9 Oct 2017

VIDEO: National Party leader Bill English

8:06 am on 9 October 2017

As coalition negotiations continue following the special vote count, National Party leader Bill English joined Morning Report live in the Wellington studio.

Watch this morning's interview:

National lost two seats in the special vote count over the weekend, with Labour and the Greens picking up one apiece.

The finalised vote count leaves National with 56 seats, Labour with 46 seats, NZ First with nine, the Greens with eight and ACT with one, putting a Labour-Greens combo two seats shy of National-ACT.

That leaves NZ First and its leader Winston Peters still in the driver's seat for deciding the next government.

Negotiations began yesterday and continue today, possibly into the night.

All Mr English said after negotiations yesterday was that they had been "fine", with Mr Peters saying the talks had focused on policy and not involved discussion of possible ministerial positions.

He told Morning Report''s Susie Ferguson he did not think the special votes made much difference to National's hand.

"The fundamentals remain the same, National has 56 seats now out of 120, significantly larger than the Labour Party, I think another 10 seats further back.

"Winston Peters is playing his card of course much more assertively than the Greens, who don't appear to have understood the situation they're in, so that's why the negotiation's working the way it is.

"The Labour-Green bloc is a bit hard to understand, it's a bit hard to tell whether the greens are behaving like a different political party or the same one."

He said the distinguishing feature in this election was how little advantage the Greens were taking of their position.

"The Greens have decided effectively not to play much of a part, or it appears that way, It's pretty hard to tell. Even though they could have done so they've kind of opted out."

He said the recent inclusion of Paula Bennett on the negotiating team was simply calling on people who had good policy experience.

"We haven't really worked with a specific team, and we mix and match with the personnel that we have and we have the benefit of a number of experienced people. In a policy discussion that means we can cover a quite a lot of ground in serious negotiations."

He said he would not be discussing any of the content of the negotiations but did not think the content would be too surprising to people

"We made a whole series of announcements this year, we have a comprehensive programme, some of that will be in conflict with New Zealand First.

"You would expect National and New Zealand First will have different views on a number of things and in a negotiation is the product of the result the voters have given us."

He said he would not want to judge what kind of deal would be agreed, and would not indicate any preference on whether National would look to include New Zealand First in a coalition or confidence and supply-style agreement.

He said despite the special votes, National had done "better than everybody expected".

The voters had an opportunity, an intensive campaign, to signal clearly that they wanted a change of government. They had a look, didn't do that ... and we're in a strong position to be able to negotiate for an enduring government."

The second round of talks resume later this morning with New Zealand First meeting National at 9.30am, and Labour at midday.

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