Like A Lamb To The Slaughter: The Powers-That-Be are not about to let a Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana combination take power - not while National can lay claim to winning more votes than anybody else. That's why the Greens are already being fattened-up for the role of National's "responsible" coalition partner. Would you care for some mint sauce with that cabinet seat, Russel?
CAN’T YOU HEAR THEM? The wheels spinning within wheels? The subtle change in the whine of the engine? The Machine is changing gear. The Powers-That-Be are preparing to offer us something new. A National-Green Government.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the way this election is being covered. Whose stocks are being talked up? Whose leaders are being praised for their “realism” and economic “savviness”? Let me give you a hint: It isn’t Labour.
Of course, it’s only an insurance policy at the moment. Something to reach for if everything goes horribly wrong on Election Day. But that’s the thing about insurance – it’s very hard to acquire after the event. You’ve got to be ready.
Ready for what?
Could be a number of things.
Could be the polls wildly overstating National’s support. Could be the voters, not relishing the prospect of Mr Key governing alone, deciding to cast their ballots elsewhere. Could be that instead of receiving 56 percent of the Party Vote, National has to make do with just 46 percent.
Could be that, when told to jump, “the good people of Epsom” refuse the fence. Could be that, faced with two (very) old National faces, the Epsom voters opt for the comparatively youthful features of Mr Paul Goldsmith. That would put Act out of Parliament, and leave the Prime Minister dangerously bereft of trustworthy coalition partners.
Could be a sudden, last-minute surge towards the Left. An unexpected wave of support that pushes the Greens up to 15 percent of the Party Vote and heaves Labour, coughing and spluttering, into the mid-30s. Hone Harawira could stride up the beach with Annette Sykes under one arm and John Minto under the other. That would leave Phil Goff perilously close to being able to cobble together some form of Centre-Left government.
Could be that Old Brown Eyes – Winston Peters – croons his way back into the hearts of the over-60s. Could be that they warm to the idea of NZ First sitting on the cross-benches, wielding one of those “Stop/Go” signs: Asset sales? Stop! School meals for the children of the poor? Go! Could be that, in the pundits’ opinion, Winston’s return presages John Key’s departure.
That’s why the Powers-That-Be have to be ready.
Editorialist and political commentator, John Roughan, pointed the way last weekend:
“National’s winning margin this time could be nearer 10 points than 20, which means it could be displaced by a Labour coalition. What would happen then? I suspect the electorate would feel cheated. The result wouldn’t seem right. The government would be held in general contempt. Nothing it did would command much respect. A small army of MMP’s old advocates would come to its defence, reminding us that it had always been possible under MMP for a winner to be defeated by second and third. That would not help at all. We would resolve to change not just the government at the next opportunity but to elect a party that promised to fix the system.”
You get that? Is that clear enough for you?
Fail to allow the party which wins the most votes to govern and you can kiss MMP good-bye.
Never mind that our constitution guarantees power only to the party, or parties, commanding a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives. And forget completely that in spite of the fact that it won more votes than National in 1978 and 1981, Labour never got to form a government. All you have to remember is that if National wins more votes than any other party on 26 November, it must be allowed to go on governing – or else.
And you know already who the designated fall-guy, the patsies, are going to be.
Yep, poor old Russel Norman and the Greens.
They’re Mr Key’s insurance policy; his Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card.
And believe you me, once Russel and the Greens are ushered into the Powers-That-Be’s government-making machinery, saying “No” will not be an option.
This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Otago Daily Times, The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 11 November 2011.