Consensus government or an awful mess?

It’s certainly been a messy week for the Government. Is it a sign of a bigger, awful mess?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tried to paper over some of this weeks cracks by claiming it was consensus government in action, but there were worrying suggestions it was the opposite – both Labour and NZ First ministers look like they are pushing their own agendas with poor or non-existent communication between them.

There are worrying signs of a lack of overall leadership, and this is at a very tricky time, with Ardern distracted by having a baby and due to go on maternity leave as soon as her baby is born (actually as soon as she goes into Labour and goes into hospital).

The big unknown is whether things will spiral more out of control with Winston Peters in charge.

The media have observed this weeks mess and many have commented on it.

Stacey Kirk (Stuff): Three ring circus with one ringmaster at the centre – buckle in for a wild ride

Consensus government in action, or a bloody awful mess?

It’s difficult to characterise the past week as anything but the latter and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be worried about whether she’ll have a Government to come back to when she returns from maternity leave.

Her MPs don’t exactly make it easy for her.

And if this week has illustrated anything it’s what lies at the beating heart of any coalition-related controversy – Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been at the centre of everything.

I don’t think he has. He had nothing to do with the David Clark revelations. And nothing to do with the Green uprising over granting water bottling rights.

And nothing to do with Stuart Nash telling a parliamentary committee he didn’t bother reading advice on what effect increasing poluice numbers might have, and would have ignored the advice if he had read it.

Peters  wasn’t directly involved in Kelvin Davis announcing a new prison that will rely on double bunking to cater for growing prisoner numbers – and Davis went as far as saying they could resort to mattresses on the floor. Peters didn’t directly cause that brain fart, but Labour are limited in becoming more lenient on imprisonment when they require NZ First votes to do any law changes.

But Peters dumped Little in a big mess over 3 strikes.

It began with a hastily-arranged press conference by Justice Minister Andrew Little, to reveal that his grand plan to repeal the three strikes legislation had been shot out of the sky.

He’d spent the previous week giving interviews about his plans to take it to Cabinet and push forward – the only issue was, he did not have the numbers to do so. More embarrassingly for Little, Peters decided to wait until the 11th hour to let him know.

Total humiliation  awaits any member of Cabinet who threatens to step outside the bounds of MMP and attempt a “first past the post”-style power play to get ahead of public opinion – that’s what Little got and really, he should have expected it.

That was in part self inflicted, but Peters played Little then dumped on him big time.

Never one to play second fiddle, Peters also took a starring role in a different drama. Days out from assuming the seat at the head of the Cabinet table was the moment he chose to file papers in the High Court, suing the Government and top officials over their handling of his private superannuation details.

Ardern’s assertions rang out more as pleas, that his actions were a totally private matter. Presiding over a Cabinet that may be liable for an eventual payout to Peters is awkward at best, and a clear conflict at worst – a matter that is most certainly in the public interest.

Peters’ court action looks debatable, but he has made Ardern look weak – or more accurately, Ardern has made herself look weak, just as she is about to hand over most of her power to Peters.

Meanwhile, as sources across multiple polls have suggested NZ First has well and truly settled below the 5 per cent MMP threshold, Shane Jones has pulled out the megaphone to tear strips off Fonterra. A total overstep many might say, of a Minister of the Crown. However, Ardern is adamant these comments were made in a private capacity, despite Jones as good as repeating them in the House.

This again makes Ardern look weak if not impotent in her own Government.

And she is now sidelined, leaving Peters and Jones to take on board this week’s signals and likely do as they please to raise their profile, putting the government at risk.

And Labour’s ministers look increasingly arrogant, uncoordinated and messy.

The Government looks like a bunch of headless chooks, with the fox about to take over the hen house.

 

40 Comments

  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  June 17, 2018

    ‘Winston….please, please don’t do this !’

  2. PDB

     /  June 17, 2018

    Moan all you like about John Key but he had all the different factions within National under control and provided a solid united front with his coalition partners whilst in govt. Stable govt was a given during the last National-led govt extending out to when English was leader.

    Ardern is simply a friendly-face mouth piece for the shambles she represents – a person who continually uses positive words to describe negative processes & outcomes. Unfortunately her lack of leadership ability is shown up by the loose lips & arrogance shown by her coalition partners & even her own MPs.

    If this govt is indeed a one-term wonder it will have nothing to do with Bridges who will only become PM by default.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  June 17, 2018

      Her over-use of absolute/ly may just be an annoying mannerism, but it’s beginning to sound meaningless and even a little desperate,

      I wonder if Labour think that they paid too high a price by letting Winston in.

    • PartisanZ

       /  June 17, 2018

      What different factions within National …?

      Secular Conservative and Christian Conservative?

      Right, Alt-Right and Far Right?

      • Ariki

         /  June 18, 2018

        Yeah as opposed to Left, Alt-left and Communist.
        Sounds like a recipe for success……

  3. Blazer

     /  June 17, 2018

    Key had plenty of errant ministers who put their foot in it’…Collins,Brownlee,Smith,Sabin,Tolley, just for starters.National had no vision and borrowed to maintain the status quo…i.e govern for the few at the expense of the many.
    Everythings fine and dandy,however much some try to invent calamity.

    • All governments have awkward and embarrassing problems with ministers, but it’s unusual to have so many bad looks in a single week, with the PM about to go on leave for 6 weeks.

    • Corky

       /  June 17, 2018

      Blazer, who is the real PM? Winston or Jacinda? Seems NZ1 can do what they want. I bet Labour at this moment are wishing they lost the election. Too late, National is enjoying that prize. Let’s see what Kelvin delivers us this week, if you want to talk about vision.

  4. sorethumb

     /  June 17, 2018

    People were “over Labour” (ferals on welfare) then “over National” (immigration and house prices) a bit like this:
    https://tinyurl.com/y9g8gj78

    • Gezza

       /  June 17, 2018

      I strongly recommend that you see a professional at the earliest opportunity.

  5. Kitty Catkin

     /  June 17, 2018

    Remember when Labour made a list of what they thought were Chinese names ? Patel was one.

  6. David in aus

     /  June 17, 2018

    The only consensus is that three parties have is being in government. They will last a full-term as they won’t allow principles get in the way of power.

    • Blazer

       /  June 17, 2018

      a bit like National,the MP and ACT you mean…Bol.

  7. David

     /  June 17, 2018

    On what planet were people expecting anything else. Nice woman but a total under achiever thrust unwillingly into the top job when her one big focus in life was to have children.
    No point the media getting all upset because their hero turns out to be bit shit and mostly uninterested in the job she didn’t want.

    • Gezza

       /  June 17, 2018

      You might be right in that analysis. She certainly hasn’t added up to any more than a bunch of slogans and positive phrases. And got pregnant. And she’s not running this government. She’s not even fronting for it as the coalition partners are doing their own thing.

    • Blazer

       /  June 17, 2018

      ‘ Nice woman but a total under achiever ‘..good onya David..becoming P.M of NZ is the ultimate under achievement.

  8. Zedd

     /  June 17, 2018

    its one or the other…

    • Gezza

       /  June 17, 2018

      It’s looking like the other.

    • PDB

       /  June 17, 2018

      The general consensus is that this government is an awful mess

  9. PartisanZ

     /  June 17, 2018

    There is no general consensus …

    • PartisanZ

       /  June 17, 2018

      “Maturity of mind is the capacity to endure uncertainty” – John Finley

      • PartisanZ

         /  June 17, 2018

        This quote’s not relevant to topic … I just include it because of its … Loftiness …

        “An image is a stop the mind makes between uncertainties”.

        Djuna Barnes

        FFAAAAAAAAARK!

        • PartisanZ

           /  June 17, 2018

          “We demand guaranteed rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty”.

          Douglas Adams

          • PartisanZ

             /  June 17, 2018

            “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd”.

            Voltaire

            • Gezza

               /  June 17, 2018

              One of the things I’m often reminded of when I see the pithy sayings of the famous is the countless profound pithy sayings of the ordinary folk, and even children, that never get immortalised because they’re not famous.

            • PartisanZ

               /  June 17, 2018

              Aha Gezza … and there’s the rub …

      • Gezza

         /  June 17, 2018

        • Blazer

           /  June 18, 2018

          so at least they can die of starvation marching to a different tune.

  10. PartisanZ

     /  June 17, 2018

    “There are still people in my party who believe in consensus politics. I regard them as Quislings, as traitors … I mean it”.

    Margaret Thatcher

    Jacinda is filling big boots …

    • Gezza

       /  June 17, 2018

      Yes, but what’s she filling them with? That’s the question.

      • PartisanZ

         /  June 17, 2018

        Highly Rightie-respectable non-consensus by the look of it …

        • Gezza

           /  June 17, 2018

          I suppose that’s one way of putting it. I don’t know what it means but that’s ok, I don’t need to.

          • PartisanZ

             /  June 18, 2018

            If its good for Maggie Thatcher, destroyer of ‘community’, everlasting heroine of the New-Right, now the Orthodox Centre/Centre Right, why isn’t lack of consensus equally good for Jacinda Ardern?

            It can’t be because she’s Labour, can it?

            If it’s good for Rogered Douglas …

            • Gezza

               /  June 18, 2018

              Still can’t make sense out of that.

            • Ariki

               /  June 18, 2018

              Neither can Partisan because they have misunderstood the meaning of the original Thatcher quote. But that’s ok, it’s inevitable given their choice of name.

  11. Alan Wilkinson

     /  June 18, 2018

    Relax. The prime minister is having a baby in her private capacity.

    • PDB

       /  June 18, 2018

      I heard that part of coalition agreement included the child be called ‘Winston’ regardless if it’s a boy or girl?