There is a private poll doing the rounds that shows NZ First neck and neck with National in Northland if the Labour candidate doesn’t stand.
Seeing as National’s outright majority is under threat with a loss in Northland, such a tactic could be under consideration.
Labour may not have the guts to make the decision as clear cut as removing their candidate, but there will probably be a lot of nods and winks given to Labour voters throughout the campaign to ensure National loses Northland.
Labour, NZ First and Maori Party showed that they could work together in Te Tai Tokerau to eliminate an opponent, doing it again in Northland isn’t too far a stretch.
My guess would be that if this deal is cooking and Winston is looking to run, then we will see him using Parliamentary privilege to start asking the PM hard questions about Mike Sabin. My suspicion is that once voters hear why Sabin isn’t running, the backlash will be immense, immense enough to tarnish National and risk a safe electorate.
Doing such a deal with NZ First to win Northland would cement a relationship between Labour and Winston that the Greens should find deeply concerning.