First past MMP

Cam constantly tells us that National will need friends to form another government but there are no friends. Even if David Seymour manages to hold onto his seat in Epsom, (which is touch and go anyway, unless ACT’s support climbs significantly), it will make little difference. While ACT does have a few good people and is making some inroads in Northcote with Stephen Berry, it isn’t looking all that good right now. If ACT faces oblivion at the next election, where does that leave National?

The election is still over two years away but some things are already becoming clear. Chickens are starting to come home to roost for NZ First, and unless they win an electoral seat, they will probably be gone at the next election.

There are several reasons for this. The first, of course, is that a fair number of NZ First voters did not expect Winston to go with a government that included the Greens. Winston has always openly despised the Green Party, but somehow, he managed to forget that last October, and although he studiously ignores them most of the time, many of his voters feel they have been betrayed. When they voted to ‘keep the government honest’, as Winston voters constantly seem to think they are doing, they didn’t realise it would be a Labour/Greens government they would be keeping honest. Nobody is keeping them honest anyway. They are running amok, and Winston is doing nothing about it. NZ First voters are not happy about it.

The second reason is that Winston is on his way out. Nowadays, he is more of a spent force than a force to be reckoned with. The hope for the future of the party lies with Shane Jones. The trouble with that is that NZ First is synonymous with Winston. If he had wanted to create a legacy, he needed to do it before now. Bringing in Shane at the last minute to keep the party going is an unlikely strategy. It might work, particularly if Jones wins Whangarei, which is his apparent intention but it is risky. When you add in all the other dimwits that make up NZ First, in the end, it probably won’t work.

So if I am right, where does that leave us? No ACT, no NZ First. The TV polls have included the Maori Party on their leader boards, but they are gone. It will be almost impossible for them to come back now. Yes, there are rumours that Lance O’Sullivan might stand for them in Northland, but respected as he is, politics is a different game from what he is used to. While I think he could be very good as an MP, I think he will have his work cut out to make it at all, unless he goes with a major party. That, of course, is a possibility, but it doesn’t solve National’s problem.

So, let us say that we have an election in 2020 with essentially three parties in contention, two of which are joined at the hip. Where does that leave us?

You could say the Greens will hold the balance of power, but they won’t, because they will never go with National. So, essentially, they will always be the lunatic fringe of the Labour Party. My guess also is that, as some of their more radical policies are going to be implemented, such as allowing beneficiaries to commit fraud and still receive welfare, the voting public will pull away. It is clear already that Labour and the Greens are taking votes off each other, and not the opposition, so this may not mean much to the overall vote.

Instead of looking for parties that don’t exist yet, or hoping that someone will set up a new party that will miraculously make it over the 5% threshold in just over two years, National really only has one choice. It needs to do what Bill English tried to do in 2017, but he was one election too early. They have to try to govern alone.

With effectively only one other party in contention, they could probably do it.

So where does this leave MMP?

Effectively, politics in New Zealand has always been about Labour, National and everyone else. Small parties that form part of a coalition and then start throwing their weight around get punished by voters. Think NZ First in 2008, although, surprisingly, they did make it back in 2011. Think United Future and the Maori Party in 2017. Getting a new party off the ground is expensive and fraught with problems. Think the Conservative Party in 2014, and the Opportunities Party in 2017. Both were well funded but failed to resonate much with voters.

The only type of party that might actually get some traction is a genuine environmental party, that could work with either side of the House. But there is no sign yet of any such party being formed, and with just over two years to go, it doesn’t look likely this time around.

So, what do you think? Could National govern alone from 2020 onwards? I think so. I think that is how they need to prepare for the next election. But quite where that would leave MMP, I am not really sure. Maybe it will just die a natural death? There is hope, then, after all.