OPINION: By Frank Macskasy
Winston Peters has called it: NZ First is going into coalition with Labour-Greens.
In reality, it was the only decision he could possibly make.
Firstly, National has a scary reputation for devouring it’s coalition partners:
Peter Dunne – falling electoral support at each election until he faced a potentially humiliating defeat by Labour’s Greg O’Connor. Instead, he chose to resign and leave Parliament voluntarily rather than being turfed out by the voters of Ōhāriu.
ACT/David Seymour – a shadow of its heyday in 2002, when it had nine MPs, it is currently hooked up to perpetual political life-support. Seymour is tolerated by the Nats as a cute mascot rather than as a useful partner. No one has the heart to flick the “off” switch to end Seymour’s tenacious grip on parliamentary life.
The Māori Party – its close alliance with successive National governments took it from five seats in 2008 to losing everything at this election. Coalition with the Tories was the proverbial “kiss of death” for the Māori Party.
NZ First has dodged that party-killing-bullet by declining to join with the National “Black Widow” Party.
Baggage of failed policies
Secondly, a National-NZ First Coalition would have meant taking on the baggage of failed policies; knee-jerk rush from crisis-to-crisis, and bad headlines from the last nine years of mismanagement from the Key-English administration:
- Increasingly polluted waterways
- Families living in cars
- Under-funded health system
- Stretched mental health services
- Increasingly unaffordable housing
- Rising greenhouse gas emissions
- Low wages
- Economic growth predicated on housing speculation and immigration
- … etc, etc, etc.
A coalition with National would have meant taking ownership of nine years of worsening statistics and bleak media headlines.
How would that benefit NZ First? The answer is self-evident.
National has had nine years to address the critical problems confronting us as a nation. The sight of families with children living in cars or rivers that are toxic with urban and rural pollution and unfit to swim in is not the New Zealand we wanted to leave future generations.
Yet that is precisely the legacy bequeathed by the Nats and their neo-liberal, market-driven ideology. That would have been the poisoned chalice from which Peters would have supped from.
Fresh start offered
A coalition with Labour and the Greens offers a fresh start. It puts NZ First into a brand new government, with a fresh leadership, new ideas, and none of the baggage offered by a tired government that had simply run out of ideas.
It also accords Winston Peters with the legacy he sought: the kingmaker who put the sword to 33 years of the neo-liberal experiment.
The nightmare of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson is over. Neo-liberalism is dead.
Thank you, Winston Peters.
And as I promised: I offer my apologies for doubting that you would make the right decision. This is one of those occasions where I am happy to have been proven 100 percent wrong.
Frank Macskasy is a media and politics columnist with New Zealand’s The Daily Blog. Asia Pacific Report has a publishing arrangement with TDB.