Analysis: “Cordial” is the word used by New Zealand First insiders to describe the relationship between Christopher Luxon and Winston Peters.
The pair spoke on the phone on Wednesday after talks between the two parties were initially being handled by National MP Todd McClay, who has a long-established relationship with the New Zealand First leader.
Peters arrived in Wellington on Wednesday and headed straight to the party’s temporary offices underneath Treasury on The Terrace.
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The caucus had their first get-together and in addition, Peters has called in a few outsiders to help with initial strategy and negotiations ahead of a government being formed.
Former MPs Darroch Ball and Fletcher Tabuteau are back in the fold, and Newsroom understands Peters’ former chief of staff, Jon Johansson, has also been called back in to help.
Ball was at Peters’ side throughout the campaign, acting as his campaign manager, and the party’s president Julian Paul was also in Wellington this week with the new caucus.
With the party unlikely to formalise anything with National until the special votes are returned, Peters has headed north to his bach in Whananaki for the long weekend and will likely stay put there next week.
The rest of the caucus and staff have also flown home and aren’t likely to return to Wellington until the week after next, ahead of the specials being released on Friday November 3.
While it’s unlikely there will need to be any talks between Act and New Zealand First while deals are being struck separately with National, there is a relationship between the two parties that could be called on.
New Zealand First MP Shane Jones knows Act deputy leader Brooke van Velden’s parents, Robin and Adele, who own Whangarei Honda in the North.
If the two parties needed to discuss how the likely three-party government will function on a day-to-day basis it’s possible Jones and van Velden will be the go-betweens for their respective leaders.
Luxon and Seymour have been in regular contact since the soon-to-be Prime Minister first took over the leadership of the National Party.
This year, during the campaign and in the week since the election, the pair have been in regular phone contact and have held face-to-face meetings.
Act will be resigned to the fact New Zealand First will inevitably be part of the government, however the special votes shake out.
The rationale for National doing a deal with Peters regardless is two-fold.
The first is the security Luxon will want from having the extra votes in case there are any slip-ups or differences of opinion with any MPs that impact what will likely be a slim majority.
The second is the desire to future-proof the government and look ahead to the 2026 election.
If National might need New Zealand First later, then it pays to start establishing a good working relationship now.
There’s potentially a third factor – Luxon would simply rather have New Zealand First on his team than deal with Peters and Jones, in particular, needling the government from the opposition benches.
As for National, the beefed up caucus of 50 (for now) has spent a few days on the Parliament precinct this week and MPs have now headed home for what they hope will be a quiet three-day weekend to recharge the battery.
It’s been a gruelling campaign for all MPs and candidates, which started long before the official six-week period.
Next week will bring no further certainty as to what the new government might look like but there won’t be a shortage of posturing and phone calls, as all three parties try to lay down the foundations for the best deal they can get come November 3.