Election 2023: Political commentator says Christopher Luxon's 'boasting' is 'coming back to bite him'

Incoming Prime Minister and National leader Christopher Luxon.
Incoming Prime Minister and National leader Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: Newshub

Story by RNZ

The failure to reach a coalition arrangement five weeks on from the election has thrown the differences between the negotiating parties into stark relief, two political commentators say.

Talks between National, ACT and New Zealand First to form a government are ongoing but incoming prime minister Christopher Luxon had made "several rookie leader's mistakes", media trainer and former National Party press secretary Janet Wilson told Morning Report.

"His boasting about his ability to negotiate is now coming back to bite him," she said.

Luxon met with NZ First leader Winston Peters in person four times over the weekend as well as over the phone, and spoke with ACT leader David Seymour over the phone and online.

The three leaders are remaining in Auckland to work on a deal, though Luxon says any agreement will be announced in Wellington.

Luxon on Friday said talks were in the "final stages" and there were only "a handful of issues to talk through".

But the weekend ended without any sign of an agreement between the parties.

Seymour acknowledged voters were becoming frustrated at the time it was taking to form a government but said the parties were saving the hardest discussions until last.

"That might explain why it seems to be an elongated process even though we are actually always making progress."

Peters said people were waiting for an answer but the talks were "complex".

"We've always been positive in these negotiations; they're not easy, they're complex - it's about, after all, a country, that is a democracy - we don't do dictatorship around here anymore."

Not good enough for Wilson: "The clock is ticking and nothing is happening," she told Morning Report.

Unionist and political commentator Shane Te Pou, also on the programme's panel, agreed.

"It's not mergers and acquisitions; mergers and acquisitions occur largely as a result of someone with ... more money, more economic power, that goes in and takes what they want.

"These are negotiations, these are not mergers or acquisitions."

Treaty referendum, tax policy likely negotiation sticking points

Te Pou agreed with Wilson's comment that discussions about Te Tiriti and a foreign buyers' tax were likely the things holding up a coalition agreement.

"I don't think that the issues are minor as they're being described, I think that particularly Luxon understands that a referendum of the Treaty will split the nation in half and he will want to try and avoid it - so will Shane Jones and Winston Peters, given all the rhetoric."

Fundamental differences in terms of the parties' economic philosophies would also be slowing things down, he said.

"I don't think, in terms of economic philosophy we've had a coalition government under MMP that is so different in terms of their fundamental economic policy."

As a result, the ball was "very much in Winston's corner, right from the get-go", Wilson said.

"He was not going to negotiate, even when the special votes were being counted."

Wilson believed Luxon had "behaved in a very 'I've got this' kind of way" and that would not have gone down well with Peters.

"I don't think Winston will feel - in the initial phases too - that he was given the respect that he deserved."

Te Pou said Luxon's admission in a pre-election leaders' debate that he did not know Peters put him in a different camp to previous political leaders Helen Clark, Jacinda Ardern and Jim Bolger, who had established relationships with him.

"Luxon, just before the election said he didn't know Winston Peters and maybe the chickens have come to roost in that area too."

Every hour that passed without an agreement was putting Peters in "the best possible position he can possibly be in", Wilson said.