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Andrew Dickens: The battle between Winston and Jacinda

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Thursday, 13 September 2018, 1:21p.m.
It strikes me that despite it being our electoral system for 22 years, so many people, including commentators don’t seem to get MMP. Photo / NZ Herald

Well, the beltway is in full flight now, dramatically interviewing their typewriters, seeing two plus two and coming up with five.

Last night Tova O’Brien was breathlessly reporting a power battle between Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern. A slug em out battle of the Titans with the future of the coalition hanging in the balance.

This came after two of the country’s biggest unions, FIRST Union and the Council of Trade Unions (CTU), came out and said they fear the Government's employment law reforms could be hijacked by Winston Peters.

The unionists went on to say they are a bit worried about the dominance on a number of issues that is coming from New Zealand First. Yes said the pundits, look at how Winston scuppered the reform of the three strikes rule. We now have co-leaders of the coalition and Jacinda has lost control

Now you could say that but it’s a bit over-excitable, over-egged and overhyped. We won’t really know the influence of NZ First until the legislation is tabled. That’s why Winston says it’s a work in progress. Until then it’s only speculation and conjecture and beltway babbling.

It strikes me that despite it being our electoral system for 22 years, so many people, including commentators don’t seem to get MMP. They seem to believe that if a Prime Minister and his or her party can’t steam roller their policies into legislation then we have a power vacuum and stand on a precipice of disaster and chaos.

The truth is that since 1996 no ruling party of New Zealand has ever had total control of legislation because they’ve never had the numbers to get stuff through.  They’ve had to mitigate and compromise. It’s why National never reformed the RMA or got rid of Working For Families. It’s why they did bring in policies they weren’t fond of like the Maori party’s Whanau Ora.

Now, this gets under the haters of MMPs skin. Under First Past the Post this wasn’t a problem they say. But Government’s got a blank cheque to do what they wanted. Not really a good thing. It was a kind of totalitarian where extremists and ideologues could do what they want. Labour and Rogernomics and National with Ruth Richardson’s Mother of All Budgets. 

Now I have no problem with MMP. It’s because we have only one house of representatives. In the UK, Australia and America there are up to three houses or branches of government providing checks and balances and ironing out the worst excesses. Here though, get a straight majority, do what you want. I laugh when people say MMP is undemocratic because it’s far more indicative of people as a whole rather than a ruling elite.

So the unions should calm down. You’re not going to get everything you want and that’s good because not everyone wants everything you want.

What I will say about leadership is that Jacinda Ardern needs more of her colleagues to start pulling their weight. At their best National was a two headed beast with Key, English and Joyce. NZ First is very much the Winston and Shane show. But Jacinda seems to be facing all these challenges alone.

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