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.