• Michael Cox is a former National MP.
On becoming the British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli was quoted as saying, "I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole." Whilst I wouldn't demean Disraeli, one of England's outstanding politicians, by likening him to Winston Peters, there are similarities. Getting to the top of that political greasy pole is one of them.
We were given a big clue last week that that's where Winston wants to be, in the Prime Minister's seat. His old friend and former New Zealand First Member of Parliament, Tuariki Delamere, fired a shot across the bows of the leader of the Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern, by suggesting she consider making Winston her joint Prime Minister.
Now, with a weather eye on politics, especially in these stormy times, one knows these sorts of statements don't "just happen". Tuariki didn't suddenly have this sudden flash of inspiration. It's my pick he had a phone call from his old mate Winston suggesting that such a comment would be well placed in the overall plan of things. He, in my view, happily complied, probably with an eye on future appointments that may be made.
At this point Ardern has wisely not responded, a wise decision.
Of course our rather sad MMP system of electing governments is to blame for this pretty political pickle in which we now find ourselves. First used by the Germans to ensure that another Hitler never became Chancellor, they now have adjusted their MMP system so that the leader of the party which gleans the most votes can become their Chancellor.*
This enables that person to lead the process of pulling together a Coalition Government. In New Zealand we allow the opposite and the leader of the smallest party to do just that - crazy, undemocratic and I sense it is making people angry with the system.
So this is Winston's last shot at fame, glory and to manipulate a legacy greater than Disraeli's. He's had most of the roles most politicians would covert - Deputy Prime Minister, Treasurer, Foreign Minister and Minister of Maori Affairs; what more could he aspire to? Well of course - Prime Minister.
I'm sure sometime before the special votes have been counted he will ask both Bill English and Jacinda Ardern for the position of Prime Minister as the price for his party's support on supply and confidence. He has nothing to lose.
Both I'm sure will refuse the offer. Bill English will then form a minority government; Winston will take his party to the cross benches where he can control the whole shooting match as a de facto Prime Minister. It releases him from all the hard work of being part of governing; but keeps him in the spotlight - his favourite position.
Of course, maybe sense will prevail and a grand coalition 'tween the Nats and Labour will take all the steam out of Winston's sails. Or maybe the small coven on the hard left of the Greens can be convinced of the benefits to the green cause by being attached to government are worth the effort.
Again the similarity 'tween Benjamin and Winston occurs at this point. Disraeli said, "We should never lose an occasion. Opportunity is more powerful even than conquerors and prophets." Oh that Winston could match Dizzy's words but he certainly is trying to match his deeds.
For New Zealand such a hung Parliament would, in my view and bearing in mind Peters' track record, not last more than a year and then back to the election boxes.
I'm sure by then Winston could have squeezed a knighthood out of the system. Arise Sir Winnie and disappear into quiet oblivion - maybe.
* The German Constitution, Article 63, provides that the person who receives the votes of a majority of members of the Bundestag (lower chamber of the federal Parliament) shall be elected Federal Chancellor. If no person has a majority in the Bundestag the person who receives the largest number of votes shall be elected. If that person cannot win a majority at an election in the Bundestag within seven days, the Federal President can either appoint that person Chancellor or dissolve the Bundestag for a new general election. - Editor