The 2011 election may not be the fait accompli for right-wing doctrine many predicted after Labour’s demise in 2008.
National vs Labour is always a hard fought battle no matter what. And there is a real chance Labour could get over the line. But even if National manage to secure victory for a 2nd term the influence of a coalition partner may be profound.
If National attain government, which is the more likely outcome, (though far from certain e.g. I wonder how glowing those cables are about John Key?) who National governed with would determine the actual ideological direction of NZ for the following three years.
The outlook is certainly better than many right-wingers would like.
Polls at this stage in the electoral cycle are uncertain at best. But judging on existing trends National is bound to get the lion’s share of the vote. At current polling National is at 50%. I’d say that’s a pretty unlikely election result. If history is anything to go by what’s far more likely is something in the low to mid 40s. Securing a majority in Parliament is likely to rest on at least one, maybe two, support parties.
Different support parties will mean different things for a National-led government. How is our government’s ideology likely to be influenced by different parties?
ACT: I’m picking even if ACT are in Parliament next election they won’t be a major force. Influence will only come if their 2 or 3 MPs are needed for a National-ACT majority. Otherwise, they’ll be sidelined and ignored. An ACT-National majority is likely to lead to a continuation and acceleration of our path towards economic liberalisation.
ACT in government is a bad outcome for social liberals, and the worst possible outcome for socialists. It means an accelerated push for crazy criminal talk and right-wing economic doctrine.
NZ First: If Winston Peters makes it into Parliament it’s bad news for the economic liberals in the National Party. If Peters is there, it is very likely that National will need him to govern. Ideologically, it kills the right-wing economic project for the three years (or however long the government lasts). The economic liberals in National would likely shut their mouths and try hold the status quo, while the social conservatives in the party may take the chance to push their agenda.
NZ First in government is not a good outcome for liberals, economic or social. The consolation for socialists would be a slowdown of the right-wing economic project.
Maori Party: If ACT and National together don’t make a majority next election, the Maori Party will get some hard influence for the first time. Make no mistake, despite Turia’s deep dislike of Labour and the Maori Party’s apparent support for tax cuts for the rich, there is a strong pro-Maori and pro-dispossessed ideology amongst a majority of MPs. The real impact of the Maori Party’s ideology has only been held at bay so far because they’ve had no choice. National has always been able to turn to ACT, so there was no gain for the Maori Party by voting against the government. That would’ve just dented their internal influence. Expect more from the Maori Party if in an influential position in 2011.
The Maori Party has the potential to exact real gains for Maori, the poor, and working people. Don’t expect a stop to free trade or some economic liberalisation, but if National has to rely on the Maori Party for support you can bet your bottom dollar the beneficiary bashing will all but cease. How far the party pushes will be determined by how much influence Hone Harawira manages to wield.
Greens: Don’t rule this out. National will be hungry to keep power, and if there’s a choice between Greens and NZ First it may well just go to the hippies. The new Norman-Turei dynasty is likely to be more comfortable about a support arrangement with National than the previous leadership. And the fact is, the Greens may get enough out of National to make it worthwhile. They may have to opt for (and get) the status quo on economic doctrine, but there are serious possible environmental policies that National could be willing to compromise on.
Greens supporting a National government is probably the best outcome for socialists after a Labour loss. Right-wing doctrine would be slowed incredibly, and there is the potential for the Greens to reap environmental policy rewards.
Peter Dunne: Hopefully he’ll be gone. Otherwise he’ll just blow whatever way the wind goes. Dunne will only be useful to National if he’s needed to get a majority along with ACT.
Dunne is likely to have very little influence on the ideological direction of a National government. Let’s hope Ohariu get rid of him.
Any of the above are possibilities at this stage. What’s particularly interesting however is that an unlikely National majority aside, only ACT will provide support to continue on the existing footing.
At this stage I think if National wins government, the overall balance of power is likely to lay with the Maori Party. This will mean National will be forced to change direction at least a little. Expect the Maori Party to flex its muscles a bit more and not vote for every piece of right-wing economic legislation. Expect beneficiary bashing to be scaled back. And watch Hone Harawira. He may very well hold the key to how successful or unsuccessful National are in pushing their agenda.
At the other end of the spectrum, if NZ First or the Greens’ support is needed then the right-wing project in NZ becomes seriously dented. It’ll be a serious setback for economic liberals and could change force change in the economic orthodoxy of our major conservative party.
2011 is going to be an interesting year in NZ politics. No matter the result, don’t expect the ideological direction of the government to stay the same. Even if National are re-elected there’ll be change. And though because of other commitments this will be my last post, I shall be watching with a very keen interest.