of backfire.

The other problem is National could find it was a Frankenstein creating its own monster.
Once created, it could rapidly lose control over its baby.

There are other options. Trying to resuscitate the Act Party is one of them although National has all but given up on it.

It should be easier for Act to rebrand itself in Opposition, but some in National are despairing over leader David Seymour's focus on the euthanasia bill.

They believe that, like former leader Rodney Hide's focus of populist issues such as perk busting, it affords a sugar rush of publicity but does not create a long-term brand.

Those believe Seymour, a clever man, would be better to rebrand Act by focusing on the economy and things like charter schools – a rebranding effort that should be easier from Opposition.

The other option is the Conservative Party, which did well at capturing its share of the vote in 2014 under Colin Craig but has since crumbled into a screaming heap. This week it announced it was changing its name. It might take a bit more than that.

Then there is the obvious but no less impossible solution – trying to steal someone else's friend.

In this case that is NZ First.

In National, there are those who believe Peters is so hellbent on revenge for National's sins both real and imaginary that he will never work with National. They are preparing to either ensure Peters' will is overridden by others in his caucus or hoping for a leadership change.

Then there are those who still believe a rapprochement is possible. That may be contingent on certain obstacles being removed. Those obstacles include English, Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett.

Perhaps English needs to dust off an older Christmas tradition than Secret Santa: Get hold of some mistletoe and prepare to kiss and makeup.