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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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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