Elected representatives ought to work in the common interest. In areas where there is agreement they should work constructively, in areas where there is disagreement they should passionately put their side and oppose. But healthy political systems have a mix of both approaches.
A couple of examples, Sue Bradford’s anti smacking private member’s bill, or as I prefer to call it the anti brutalising law, was for some strange reason causing all sorts of consternation. People were wrongly led to believe that it would result in all sorts of otherwise innocent parents going to jail. Nothing was further from the truth. But John Key, clearly for political reasons, nevertheless did the right thing and help guide the bill through Parliament.
A second example was Louisa Wall’s same sex marriage bill. The debate was full of surprises and saw hardened right wingers express humane compassionate support for gay people to be able to enjoy the same institutions that straight people do. The final debate was a delight to watch.
So what can we expect this term? Regrettably National has ruled out the possibility of the opposition taking a constructive view of its job this term.
Parliament resumes next week and English today announced the portfolios he has assigned to his team, including a big promotion for Judith Collins.
“You should expect more tension and more pressure in the Parliament, and particularly through the select committee process. Because we are the dominant select committee party,” English said.
“And that is going to make a difference to how everything runs – it’s not our job to make this place run for an incoming Government that is a minority.
“You will get to understand that it is a minority Government with a majority Opposition, and the Greens as the support party. That is how we are going to run it…we have no obligation to smooth [Labour’s] path. None whatsoever.”
English repeats the lie that the Government is a “minority government”. Reality to Bill English a majority of MPs support this Government. This is how democracy is meant to work.
So we can expect business as usual from National this term. Forget about constructive engagement from the opposition or a principled approach to the role of opposition. And no doubt there will be a further trashing of the reputations of politicians and of politics.
It could be a rough three years.