OPINION: As this is my last column before our new government is decided, unless Winston's in a position to repeat his 1996 histrionics, I thought I'd share a nightmare I had recently with you. I woke in a cold clammy sweat and had to slap myself vigorously to reassure myself it was only a bad dream.
My nightmare was that in the year 2027, by which time I might have grandchildren old to enough to ask, that they'll come to me and ask, "Hey Grandad are you old enough to remember when we had cows living outside and grazing on grassy green pastures? And is it true that sheep once used to roam freely in our high country before we fenced off all the little natural waterways and the native grasslands reverted to wilding pines, gorse and broom? Grandad, was farming really a 'thing' back in 2017 before it was outlawed?"
Before you dismiss this as scaremongering, take a moment to take a trip back in time and ponder the longevity of our recent governments.
Even though this election looks like it's going down to the wire, history would suggest this country has fashioned a fine record of not re-electing three term governments to a fourth. Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley (1990-99) and Helen Clarke (1999-2008) bear testament to the fact.
Take away the aberration of the tumultuous, transformational, two-term Labour government of David Lange/Geoffrey Palmer/Mike Moore (1984-90) and the nine year pattern extends back to 1975 and the beginning of Rob Muldoon's reign.
Bolger famously said "bugger the pollsters" when the polls were out by eight points leading into the 1993 election and I reckon Bill and Jacinda must each be thinking aloud, "I'm buggered if I know".
So despite a really good bounce in the latest (at the time of writing) Reid Research Poll, the Nats are still staring down the barrel of the Colmar Brunton polls favouring Labour.
As a three term government which, until recently, enjoyed record popularity they must be asking themselves why they've suddenly become less fashionable? Especially when the economy is ticking along quite nicely, thank you!
And while Jacinda and her call for generational and environmental change has been the catalyst to ignite the flame of discontent, the Nats have also been guilty of dropping the ball on things the great unwashed genuinely care about. Health, housing affordability, education and poverty readily spring to mind.
As one of the chief executives at the recent business leaders' gathering described it, the punters are getting sick of 'smug, self-indulgent, middle-aged, white men' running the country. Does that description, perchance, conjure up an image of Steven Joyce, Gerry Brownlee, Nick Smith, Jonathon Coleman or Simon Bridges?
Make no mistake. A water tax, a nitrate tax and a capital gains tax will do few favours for the farming fraternity. Worse still, is agriculture being included in an Emissions Trading Scheme. Worst case scenario, under a Labour/Greens government, farming has the potential to become an expensive pastime for many of its participants.
So this is where Winston comes in. On my show last week when asked if he would a handbrake to Labour's somewhat vague tax-now and ask-questions-later policy, he modestly declared himself to be "a sail when it matters and an anchor when it doesn't". Translated that means, "only I can save you from Jacinda's tax attack".
Love or loathe Winston and his policies, you would be hard-pressed to question his loyalty to the regions. Only his beloved and loyal army of superannuitants would take precedence in his political pecking order. If we are to have a centre-left government come the morning of September 24, then it's probably better to have Winston inside the tent rather than out.
This is undoubtedly the most crucial election for rural New Zealand since David Lange and Roger Douglas changed farming forever and, ironically, for the better in 1984. Farmers are quite naturally nervous, fearing the worst and hoping for the best.
But remember the old saying. They say that farmers make more money under a Labour government.
Gee I hope 'they' are right, should the cards fall Jacinda's way on Saturday!