The Stuff Of (National Party) Nightmares: The bloody red dawn of Bolshevism has haunted the dreams of conservative New Zealanders since 1917. The National Party was founded in 1936 to make sure it never happened here. Seventy-five years later the Nats are still frightening us with red-in-tooth-and-claw bogeymen. The Mana Party leader, Hone Harawira, has just become the latest personification of the Right's fear of revolution.
THE NATIONAL PARTY, Act, the Maori Party and Peter Dunne have a nightmare they’d like to sell you.
Let me summarise it for you.
It’s November 27th 2011. Less than twelve hours ago, the New Zealand electorate delivered up a result that has sent the New Zealand Dollar into free-fall.
Instead of returning Prime Minister John Key’s unprecedentedly popular National-led government to office – as all of the mainstream media’s pundits were confidently predicting – the electorate has (surely unwittingly?) supplied Labour with all the necessary components for a left-wing coalition.
Though Labour polled just 32 percent of the Party Vote (12 percentage points fewer than National’s 44 percent) the leader of the Opposition, Phil Goff, has been gifted a set of allies who, between them, attracted 18 percent of the Party Vote.
Theoretically, Mr Goff can become Prime Minister.
His most “acceptable” ally, the Green Party, with 10 percent of the Party Vote, brings twelve MPs into the House of Representatives – its largest parliamentary contingent to date.
The veteran campaigner, Winston Peters, in spite of (or, perhaps, because of) the viciousness of the media campaign waged against him, has gleaned 5.2 percent of the Party Vote and is ready to return six NZ First MPs to the chamber.
But the man who has well and truly spooked the financial markets isn’t Mr Peters – it’s Hone Harawira.
On the receiving end of even more political vitriol than the NZ First leader, the leader of the newly-formed Mana Party has, nevertheless, not only held his Te Tai Tokerau seat, he’s led his party to a 3.5 percent share of the Party Vote, and five MPs.
Even worse, Mana’s Co-leader, Annette Sykes, has taken the Maori seat of Waiariki from the Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell.
Indeed, the aggressive campaigning of Mana’s candidates in all seven of the Maori seats has allowed Labour’s candidates to come through the middle everywhere except Tariana Turia’s seat of Te Tai Hauauru.
Reduced to just a single MP, the Maori Party is no longer in a position to offer the National Party the numbers it needs to govern.
Between them, the Greens, NZ First and Mana hold 23 seats in the House of Representatives. When these are added to Labour’s 40 seats, Mr Goff finds himself (but only just!) in possession of the constitutionally required parliamentary majority. If he can secure an undertaking from the Greens, NZ First and Mana that they will vote with Labour on all confidence and supply motions, then the Governor-General will ask Mr Goff to form a government.
Overseas investors are stunned and confused. American and British observers simply cannot get their heads around the fact that, in spite of being 12 percentage points ahead of their nearest rival, Mr Key and his National Party have actually lost the New Zealand general election.
Further alarmed by the New Zealand media’s lurid descriptions of Labour’s “radical” allies, investors begin dumping their New Zealand holdings for whatever they can get. The value of Kiwi plummets. Interest rates soar.
By Monday morning, every newspaper in the country is screaming “CRISIS!”
This is when National, Act, the Maori Party and Peter Dunne expect you to wake up, shudder, and utter a solemn vow that such terrible things must never be allowed to happen.
BUT, if you’ll go on dreaming just a little longer, you’ll discover that by mid-day on Monday, Mr Goff has told a crowded press conference that only the Green Party will be joining his government as a full coalition partner.
Both Mr Peters and Mr Harawira, says the Labour leader, have opted to sit on the cross-benches, and are making no demands whatsoever on either himself or the Greens.
He reaffirms to the excited journalists that Confidence and Supply has been assured by both Mr Peters and Mr Harawira, and that any private members bills introduced by NZ First or Mana will be responded to by his minority government thoughtfully, responsibly, and according to their merits.
By Tuesday evening the Kiwi is regaining ground against all the major currencies. Large Chinese investors have signalled their interest in meeting with all the leaders of what the media is already calling “The Grand Left Alliance”. Even the NZX shows signs of recovery after 24 hours of frantic trading.
SEE? Not such a scary nightmare after all.
This essay was originally published in The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 1 July 2011.