The WA Nationals have surrendered their prized status as electoral kingmakers, ruling out forming government with Labor after the March 9 State election or directing preferences to them.

In a statement to be released today, president Colin Holt ends months of speculation by snuffing out any chance of the Nationals abandoning their Liberal partners in government.

As recently as two weeks ago, Mr Holt left the door open to offering Mark McGowan the keys to Hale House.

Yesterday, he slammed it shut after the Labor leader failed repeatedly to entertain the offer.

"Labor has ruled out forming government with the Nationals and the feeling is mutual," Mr Holt said.

The decision rules out a repeat of frantic negotiations between the three major parties that prolonged the result of 2008's hung parliament election for more than a week.

In the lead-up to that election, Nationals leader Brendon Grylls offered to trade Nationals preferences to either party for support for his Royalties for Regions program.

Mr Holt said yesterday that preferences would under no circumstances be directed to Labor over the Liberals in Lower House seats.

"The Nationals have played a key role in a stable alliance government with the Liberal Party, which will continue if we retain the balance of power," he said.

The statement contrasts with one to delegates at the Nationals State conference last August, declaring they wanted to be courted by both major parties to form government after the election.

The decision on preferences could prove crucial in three- cornered contests in which the Nationals come third - for example, Geraldton, where Liberal Ian Blayney won in 2008 with Nationals preferences.

Political analyst David Black said far more crucial would be Labor's response to the snub. Labor's traditional inclination to preference the Nationals over the Liberals delivered Moore to Grant Woodhams in 2008 but a reversal of that would probably result in a Liberal win, he said.

Analyst Harry Phillips said given Labor had already ruled out governing with them, the Nationals might have decided it would damage a likely future Liberal alliance to preference their enemies.

Labor State secretary Simon Mead said the development ended any claim Nationals had to being "an independent third force".

He expected Labor would preference the Liberals and Nationals over each other "roughly equally".

Mr Mead said the Liberals and Nationals were now effectively running on a joint ticket and would be "morally bound" to keep twice as many promises in country seats.

"The National and Liberal candidates in Albany have been making different promises - both can't be kept," he said. "They have got to be honest now about which promises can be kept if they win government."

'They have got to be honest now about which promises can be kept.' " Labor State secretary * Simon Mead *

The West Australian

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