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Marc My Words: What Was The Result?

Marc My Words.
By Marc Alexander MP
Wednesday 21 September 2005
What was the result?

What an election! It had everything you would expect from a thriller - accusations of bribery, counter-claims of bribery, the Exclusive Brethren, cover-up of budgetary costs, accusations of Ministerial impropriety, and even a left testicle from Tauranga! The only thing we didn't get was a result.

What we do know is that while most voters focussed on the two major parties of Labour and National, paradoxically, it will be the trimmed down smaller parties that will decide the government. There will be a direct contradiction of democracy if a party of one (Jim Anderton's Progressives), two (ACT), or even three (United Future), end up shaping the next government. It won't be the tail that wags the dog, but the fleas on the tail.

Don't get me wrong, we need smaller parties to give voice to a range of interests but we don't need them to hijack middle New Zealand. Even in the wildest imagination it cannot be considered fair to expect the bulk of the voters to be compromised by a minute parliamentary presence. Labour and National both polled over 800,000 votes each; does anyone really think that the Progressives for example, with 24,000 votes should have much to say?

And how is it that the Maori party with only 40,000 votes, is rewarded with four seats while United Future with more substantial voter support polling 55,000 votes, only receives three?

The possible permutations of the next government are as bewildering as they are bizarre. We could have any combination of Labour + Progressives + Greens + NZ First + United Future either in coalition, confidence and supply, or abstention arrangements. Well...except that United Future won't work with the Greens (unless United Future reneges on their promise), and NZ First won't be in coalition at all (unless they renege on their promise).

But politics makes for strange bedfellows and the lure of the baubles of office might bring on an attack of selective amnesia to all the parties. Given that the minor parties will be eyeing their survival beyond the forthcoming term, the possibility of working together and the high cost of indistinguishability, will be part of their respective considerations. Right now only the Greens have an easily recognised brand and so they - as nutty as they can be - are the only ones who might be able to pull it off.

My own thoughts are that whatever the shape of the next government, it is unlikely to last three years. While it is true that the minor parties will want to be seen as responsible and stable, they will come under increasing pressure to distance themselves from what is clearly Labour's last term. This will make them overly sensitive to movement in the polls. They will wait patiently for a time when they can capitalise on their perceived support - and that at each others expense - it does not bode well for stability or longevity.

National is in a slightly different situation because in order to win the war they may be well advised to lose this battle. Leader Don Brash has done an amazing job transforming a party of twenty seven MPs to one of forty nine. He has breathed new life into National and any temptation to step down should be avoided. Rather than changing captains, National would be better advised to stay the course and be prepared for an early election and a resounding takeover of the Treasury benches. In my opinion it is a matter of when Brash becomes the Prime Minister rather than if.

On a personal note: The election result was doubly difficult for me because, quite apart from my own personal circumstances, I will miss the opportunity to work alongside people I admire and respect. I particularly want to thank my Christchurch staff, Nigel and Rose, for their support and encouragement.

I acknowledge my Parliamentary colleagues, not only from United Future, but from other parties as well, they carry out their duties fuelled with an indispensable idealism and pragmatism. I also extend my appreciation to our research team of Andrew, Stephen, Mel and Lucy. And to the lovable English import Vicki Norman - Vicki, I will miss your hearty laugh.

Finally, I thank Peter Dunne for the last three years. Without him I would have missed out on the experience of a lifetime.

I wish those in the next term of Parliament all the very best.

Marc Alexander
m.a.alexander @ xtra.co.nz

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