Steven Joyce’s strategic stupidity with MMP means National has no coalition options and needs to cling to power now at all costs. Backbenchers know this, and know that they have him by the balls because he can’t rely on the maoris without getting it in the arse from the voters.
There are two ways National MPs can cause problems. All of them have the option of crossing the floor, and a few in marginal seats have the option of threatening to resign and bring down the government. The first is a pretty drastic step and would take a seriously pissed off backbencher. The second is a much bigger problem because if there is a by election and National loses the balance of power shifts.
The MPs with marginal seats are:
Paula Bennett – 9
Nicky Wagner - 47
Kate Wilkinson – 642
Nikki Kaye – 717
Sam Lotu-Iiga – 3021
Chris Tremain – 3701
Jonathan Young - 4270
Tim Macindoe – 4,418
Anne Tolley – 4774
The ministers, Bennett, Wilkinson, Tremain and Tolley look pretty safe in their ministerial portfolios. If Key gives them the arse they can tell him to stick it and force a by-election. It looks like Comrade Kate might have got a get out of jail free card.
Of the backbenchers if I were Steven Joyce or John Key I would expect my buttocks to clench every time I got a call from any of Wagner, Kaye, Lotu-Iiga, Young and MacIndoe. And I would be prepared with a bribe to keep them from forcing a by-election, because without them there is every chance Labour would win the seat. The power of incumbency is massive, and these MPs will know it.