Considering a minority government

A minority government hasn’t been tried under MMP, but perhaps it is time to seriously consider the option.

If the other parties call Winston Peters bluff, take him at his words on his bottom lines, it is unlikely either National or Labour+Greens will be able to form a majority coalition Government.

MMP was designed to provide a more representative Parliament, which it has. But this could be taken further and give us a more representative governing arrangement. This could be done with a minority government.

Here is a feasible outcome of seats from this year’s election:

  • National 56
  • Labour 28
  • Greens 16
  • NZ First 16
  • Maori Party 2
  • ACT 1
  • UF 1

This puts Labour+Greens+NZ First > National, and Greens+NZ First > Labour, and NZ First=Greens so there is no clear majority in any situation. If the result is approximately along these lines similar uncertainties will exist.

National with twice the MPs of Labour could form the Government, perhaps with the small parties in formal confidence and supply arrangements, but they would still have to rely on either of Labour, Greens or NZ First to pass any legislation. This means successful bills would have a clear majority rather than a bare majority as happens often now.

For Government to be truly representative ministerial positions could be given to opposition party MPs. The best of each party could then participate in running the country.

Some suggestions for portfolios:

  • Andrew Little: Minister of Labour – he has a good background for this and it would allow him to focus on his party’s roots.
  • Grant Robertson: Minister of Foreign Affairs -David Farrar has recommended him for this role, perhaps he has done polls on it.
  • David Parker: Minister of Economic Development, Associate Minister of Finance
  • Jacinda Ardern: Minister of Women’s Affairs, Minister of Communications – she has an affinity with women’s magazines and I couldn’t think of what else she could do.
  • Metiria Turei:  Minister of Social Welfare – giving her experience with the reality of fixing all of our social problems within a budget.
  • James Shaw: Minister of the Environment – something most people expect the Greens to be experts in.
  • Winston Peters – Minister of Workplace Safety, Minister of Mines.
  • Ron Mark: Minister of Defence – it would be good for him to work on the opposite of attack).
  • Te Ururoa Flavell: Minister of Māori Development, Minister of Whanau Ora – makes since for the Māori Party.
  • David Seymour: Minister of Education – time he stepped up to a real challenge beyond his Partnership Schools agenda.
  • Peter Dunne: Associate Minister of Health, Associate Minister of Justice, Associate Minister of Corrections -it would be interesting to see what changes he could make in drug law reform without being hobbled by National.

Being the largest by far National would be the dominant party but would have to work with the whole of Parliament to get things done.

On confidence and supply, with all parties contributing to Government they should be responsible for ensuring it doesn’t fall over.

Those on the right and the left who want radical reforms may complain about a representative arrangement like this, but if they want ideological lurches they need to build sufficient support in Parliament to achieve this.

They won’t do this by sitting on the sidelines complaining, they need to do what everyone else does, build a big enough party with enough MPs to achieve what they want.

A minority government as suggested is unlikely to be a radical reform government, but that’s not out of the ordinary under two decades of MMP anyway.

Incremental change with clear majority support in Parliament is the most sensible way of operating a government – and I believe it is what most voters prefer and want.

Minority government may seem in itself a bit radical but I think it is something well worth trying. It’s really just a step further than what we have now, and a logical step under MMP.

Leave a comment


  1. Gezza

     /  20th January 2017

    Jacinda Ardern is probably your most inspired portfolio allocation PG.

    • It may be a bit mean but I couldn’t think of what she specialised in.

      Her current responsibilities:
      Spokesperson for Justice, Arts, Culture and Heritage, Children, and Small Business
      Associate Spokesperson for Auckland Issues

      • Gezza

         /  20th January 2017

        Commentary should be interesting. I think it’s worth a go but it’d be a nail biter all the way with Winston in the mix.

        • But he would only be a bit player and not required to keep things working – far less risky than putting him in a balance of power position. It effectively sidelines him unless he wants to be a part of governing.

  2. David

     /  20th January 2017

    i would emigrate to the US

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  20th January 2017

    You couldn’t have a Cabinet meeting without them all trying to talk at once.

  4. PDB

     /  20th January 2017

    One big drawback with MMP (made worse by our relatively short 3 year terms) is that publically unpopular decisions that may need to be made for the betterment of the country (whether it’s changes to super, scrapping free student loans etc) never get made.

    National only got the partial asset sale through because of a lack of creditable opposition.

    • Gezza

       /  20th January 2017

      I’d rather there were none, and hope there are no more, but at least they’ve kept a 51% majority shareholding. Better than all the profits going to rapacious executives & shareholders.

      I’d like to see a four year term, pants. Less likely for a dodgy government to get away with saying they need another term to bring about the utopia they are planning for. What length term are you thinking of?

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  20th January 2017

        Load of nonsense, G. No doubt you are happy with all the losses going to the taxpayer as per Solid Energy.

        • Gezza

           /  20th January 2017

          Was just doing a bit of fishing Al. I don’t think there’s any call for rudeness. Solid Energy was run by rapacious executives from The Private Sector, was it not?

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  20th January 2017

            They all are, yet you are happy about that apparently. If you go fishing be careful you don’t catch a shark. If I see nonsense I call it. Profits should be commensurate with value. A high profit SOE should be saleable for a high price. No reason the taxpayer should choose to take the profits rather than the value.

      • PDB

         /  20th January 2017

        Considering one year of every term is electioneering 4 years would be good.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  20th January 2017

        As for rapacious executives, surely you are joking?

        • Those rapacious executives being a consummate expression of the predatory, avaricious, mercenary and usurious system that’s been put in place by government legislation.

          Our so-called reformed economy …

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  20th January 2017

            You mean the usual consequence of governments using taxpayers money to indulge in private sector businesses.

            • No, to make private sector businesses out of public utilities … even with majority government ‘stakeholding’ …

              These grossly obscene salaries don’t attract ‘the best’ people to manage the public’s electricity generation or the mineral wealth of the soil that belongs to everyone … they simply attract the most predatory, avaricious and mercenary individuals to reduce costs by reducing the labour component of production and oversee digitalisation …

              That’s their ‘stakeholding’ – not ‘the common good’. Perhaps along with a daily sly smile as if to say, “Look what the suckers are prepared to pay me to do this” …

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  20th January 2017

              They don’t manage the public’s electricity generation, they manage their customers’ electricity generation in competition with all the other generators. Why they should be regarded as a public utility is a mystery known only to socialists.

  5. Duperez

     /  20th January 2017

    Seymour as Education Minister taking up a challenge past his charter schools agenda? You mean the one of simply selling schooling off? 💲💲💲

  6. @ PDB – ” … publically unpopular decisions that may need to be made for the betterment of the country (whether it’s changes to super, scrapping free student loans etc) never get made.”

    Since politics is a popularity contest, doesn’t it make perfect sense that unpopular decisions don’t get made?

    Unpopular decisions like free tertiary education, flexi-Super and increased taxation to improve health and education don’t get made either, and these may be “for the betterment of the country” in many many peoples’ opinion.

    What you’re really saying is that unpopular decisions I AGREE WITH to save the taxpayer money regardless of social consequence don’t get made due to perceived, implied or actual social consequence …

    Although something akin to the minority government being considered here is exactly what we need IMHO – a collaborative Legislative Assembly – there’s the massive stumbling block of Party affiliation and its attendant ideologies: What exactly is “for the betterment of the nation”?

    Would Ministerial portfolios simply be allocated by National, or would they be negotiable with the senior Opposition MPs? [In which case why not negotiate a coalition?]

    And while those Opposition Ministers [with portfolio] are democratically elected to Parliament, wouldn’t they be “appointed” rather than elected to Government? Indeed, appointed to what is effectively a National government? [I might point out here that Righties ‘supposedly’ really, really, really abhor “appointed” … as in Maori representation]

    If the ‘Opposition Ministers in Government’ (and therefore their Parties) are not going to be part of a coalition government, then really what we’re saying is they must bow to National’s ideology & whim – welfare modified neoliberalism – in exchange for a Ministerial portfolio ….?

    Don’t sell-out for no power … Or sell-out for our power …

    What they should all do, of course, is try it out for a week or a month … Have a go … See if it works … (Apparently something approaching this works quite well in Select Committee?)

    I’ll bet money I don’t live to see the day such sensible spontaneity enters politics …

  7. time to Dump Dunne from Assoc. Health (Drug policy) & any other portfolio that is associated with it !!! 😦

    whilst I know he just ‘does as he is told’ (by Nat.) his record on this total sux

  8. A minority government wouldn’t be something National would really want to do I think. Its to constraining.

    Better to walk away and let Labour form a government with Winston and the Greens out of coalition but acting like Labours lapdog as per the Clark years… no Ministries for them to run just lobby fodder.

    It would be interesting to watch. Taxes would increase. Charter schools would be shut. Money would be thrown at Health with no measures on service delivery.

    And it would be a great opportunity to buy listed property companies with large Wellington portfolios as government size would surge.

    And there would be a lot of bickering between Labour and NZF….

    I’m warming to the idea…. Vote Labour y’all…


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