Friday, 9 February 2018

Bonny Prince Billy.

Leader In Waiting? If this government falters, then the Opposition Leader will be perfectly placed to become the nation’s “Jacobite” leader-in-exile: the only legitimate inheritor of the 2017 General Election; the King-Over-The-Water; Bonny Prince Billy.

Will ye no come back again?
Will ye no come back again?
Better lo’ed ye canna be;
Will ye no come back again?

Jacobite Lament

THAT, FIVE MONTHS AFTER the 2017 election, 44.5 percent of New Zealanders remain loyal to the National Party is astonishing. Political defeat almost always foreshadows political desertion – usually on a large scale. Finding oneself on the losing side of any conflict is never a happy experience. The temptation to treat harshly the people who put you there can be very strong.

And yet National’s support remains precisely where it stood on election night. Conservative New Zealand is yet to be convinced that the government of Jacinda Ardern is worthy of so much as a second glance – let alone a second thought.

The reason for the Right’s steadfast opposition to the new regime is very simple: they do not believe it to be a legitimate government. No matter how many times the constitutional lawyers and political scientists insist that the present arrangement is perfectly legitimate: that a ‘coalition of the losers’ has always been one of the potential outcomes of any MMP election; the Right refuses to accept their arguments.

As adherents to New Zealand’s informal constitution, they cannot reconcile National’s stunning election-night plurality with its subsequent exclusion from government. How is it possible that a political party securing 44.5 percent of the popular vote – 7.6 percentage points ahead of its nearest rival – is denied power? How can it be ethical for a party receiving fewer than 7 percent of the votes cast, to set aside the clear preference of nearly half the electorate?

In the eyes of a worryingly large number of voters, the politicians currently seated on the Treasury Benches cannot be considered a legitimate government; and their leader, Jacinda Ardern, cannot be considered a legitimate prime minister.

The corollary to this denial is equally troubling. If Jacinda Ardern, the leader of the party which won the second-highest tally of votes, is not the legitimate prime minister; then the proper bearer of that title can only be the leader of the party which received the most votes: Bill English.

It is possible that Bill English’s colleagues are unaware of the power of this sentiment. As Members of Parliament, they know that the only votes that count in the formation of a government are the votes cast on the floor of the House of Representatives; and that the brutal truth of the present situation is – National doesn’t have enough.

Unlike so many of those who voted for them, they are moving on. The big question exercising their minds: Who should replace Bill – and when?

In this regard, they are, arguably, a little premature.

Jacinda’s stardust continues to dazzle us – her performance at Waitangi being just the latest demonstration of its brilliance – but, beneath the sparkling surface of this coalition government, powerful contradictions are at work. The Labour-NZF-Green government is determined to lift New Zealanders into paradise, but it lacks the funds required to pay for their new accommodation. Even worse, it is refusing to do what’s necessary to raise them.

By Budget Day – 17 May – it will have become demoralizingly clear to Jacinda’s Cabinet that her Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, is about to make liars of them all. By then, he’ll have made it clear that their generous promises of redress and renewal simply cannot be adequately funded. That’s when the deepening fissures in this ramshackle political construction will suddenly and dramatically widen; and the government’s most loosely-fastened adornments will begin falling-off.

That will be National’s Jacobite Moment.

For those who know their Scottish history, the Jacobites were the followers of the descendants of the deposed Stuart king, James II, whom they hailed as the only legitimate rulers of Great Britain.

If this government falters, then the Opposition Leader will be perfectly placed to become the nation’s “Jacobite” leader-in-exile: the only legitimate inheritor of the 2017 General Election; the King-Over-The-Water; Bonny Prince Billy.

The National Party’s best strategy is, therefore, to make no move against Bill English until it becomes clear whether or not Jacinda Ardern possesses the political skill to both deliver on Labour’s promises and adhere to her Government’s self-imposed “Budget Responsibility Rules”

If she doesn’t, then the 44.5 percent can start serenading their Bonny Prince Billy:

“Will ye no come back again?”

This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 9 February 2018.


Kat said...

I would agree that the National Party’s best strategy is to make no move against Bill English until it becomes clear whether or not Jacinda Ardern possesses the political skill to deliver. That should keep them bound in inertia and quietly in awe for the next nine years as they continue to believe they are, really, still in charge.

Lorraine said...

Keep it simple, Chris. the historical references are a distraction from your message.

Victor said...


Don't be a spoilsport!

Chris's extended historical analogies are a great source of entertainment and (sometimes even of) enlightenment.

Plugger said...

@ Lorraine: try reading; it works wonders for an empty mind.

peteswriteplace said...

If NZ had MMP during Muldoon's 2nd and third terms, he would have been history. The opposition had the most votes.

GJE said...

I disagree totally Lorraine...Chris your historical references always elevate and inform your arguments and even if one largely disagrees with what you are saying makes for enjoyable reading.
It brings to mind that famous quote..those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them...

Anonymous said...

Why is it scary that a plurality of people disagree with you?
Isn't it more scary that the govt is formed without the largest (by far!) party in parliament?

What does Jacinda have other than a glib populist appeal to leftists?
She's never had a real job. Has a mediocore degree in 'Communications', (no professional her!). Her parliamentary career is undistinguished - bills she's introduced have been mere statements of (fashionable) intent. She was defeated by Nikki Kaye in an electorate seat - twice!
She ridden the magic escalator ride of fashionable student causes to the very top.
Now, I think she'll fall off.
She'll be another Lange.

Also, I fail to see how any parent could think being (first time!) mother of a new born is compatible with being PM. Bother are 24/7 roles.
It's fashionable to call this sexist. In fact, it is biology.

Anonymous said...

One of the first acts of this 'Peoples Government' is it shut down Charter Schools, despite their success with poor ( and brown!) kids.
So much for helping the disadvantaged. So much for letting them help themselves.
That isn't permissable by centralised unions. They know what is best for you - and don't you forget it!

Wayne Mapp said...

National is completely aware of how MMP works. Many of them knew that Winston would not go with them if it looked halfway credible for him to do so. As soon as National was less than 10% ahead of Labour and in fact only 1.4% ahead of Labour and the Greens, National knew it was all over.

As for the future, well will NZF even get back in 2020?

In that case it is virtually a two horse drag race. National versus Labour and the Greens, the latter being effectively a single package. For that to work for the Greens, they probably need Genter as you have noted elsewhere. Davidson would be a gift.

As for Bill well he has all this year to decide.If it looks like National can get back in under him, he stays. If not well change is in the air.

As you note Labour is vulnerable. Jacinda will have to deliver in the next 18 months. As Bill English has noted you can't eat values. It not just Grant Robertson who will have constraints, the economy may well slide in the next year or so. The voters won't just blame international conditions.

You seem to convey that National thinks it should win from a minority position. They know that is not the case. They know they will have the beat the Labour/Green package (assuming NZF does not get 5%).

If NZF does get 5% in 2010, well then it is opposition again for National, and they already know that. NZF will not look at National till 2023, assuming of course NZF gets 5% in 2023.

greywarbler said...

Anonymous should identify him/herself at the bottom of his/her item.
Then we woud know who to disdain. Charter schools as they stand are open to be profitable for their founders, and are being thrown poor and 'brown kids' to go through their system. This may result in them achieving or not getting helpful information and skills for their future. There have been very few quality controls on the people employed so to do, real free market stuff.

I hope that we can find ways to allow the good ones to continue with checks and balances and be under control for perverts and psychopaths in the teachers and employers there. There is a place for special schools like this under proper Government supervision and also there should be special units set up again for children with problems now mainstreamed.
Those who can manage the work should have time in their favourite subject at a mainstream school. At present the mainstream teachers are responsible for too large a spectrum of capabilities.

We must be careful to care for and watch over the needs and interests of the children who don't fit into mainstream schools, or we will be needing a Royal Commission in future years where adults tell of the burdens they have carried all their lives arising from maltreatment as children.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Isn't it more scary that the govt is formed without the largest (by far!) party in parliament?"
No! It's the way the system works. I sort of get tired of saying this. And it is a better system than the one it replaced, where someone could form a government with a minority of votes.

Nick J said...

Amongst all of your conjecture and speculation Wayne you have spotted the dark clouds of economic uncertainty. Today sees the world exchanges "correcting" (we play so fast and loose with our vocabulary, the proper term may be "crashing").

Given this the real issue is going to be confidence, not in "managing" a perceived boom but in who you would rather have protect you from the storm. Fun times.

Kat said...

@Wayne Mapp

You say that National is completely aware of how MMP works. Then you say many of them new Winston would not go with them if it was half way credible to do so. National campaigned to get rid of the middle man. That does not demonstrate complete awareness of how MMP works. You appear to be suggesting that the result is only "half way credible".

That National would entertain the notion of running the country alongside a party and its leader that they openly despise and attempted to destroy speaks volumes.

Wayne Mapp said...


There is a very specific reason why Winston was going to avoid National if he possibly could. And that was the Privileges Committee hearing of 2008. I was part of the Committee. The hearings effectively destroyed his chances of getting back in. He knew that, we knew that.

But I knew if he got back in, which he did in 2011, National would pay a price.

In my view he would have gone with National if the margin above Labour was 10% or more, as it was on election night. He would not thwart democracy to that extent. But once it went under 10%, in fact by quite a bit, as it did when the specials were counted, then I knew Winston would take his revenge.

Now you might think National deserved that, that there should have been a karmic outcome to 2008.

In any event the outcome in 2017 was less about MMP and more about political reprisal.

Winston won't go with National in 2020, though that is not an absolute. If Labours vote collapses to say 35% and National is say 45% (unlikely but always possible) and Winston is in a position to decide, then he might go with National.

Kat said...

@ Wayne

I would say the outcome of 2017 had little to do with 2008 and more to do with National being such a rotten govt with a large number of members that indulge in dirty politics to the max. The whole front bench and most of the bank bench would have to be replaced before Winston ever considered a coalition with National. That may happen by 2026.

The sad part is it is of no surprise to me that National got 44.5% as I have always considered that this country is pretty much divided down the middle and in 2017 National had gobbled up most of the division on starboard. I recall Deborah Coddington saying NZ dodged a bullet when Don Brash failed in 2005. In my opinion NZ dodged a deadly malaise in 2017 thanks to Winston Peters.

Wayne Mapp said...


A "rotten govt" that has bequeathed too the current govt the best economic situation for nearly 20 years. Winston did not hate the broad thrust of National policy. Obviously he has a different view to National, but he would not have seen National as a "rotten govt".

Your comment is one of hyper partisanship that blinds you seeing to any merit in the party on the other side of the ideological divide to you. The only acceptable National government for you would actually be a Labour government.

I can't see the current government lasting till 2028 (actually I think you mean 2029), not unless they are miracle makers.

Most likely till 2023.

But back to your point about 2008.

In my view the events of 2008 was the compelling factor in his decision. I know how much going out of parliament in 2008 meant to Winston. He was bitter about it. He blamed National for the Privileges Committee hearings and thought we had done the parliamentary equivalent of underhand bowling.

I also know that Winston holds grudges, and that people have to pay for their sins, or at the very least show contrition. His decision in 2017 was mostly personal.

And when I say "I know" take it from me, that is not just interviewing my keyboard.

Charles E said...

Chris of course we accept MMP. Democracy is always safe with us around to keep them honest, at 44%+.
We just do not accept that the best leadership and government we have had for decades should be replaced by a losers' coalition led by a inexperienced light-weight youth who talks and smiles excessively but does little else..
But it has been and it is ligit. So get on with it ... coalition.
Make my day!

Kat said...

@Charles E

Good to see you are at the acceptance and hope stage of the grief process, its the final one.

I can assure you the coalition is "getting on with it".

Kat said...

@ Wayne

Please correct me if I am wrong but wasn't it Bill English on record following the 2008 election that publicly thanked Michael Cullen for leaving the "books" in such fine fiscal shape. And prior to the election of 2008 John Key said quote: “Firstly let me start by saying that New Zealand does not face the balance sheet crisis of 1984, or even of the early 1990s. Far from having dangerously high debt levels, gross debt to GDP is around a modest 25 percent and net debt may well be zero by 2008. In other words, there is no longer any balance sheet reason to justify an aggressive privatisation programme of the kind associated with the 1980s Labour Government.”

However fiscal management was not my point, the recent National govt up to, during and following the 2017 election have ran an anti MMP character smearing campaign against Winston Peters that fortunately for NZ backfired. Dirty Politics. Simple as that Wayne.

Winston Peters is on record (Hansard) over the past three years letting the National govt know just how corrupt and morally defunct he considers they are. You can check it out Wayne. But you already know that.

The last National govt that I had any time for was led by Jack Marshall. Perhaps another "Kiwi Keith" or "Gentleman Jack" may come along for National. NZ could sure do with an up front non muck raking opposition with something honest to offer.

Bee said...

"Jacinda will have to deliver in the next 18 months"

Wayne, she's not an elephant! Four or five months, surely.

Victor said...

Robbie Burns had a low opinion of the Jacobites:

I don't think he'd have liked NZ National either