These coalition talks

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A summary of what we know, where we are at, and what may come next.

With coalition talks taking place behind closed doors, it was inevitable that there would be a frenzy of speculation about those discussions. But while many questions remain unanswered, some things have become clear.

It is now almost certain that Winston Peters is going to do a deal with Labour, unless he decides to go with National, or does something else entirely, in which case we may or may not have a government at some point within the next few weeks.

As coalition meetings continue between New Zealand First and the two major political parties, it is becoming increasingly clear that talks with both parties are progressing, or regressing, unless within those meetings there is no talking whatsoever and instead just groups of angry people eyeballing each other, which is unlikely, but given what we know and don’t know and think we know it remains a distinct possibility. Moreover, it now seems almost certain that Winston Peters will announce before, on, or after Friday what his party will do, unless someone else announces it for him or doesn’t say anything at all, which is also a distinct possibility given the very real prospect of a global nuclear war which could snuff out all human life on this planet at any moment.

There is increasing speculation that Peters favours a deal with National, Labour, or neither party, or both, or some other arrangement we have not even yet considered. Peters was a National Party MP for many years before forming New Zealand First, and so will almost certainly favour a deal with his old party, which he quit in disgust in the early 1990s, and he will still have many enemies within National, and there is a lingering suspicion that senior figures within National were behind the leaking of information about Peters’ superannuation payments, which makes it all the more likely that the establishment maverick will do a deal with Labour instead, unless he does something else.

It has been difficult to extract much of meaning from the various public utterances of New Zealand First’s leader since coalition negotiations began. Peters has played his cards close to the chest, but insiders within the party have confirmed that a deal may occur, and that New Zealand First may be involved. What this means is not entirely clear, though there is mounting speculation that something may happen.

While we don’t yet know which way Winston will go, it seems clear from the body language on display during his last public appearance that he will go, although where and when he will go, who he will go with, or if he will go with anyone at all, are unknown.

The makeup of NZ First’s negotiating team also suggests that the party is leaning towards National or Labour or neither or both. The team includes people known to have opinions about things, and these opinions may or may not include views on which major party New Zealand First should form a government with. If it turns out that those NZ First team members are able to exert significant influence during coalition talks, then we may well see a National-NZ First, or even a Labour-NZ First government, with the Greens participating in some capacity, whether in government or in opposition. But if these key NZ First team members are not able to exert an influence on the outcome, the same thing may well happen. It may also turn out that the only thing these negotiating team members feel strongly about is the brand of biscuit offered to them during negotiations.

So a lot remains unclear, but some things are becoming increasingly clear. Unfortunately, while those things are now clear, nobody outside NZ First knows what those things are.

Although the outcome of these coalition talks remains uncertain, there is growing confidence among observers of politics that something will eventually happen, and that when something finally happens that something will be the subject of further intense speculation, because that something will likely lead to more somethings, and the possibility of even further somethings hitherto unimagined.