New and unfamiliar homes for National and Labour


When Parliament sits for the first time, there will no doubt be a new round of maiden speeches, as new Members of Parliament are asked to tell New Zealand and the world about their journey to Parliament. There will be the swearing in of the Members and the new Government. All of which may seem a bit disconcerting for people who were in some cases people holding down regular Monday to Friday jobs just a few weeks ago.

Spare a thought for the new Opposition and the new Government, suddenly sitting in seats in the House that – depending on which one part one refers to – were either dreading, or long for. Without a doubt there will be humorous moments where someone forgets their allocated seat and sits somewhere else, only to have to move.

For a time there is no doubt it will seem strange to National Members of Parliament to find themselves sitting on the Opposition benches, which just seven weeks ago they had every reason to believe they would avoid sitting on for another three years.

The enthusiasm for replacing Leader of the Opposition-designate Bill English seems minimal at this time. National, having had the advantage of watching Labour churn through Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little before settling on Jacinda Ardern, will have understandably little appetite for its own inquisition. Perhaps that might come later, should the polling suddenly drop out from under the new Government.

Instead, National will no doubt focus on using its formidable resources and 56 M.P.’s to mount a devastating counter attack. The three years in Opposition will be long and they will no doubt cause a few Members of Parliament to reassess their priorities, but many – having witnessed what they thought was a growing arrogance – will be pleased to see Members of Parliament such as Jonathan Coleman, Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett among others being forced to eat humble pie.

Its traditional support partner, the one man band of David Seymour, called A.C.T. will find plenty to be frustrated with. Impotent as a one person band, wondering why National did not follow more of its suggestions and wondering how to grow, there will be plenty on its plate. On top of all this, A.C.T. has Mr Seymour’s euthanasia bill before the House. Given it is one of the few things A.C.T. sees eye to eye with left leaning M.P.’s on, this could be its one chance to do something useful.

Likewise for Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens, those first few weeks on the benches normally reserved for the governing party or in this case parties, will seem equally unfamiliar. For the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand it will be a completely unfamiliar – albeit very welcome – feeling.

Going from a party that was dead in the water and sinking at the end of July to holding office with the Greens and New Zealand First – I am sure in all three parties there will be M.P.’s pinching themselves, wondering how they managed to pull this off. Given that most of these M.P.’s have never been Ministers before, including the Prime Minister-designate, it will be a period of steep learning as they come to grips with their Ministerial portfolio’s and responsibilities.

For the Greens this will be the start of a whole new chapter, there will be only a few instances around the world of a Green Party holding ministerial portfolio’s. Having waited nearly 20 years to hold the ones that they will be handed, the incentive to be careful will be strong.

For New Zealand First, this is just the second time they have been the King (or in this case, the Queen)maker. The memories of 1996, where New Zealand was made to wait for 9 weeks was not lost on them, and this time despite having a much more fractured Parliament, it was able to reach a decision after just 26 days. Like the Greens, the incentive to be careful will be strong as it is unlikely Mr Peters will get another chance to be in such a role.

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