26 Jul 2017

PM gives nod to Seymour and Dunne for electorate votes

6:08 pm on 26 July 2017

The Prime Minister is giving a direct signal to National Party voters in the seats of Ōhāriu and Epsom to give the leaders of National's support partners their electorate vote in the upcoming election.

Peter Dunne, Bill English, David Seymour

Left to right: United Future leader Peter Dunne, Prime Minister Bill English and ACT leader David Seymour Photo: RNZ / VNP

With both of National's support partners polling well below the 5 percent threshold, their leaders need to win their seats to stay in Parliament.

Electorate deals used to be signalled with a cup of tea between party leaders, but the 'teapots tape' controversy put an abrupt end to that.

Prime Minister Bill English has opted for a straightforward appeal for National supporters to give ACT's David Seymour and United Future's Peter Dunne their electorate vote.

"We are encouraging National supporters to give their electorate vote to ACT candidate, David Seymour, in Epsom, and United Future candidate, Peter Dunne, in Ōhāriu - and their party vote to National," said Mr English.

"To be clear, we want to increase our party votes in those electorates and that's what our National Party candidates will be working hard to do."

But he said National will negotiate with New Zealand First and its leader Winston Peters if it needs to, saying that remained a possibility.

"It's up to the voters, they will decide essentially who we need to work with, or any party needs to work with."

But does he trust Mr Peters?

"Mr Peters does have history in government which is 'colourful' - and we'd prefer to work with these partners."

There was a "three-way fight" underway, Mr Peters said.

"There's New Zealand First in the arena, there's the Greens and Labour in an unholy wedding over there and you've got the National Party and its klingons and race-based politics."

National has not specifically endorsed its third support partner, the Māori Party, partly because it does not stand candidates in the Māori seats, and would have less influence over voters on that roll.

But Mr English was still urging any voter who would listen to support the Māori Party candidates.

"If they can't vote for us then it makes sense for them to vote for the Māori Party, in preference to Labour or the Greens."

That endorsement did not however extend to the Mana leader, Hone Harawira, who has an electoral deal of his own with the Māori Party.

Earlier this year Mr English said National's preference, after the election, would be to once again work with ACT, United Future and the Māori Party.

National would take the same approach for the 2017 election, he said.

"While we don't always agree, our four parties have maintained a stable and successful government since late 2008 and we would like to see that continue for the benefit of New Zealanders."

Last election however, the signal from the then-National Party leader John Key only had a certain level of influence on National supporters.

The National candidate Paul Goldsmith still secured more than 11,000 votes compared with 15,996 for ACTs David Seymour.

In Ōhāriu Peter Dunne had a narrow victory with a 710 vote majority, getting 13,569 votes.

Labour's candidate Virginia Andersen was next with 12,859, then National's Brett Hudson with just over 6000 votes.

Mr Hudson said he was happy to vote for Mr Dunne as the electorate MP, and will work harder to get him more votes at this election.

Peter Dunne said, if re-elected, United Future would work with National.

Mr English said National had no intention of pulling its candidates from Epsom or Ōhāriu if either Mr Seymour or Mr Dunne looked in danger of losing their seat.

Former Prime Minister John Key puts out the hat

Meanwhile Mr English said he had no knowledge his predecessor John Key was trying to drum up party donations.

Mr Key left Parliament in March but today reached out online to potential donors for the National Party.

"When I left Parliament, I knew the country would be on the right track under the leadership of Bill English."

"But the next two months are vital for our party. On September 23, voters will have a choice between a strong government with a positive vision for the future or an opposition that will take us backwards."

"Supporters like you are important to our party. National cannot win this crucial election without your backing."

Mr English said he did not know Mr Key would be fundraising for National, and it must have been organised by the party.

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