One more day to go until the specials are counted, the final election results are announced, and we can return to politics as usual. The results will be out at 11am on Satuday - slightly earlier than expected, and if things go well we'll have a government by Monday. It may not be able to do anything unless it can bring enough of the country with it, but as I've repeatedly said, that's not exactly a Bad Thing (and if Brash ends up PM, it will be a Very Good Thing indeed).
United Future is signalling strongly that he will not formally be part of the government, and that he should have signalled more strongly that his inclination was to go with National. I'm not sure that there's anyone who believed that it wasn't, given United Future's differences with the government on conscience issues and the pre-election outbursts from several MPs. But the problem is that United Future is trying to present itself as a centrist party, rather than a right-but-not-(quite)-raving-loonie party, and any shift will require significant rebranding.
Which raises the question of how a center party can grow under MMP to become the essential moderating swing-vote that Dunne wants. At the moment, it is the two major parties which drive the agenda - Labour wants a more equal society, and National more market (with touches of bugger the social consequences). Center parties are reduced to the role of propping up either of these two agendas, and maybe getting a few policy bennies as a reward. Their problem is that they don't have a strong enough agenda of their own to push. Dunne has tried to develop one with his appeal to "middle New Zealand" and "common sense", but this is too vague, as is his pet issue of "the family". He needs to start spelling out what these mean in concrete terms, rather than just using them as motherhood statements to capture votes.
An example of what I'm talking about are the Liberal Democrats in the UK. They have a very definite agenda of their own (based on human rights and decent government services - things offered by neither major party), and they would bring this to any coalition talks. Unfortunately, the UK's archaic voting system means that they are systematically under-represented - 10% of the seats on 22% of the vote - so there's little hope of that happening without electoral reform in the UK. But it does perhaps provide a model of what is needed in our own centrist parties. They need their own platform, not one just based on fuzzing the two majors' positions together in the name of moderation.