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Howard's End: A Grand Coalition Of Scared Horses

If the ability to count is all that political parties need to know in order to gain or retain power under MMP, then National and Labour must be rubbing their hands together over the break-up of the Alliance which will scare more of the horses back to the major parties and has been contrived by a man who doesn't seem to care in which direction the car is travelling, so long as he remains in the front seat, Maree Howard writes.

Minor parties have not fared well in public polling under the MMP system. Yet the 5 per cent threshold to get members into Parliament inevitably means that votes will be split across the electorates and coalitions arranged to enable a Government to be formed.

For the major parties that is a curse.

The Labour Party decided years ago to renounce its principles, its policies and its past - it moved to the centre. Essentially, its policies have become a clone of National, so much so that people have called this cosy arrangement the Nat/Lab grand coalition.

After all, can anybody imagine Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk appointing a former National Prime Minister to head-up Kiwi bank or appointing National Party stalwart Ross Armstrong to a number of Government companies.

The effect was that Labour cut the ground from under public criticism National would have had about Kiwi bank or the various Government companies Armstrong is involved with.

But I'm not convinced National was that concerned about the bank or the appointments - they showed that the thinking of National and Labour politicians and their policies are very close.

I mean, after all, Helen Clark wouldn't have been so cynical as to establish the new bank and make these appointments for any other reason than in the public good - would she? It wouldn't have been a sop to Jim Anderton in order to retain power - would it?

If power is the ultimate aphrodisiac it will mean cross-dressing by politicians will not be the last of these prominent crossovers. Indeed, outside of the public gaze, many who we might think are National are lending Clark some support.

Political commentator, Colin James, made this very point in his NZ Herald column last Tuesday.

And political commentator, Jane Clifton, writes in this week's Listener about a National/Labour grand coalition: a government composed of two parties that traditionally oppose each other which she says the public would agree with - the ultimate in MMP consensus-building.

National has always seen itself as born-to-rule. But now that Labour has had a taste of power, and is riding high in the polls, the last thing it needs is to have some minor party yapping at its heels as part of the next Government.

Like National, it will want power to govern in its own right, so how might that happen?

Simple! Scare the voters back into the arms of the major parties through some contrived political eruptions in the minor ones.

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession but, today, it bears a strong resemblance to the first.

What the minor parties have to do is what Kiwi's have done all through history when they have had their backs against the wall: fight like hell for the things they believe in.

And remember, there are no true friends in major party politics. They are all sharks circling in the water waiting for traces of blood to appear.

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