The political year is over. Parliament has risen for the year, to resume in February 2017 The politicians are dispersing to their electorates/their homes for the summer break. Parliamentary services are winding up for 2016 and will soon likewise disperse for the summer break. And as they do, it is perhaps appropriate to release the report card for the political parties in Parliament for the year 2016.
A.C.T Party: For a one man band, A.C.T. has done surprisingly well this year. David Seymour’s Bill of Parliament to support euthanasia has drawn support from across the board, from people and organizations normally philosophically opposed to A.C.T. Mr Seymour has continued to enjoy the confidence of the National Party and has been a steady support partner. Of concern to A.C.T. should be the growing resistance to the Charter Schools and the fact that history does not generally favour four term peace time Governments. GRADE: B
Green Party: For a 14 M.P. Party, the Greens have had a surprisingly ordinary year. The highlight I thought was the failed marriage with Labour that their leader Andrew Little and Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei jointly announced. It failed to give either party a bounce in the polls and quickly disappeared off the radar as a “not to be repeated” gimmick. Since the resignation of Prime Minister John Key, Green Party Members of Parliament Catherine Delahunty and have announced they are standing down at the end of this Parliament sometime next year. GRADE B-
Labour Party: For much of 2016 like 2014 and 2015, Labour struggled to make an impact on National in Parliament. No major policy announcements or large changes in the make up of its caucus meant it continued to lag well behind former Prime Minister John Key prior to his resignation. Leader Andrew Little at times was no more popular than the unofficial Leader of the Opposition, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. In the last two weeks since Mr Key resigned though Labour has had a much needed by-election win and several members of Parliament have quit. Is Labour finally getting the message about renewal? If not, a fourth term on the Opposition benches awaits. GRADE C+
Maori Party: The Maori Party was having a quiet year until it applied the pressure on National to announce sweeping changes to the Resource Management Act. In doing so Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox indicated that the Party was deliberately forgetting that this is a piece of legislation for all New Zealanders and not just a two Member party which no longer represents Maoridom fairly. This and the failure to see any tangible improvement of Maori in the social welfare statistics shows a party that is A.W.O.L. in its priorities. GRADE C
National Party: 2016 like the 7 years of unrivalled popular Government that went before it, had been going swimmingly until Prime Minister John Key announced his resignation on 05 December 2016. Despite housing woes, another big earthquake and the failure of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and the flag referendum, from National’s standpoint it had nothing to seriously concern it. The failure though to leave a positive legacy statement and the worsening crime rates mean that the days of John Key will be remembered as solid but not spectacular. The appointment after a National Party caucus vote of Bill English to be Prime Minister and Paula Bennett to be his deputy has seen a stampede of both Ministers and caucus M.P.’s for the door. GRADE B
New Zealand First Party: The Right Honourable Winston Peters is the dark horse in this Parliament. Slowly but steadily gaining popularity as the party for all New Zealanders, New Zealand First consistently hovers around 6-8% support in Parliament, whilst commentators think it is consistently 2-3% base points higher. With a leader as popular as the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little and a disciplined caucus behind him, Mr Peters will hold the balance of power at the 2017 election unless the Greens or Labour pick up their performance substantially. GRADE B+
United Future Party: That other one man band in Parliament has had an unremarkable year. Although he has continued to be a reliable support partner for National in government Peter Dunne has not delivered any large policy changes. His title of M.P. for Ohariu hangs by a fairly slender thread and the party is finished if he loses his seat. GRADE C