Winston Peters sounds worried, as well he might be. His party has risen in our poll this week but Colin Craig's Conservative Party remains poised near the threshold. If the Conservatives gain another percentage point or two they will offer National an option to Mr Peters, should National need another supporting party to return to office. John Key would clearly prefer to deal with almost anyone else.
The 8 per cent or so of voters who are planning to put Mr Peters back in Parliament are probably his perennial admirers and impervious to a public appeal, but here is one. Spare the country, please, another round of Mr Peters' phony post-election routine. We have all seen it before. He makes everyone wait while he plays out a negotiation for no purpose beyond the pleasure he finds in it.
He thinks he is keeping people guessing but it has become tediously obvious what he will do in the end. If the result next Saturday night leaves him in a pivotal position there is no doubt he will put the winning party in power; he would not dare do otherwise. The only uncertainty is the number of days or weeks he will want to delay the inevitable. New Zealand's government should not be put at the disposal of somebody like this. Only his supporters can do something about it.
They ought to consider that Mr Peters is nearly 70. It is well past time to retire him.
He has been in and out of Parliament since 1978, longer than any other MP. He has never come to terms with changes to the economy 30 years ago and at this election he is reaching further back to recall the protected prosperity of the 1950s.
He has made national superannuation the driving cause of his career, opposing the surtax on those with private superannuation that was introduced by Labour and maintained by National in the 1990s. A "grey power" movement against the surtax sustained his personal political party, New Zealand First. His dubious achievement was the restoration of universal pension 14 years ago.
To drum up superannuitant votes this time he claims National has a secret plan to cut the cost of the gold card he devised in Government with Labour. Would that it were so. The gold card carries excessive benefits and superannuitants know it.
Many of today's superannuitants are still in fulltime work. At age 65 they can expect to live into their 80s. They are a demographic bubble that will get steadily more costly for taxpayers to support over the next 20 years. If National depends on another party after next Saturday, the country needs it to be one that might make the Government face the need to raise the age of entitlement. That is not New Zealand First.
With a week to go, polls point to a National return with Act and Peter Dunne. The Prime Minister would want to include the Maori Party again if it survives. He has not ruled Mr Peters out as he did in 2008 but has called a deal with him "unlikely".
Mr Peters is as vague as ever about what he might do - support a Government on votes of confidence and supply or abstain. He does not think he owes voters an indication. As usual he expects them to give him a blank cheque. He rouses himself for elections, presses popular buttons, then spends another term in Parliament doing little else than argue points of order. If only his followers could see through him as nine out of 10 voters do.
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