New Zealand is half way through the current term of the New Zealand Parliament. And in all the time I have been monitoring New Zealand politics I have not seen so late in the third term of a Government, a Parliament so lacking in a potential winner.
But do I think there will be a hung Parliament in 2017? I certainly hope not, because that would be three more years relying on politicians who will have had ample time by the end of this term to make a decisive impact. But as we move into the second half of this term, with National still clearly leading in the polls (which are never 100% accurate), despite having not made any meaningful changes for the better for most people in 7 1/2 years, this is increasingly starting to look the case.
For years I have been hoping that any one of the various leaders of Labour or their Party President would issue a “dead wood” edict, just like National did in the middle of its time on the Opposition Bench. The purpose of that edict was to encourage long term Members of Parliament to consider moving on so that the ranks can be freshened up with a view to taking back the Government Bench. It worked and between 2005-2008 a number of National Party Members of Parliament retired from their political careers. By the time the 2008 election rolled around National had a person who could lead the Party to victory, and despite their mediocre performances, a set of Members of Parliament who could become Ministers.
Labour are scared stiff of National. Too scared to be a centre left Party. Too scared to release more than token policy. Too scared to issue their own “dead wood” edict, despite it now being one of the primary reasons why they look doomed to spend a fourth term on the Opposition Benches. Back in 2002, after watching National get trounced at the election and plummet to 27 seats, I actually had a bit of sympathy for them because healthy politics have both an active Government and a robust Opposition. The Government was robust and doing things, but the Opposition was in trouble. But after the 2002 election they did some serious rebuilding – rebuilding that I am yet to see in Labour.
What I found impressive was that New Zealand First has managed to grow by half its Parliamentary size again since 2011, whilst the Greens have stagnated after years of growth. Following the 2014 it had 11 Members of Parliament. Then National M.P. for Northland, Mike Sabin, resigned abruptly causing a by-election, which its leader the Right Honourable Winston Peters won, enabling a 12th Member of Parliament to be brought in (Ria Bond). Mr Peters, a veteran of Parliament for 30 years, continues to be one of Parliament’s star performers.
And finally we have the Greens. The resignation of Russel Norman to take up the top job at Greenpeace might be in the latters favour, but it certainly has not helped the Greens. The party under Metiria Turei and James Shaw seems to have declined somewhat in the last 18 months both in terms of being an effective ally for Labour. It’s share of the seats in Parliament has been overtaken by New Zealand First in the polls.
There are two ways I think New Zealand can end this National-led Government. One is that the Greens and New Zealand First work together and Black-Green 2017 becomes a rallying cry, which could take away centrist votes from National and pick up their disaffected “Blue-Greens”. The other is Labour gets its backside into gear.
Or we end up with a hung Parliament. And possibly another election within the year.