National and MMP

It’s a strange position to be in. When you’re in opposition, as the Greens currently are, it’s reflexive to want the government to stagger, implode or, best of all, self destruct.  And traditional wisdom would suggest that a Act-National-United Future-Maori Party arrangement should have the potential to do just that.

And yet, this electoral cycle, more than most, the Greens have a stake in the government working.  With a referendum on MMP in the air we need this cooperation arrangement to put on its best party dress and show to those right wing voters who have previously been suspicious of MMP (partially on the basis that they kept losing under it) that it can work well.

And Key seems to be giving it his best shot. The arrangement he has put together seems to reflect what people voted for. The cabinet he has announced looks a lot more diverse, fresh and representative than it threatened to be a few months ago.  The whole thing looks stable and consultative.  Which is exactly what MMP should provide.

Personally I think the eight days to put together a government that commentators have been heralding is not such a big deal. I’m happy enough to wait a another few weeks if it means getting things right for the three years.  But in this instance, my guess is, from a National-leaning perspective, this whole thing does look about right.

By contrast Helen Clark, who was often cited as the master of MMP seemed to me to have lost the right to that epithet towards the end of her reign as Prime Minister.  Her last term where she sidelined the Greens and the Maori Party believing that they were already safe votes to her left in return for securing the support of Winston Peters and Peter Dunne has badly backfired on her party now.  There’s a thin line between pragmatic and cynical and Labour tripped over it badly during 2005-08.  And the public noticed.

I reckon Key’s biggest MMP challenge is likely to be Dunne.  It strikes me that his brand of politics is more self serving and less loyal than Winston Peters’ was.  If the media comes to that conclusion too he may find the common sense facade around him does not withstand much scrutiny. I would be surprised if he would willingly fall on his sword for the good of a stable government.  Key doesn’t need him for numbers (or should I say number) but Dunne probably does represent an important part of the image that Key is presently trying to paint.

Luckily we now see again that there will be both right-leaning and left-leaning governments under MMP.  Change is an important part of democracy.  And MMP is the most democratic voting system we have on offer so it has to embrace change.  While I want a chance to campaign to change this government (or at least parts of it) in 2011 I’m also glad that it is currently doing its best to show just how good MMP can be.

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5 thoughts on “National and MMP

  1. This also relates to Toad’s post below, about the differences between the agreements with the Maori party and ACT, with the latter not being bound by the cabinet manual, but I have been telling all and sundry my latest theory that one of ACT’s understood roles in this government is to behave obnoxiously enough to remind non-political-junkies of the things they are supposed to dislike about MMP – tail-wagging, grandstanding, excessive desire for “baubles”, etc. Just in time for the 2011 referendum.

    ACT is an MMP party, but I’m sure they would be quite happy to revert to FPP and pull the National party back to the right, eliminating those pesky Greens at the same time.

  2. Yep, I agree that ACT may turn into a thorn in the side of the government – I agree with Tracy Watkins, (don’t faint, it does happen occasionally …) in her Dompost piece today, that the inclusion of the Maaori Party is going to give a buffer from the far-right warblings of Hide, Douglas et al.

    I may just have to come and visit the public gallery for the opening to see just how the dance comports itself… 😉

  3. Pingback: Lots of praise for Key Ministry | Kiwiblog

  4. How would ACT benefit from MMP disappearing? At the very best, they’d be reduced to one seat. At worst they’d disappear permanently.

  5. I look forward to the chant:

    “Unemployed Peter Dunne,
    can’t work with anyone”

    Look at his record – he is definitely the weakest link. Maori Party will be most shat upon, while Act are just using Douglas’ old blitzkreig tactics – the squeky wheel gets the oil (while it lasts 😉 ).

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