Saturday Synopsis: Will National’s Caucus be Unruly after the Election?

This is the first in a series of posts about New Zealand’s political scene after the 2011 Election.

Will National’s Caucus be Unruly after the Election?

Phil Goff’s hopeless polls means that unless Labour changes leader National will be back in for another three years. The next three years could be a lot tougher on the PM than these three years where his bully boys have been able to easily keep caucus in line.

Thinking hard about the National Government there are only two examples of dissenting opinions from the back benches playing out in the media. Both were from Nikki Kaye, the first over her opposition to Nick Smith’s entirely sensible removal of the need for a resource consent for cutting down trees. This was a good move from Nick, and the sky hasn’t fallen on anyone’s heads despite the dire warnings from Nikki and a whole bunch of smelly greenies.

The other time Nikki Kaye got on the right side of an issue as National had to pull back on mining in National Parks as the mining minister was a bit busy trying to work out which pie shop was the best in the country and didn’t listen to Captain Panic Pants. Nikki took a principled stand on mining on Great Barrier Island, and apparently after asking for permission to dissent so she played it by the book.

The reason National will be fractious in the next term is when the big guy comes around to lean on a back bencher with the direct threat of a low list place or not getting into cabinet the back bencher will tell him to f*** off or preferably die so they have a shot at his cabinet post.

Unless there is a major sex scandal that takes a few more cabinet ministers out of cabinet it looks certain that the only three positions up for grab are the retiring Power, Te Heu Heu and Mapp. There will likely on be three more people making the step up, and perhaps some changes in the whips office if the whips are promoted.

If you are not one of the lucky three, and have been in parliament for two terms or more already you will probably have realised that you are not going to get a promotion because you have played nice for two whole terms and you are getting nothing.

The same situation applies to back bench List MPs. If you have been there for two terms and don’t get an immediate promotion after the election it will be unlikely you will get one. You will start questioning if it is worth hanging around as a scum list MP and a backbencher to see if you get a slot in cabinet after the 2014. This probably means you start thinking “I had a productive and interesting life outside parliament where I earned a lot more and didn’t have to deal with dickheads like Trevor Mallard”. Then you start thinking there is no point in playing nice any more, and you might as well start taking a principled stand.

This also is likely to be how the 2008 and 2011 intake think. You won’t have much chance of getting into cabinet in the current administration so you are better off forging a reputation for being principled. If you didn’t sign up to the National Party to borrow $380m a week or you don’t subscribe to any of the other wet policies of this administration you will probably decide to take a principled stand on issues so when the next National government forms in ten years or so you are known as a person of principle, not a party lackey.

This will cause problems and if certain hefty bully boys start trying to lean on MPs they will likely be told to get stuffed because there is no real reason for a backbencher to play nice. Unlike Labour, National do not have a vice like grip on caucus, or an H2 to brutally enforce decrees. The other important difference for National is most of their caucus have been successful in the private sector before becoming MPs, and aren’t beholden to the party for future success. Many have taken a big pay cut to be a back bencher, and could have a fulfilling and lucrative career outside of parliament.

A fractious caucus means the whips position could be a poisoned chalice. It will not be something anyone with ambitions for a major role in the next National government should accept.

This blog likes principled political debates of the type that MMP has pretty much stopped in its tracks as MPs have to toe the line if they want to get a decent list position. So hopefully this will pan out and the next term of the National Government will have more than just Nikki Kaye taking principled stands against the government.


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  • mediatart

    Unruly ‘after’ the election ??
    The problem is this election, as is shown by the delay in making Nationals list rankings public till parliament is about to rise.
    The reason , the whole swathe of listers who arent coming back, no matter what.
    Do you really think Quinn or Bakshi is coming back ?
    hell Bakshi even ranks lower then JLR who has only been in parliament 5 min ( along with a swag of nobodies).
    Once the list is out they have only one way to show their displeasure ( as has happened before) and thats by not being backbench fodder. Cant have them do that by the simple means of not have parliament sit – RWC helps as well.

  • jabba

    the list of Labour MP’s is sad reading .. I will run out of ink naming them. The Greens and Maori Parties are the same and I won’t mention Jimmy, harawira or carter.
    The thing is that National also has deadwood and many need to go .. for instance Roy, Wilkinson, Williamson (has picked his game up recently though),. Others are borderline and need to do something to raise their profile (and I don’t “falling down stairs at 3am or trying to shag Labour supporters).

  • reid

    if cer­tain hefty bully boys start try­ing to lean on MPs they will likely be told to get stuffed

    I saw Gerry once walking to work and I looked at him to smile and nod and he gave me such an aggressive stare.

    Sad thing is, he doesn’t need to be like that to get things done.

    I hope Tolley gets a promotion, she deserves it. She slipped the knife in smooth as butter, quickly and easily. A very tough job and she did it outstandingly. Now it’s here to stay. NCEA will be very challenging to reverse after 5 years, assuming we win this year. Lefties will try it of course but they’ll probably only succeed in cosmetic changes. Social engineering? You betcha. Ha.

    Key I’m afraid is the sort of person who surrounds himself with sycophants hence Brownlee and McCully being close to him. I hope I’m wrong but if he does this also in his second term he’ll lose touch for they always do when complacency sets in.

    At the mo he’s running hard and the only prospect for this country. It’s a shame that’s the case but it is.

    I think from the country’s perspective the best thing to happen would be is to have 15 ACT, 30 Nats, 1 UF [good Revenue Minister – best we have ever had in my adult lifetime], 12 MP vs. the rest.

    Key/National needs to be put under pressure by the right ideas and they aren’t being and there is no realistic prospect of that. Totally frustrating, isn’t it.

    • mediatart

      Reverse NCEA ?
      hello …. it was indroduced by Bill English.

      • reid

        Sorry the national standards framework. I thought it was wrong when I wrote it but I was in the flow, you know…