Bill English's grip on the job of Prime Minister appears to be loosening, says political commentator Chris Trotter.
The caretaker Prime Minister told The AM Show on Monday morning there was "some time to go" before a new Government would be formed, as discussions between NZ First and National aren't complete.
In contrast, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern uploaded a video at the weekend in which she said the discussions had been "exactly the kind of process we need to make sure that we give full consideration to the best Government to take New Zealand forward", and would result in a Government she would be "proud to lead".
Saying there was "a little wait" in store before that would happen, she gave a wink - a sign perhaps she's got Winston Peters onside?
"Jacinda Ardern and Bill English have been so tight-lipped throughout these negotiations, giving us absolutely nothing," Mr Trotter told The AM Show.
"This morning I saw a frustrated, almost angry Prime Minister who was giving us way more information than in my opinion, a person who is about to be announced as the next Prime Minister of New Zealand would be giving us.
"If he was poised to become the leader of the country once again, he would have been smiling, he would have been giving us that Southland grin and it would have been a very different interview."
Ms Ardern has remained tight-lipped on her party's discussions with NZ First - more proof she's taking the lead, according to Mr Trotter.
"The people who talk the loudest are the people who are losing. The people who leak to the news media are the people who are losing."
PR consultant and former ACT staffer Trish Sherson, appearing alongside Mr Trotter, said Mr English is clearly frustrated with Mr Peters, who appears to have misled him.
"There is a massive gap between where Winston led us to believe things had finished on Friday - that he had a huge dossier of things from both sides he was taking [to the NZ First board] - whereas Bill this morning sounded like there were so many loose ends, he wasn't even really sure where to start tying."
Both Mr Trotter and Ms Sherson suggested it wouldn't be a bad move for both major party leaders to just pull the plug, and improve their chances of winning next time around.
"He wants to be the one who says, 'Hang on a minute - we're not having this,'" Ms Sherson said of Mr English.
"If he's going to lose, then you say, 'You can't fire me, I quit,'" added Mr Trotter. "Leave with your head high."
But the ghosts of 2002 might still be haunting Mr English.
"English does not want to lose twice," said Mr Trotter.
"My heart goes out to him because he fought a damn good campaign, and to get that many seats - you notice how he kept referring to the number of seats? It was almost as if he was saying to us, and almost to himself, 'But I won this damn thing!'"
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After election night, Mr Trotter put Labour's chances of forming a Government with the Greens and NZ First at 25 percent. He later upped that to 40, and now says it's around 55.
"Just slightly ahead, I would say."
Former Labour president Mike Williams, appearing later on The AM Show, said Mr English's comments were "defeatist".
"I don't know what message he was trying to put across, but it certainly did not sound positive."