Is an electorate accommodation on offer in an effort to woo Winston Peters?
Many commentators think this will be his last term. That has been said before and while each time it’s said he’s a bit older, there’s no certainty he’ll be any keener on retirement in 2020 than he has been before.
Whether or not he stands again, the party is at risk of slipping below the 5% threshold and out of parliament unless it wins a seat.
But even if Peters wants to contest another election, it’s unlikely he’d risk standing and not winning an electorate. He’s won three but also lost them, he won’t want to lose another.
His repeated criticism of National for allowing electorate accommodations for Act and United Future, would open him to criticism should he ask for one to give him a better chance. But doing what he’s criticised others for doing isn’t usually a problem for him.
However, the people of Northland tired of him in less than a term and voted for Matt King instead. He will spend the next three years doing the hard work a good electorate MP does and winning the loyalty of voters by doing so.
They are unlikely to show enthusiasm for ignoring that and voting Peters back in, even if they’re given a very strong message from National to do so.
Other electorates that have been suggested where National might stand aside are Whangarei and Wairarapa.
Accommodations worked in Ohariu and Epsom. But Peter Dunne already held Ohariu when National’s then leader Jim Bolger gave the wink and nod to voters to give his party the party vote but vote for Dunne as the electorate MP.
Act’s Rodney Hide didn’t need an accommodation to win Epsom the first time. He won the seat from Richard Worth without any help from National.
In successive elections, National’s candidate campaigned only for the party vote making it easier for Hide and then David Seymour to win the electorate vote.
But that is very different from asking voters to drop support for a sitting MP to allow a New Zealand First candidate to win the electorate.
There will be no enthusiasm for that from National members and absolutely no guarantee that enough voters would be prepared to turn their backs on their MP in favour of the NZ First candidate.
It would be a very risky move which could backfire on both parties.