Wednesday, May 16, 2007



Toys overboard!

Gordon Copeland is throwing a sulk over the impending passage of Sue Bradford's Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill and is quitting United Future to form his own party with former MP (and fellow Christian extremist) Larry Baldock. While this obviously affects the government's majority in the House, the abstention of the Greens assures them of confidence and supply (59 votes out of 115), and this will be tested in the next few days following the Budget debate. However the loss of Copeland's vote spells even more problems for the government's legislative program. On the positive side, it means they are going to have to rely on the Greens and Maori Party more often to get legislation passed - which will give them greater power to demand concessions and stall bad bills such as the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill.

The bigger picture in all of this is the breakup of United Future. This was originally a conglomeration of Peter Dunne's United New Zealand (a centrist, liberal party) and Future New Zealand (the rump of the 1996 Christian Democrats), which subsequently turned into a takeover. Now the Christians are walking, hopefully Dunne will be able to return to his centrist, secular roots. Though given past polling, he'll almost certainly be doing it all by himself again. As for the "new" Future New Zealand vehicle, it'll likely follow in the footsteps of other such groupings and quietly disappear thanks to the undemocratic threshhold.

Finally, there's a lesson in this for our politicians: you can't trust Christian parties to deliver the votes they have promised - they will flake and betray you. Hopefully this will introduce a note of caution into any future negotiations with such groupings.

54 comments:

This is a pity. Copeland was typically measured and intelligent (cf Larry Baldock), with a good grasp of his portfolios (and a number of other areas).

He would have made an effective minister.

Reckon he'll try to get Simon Barnett on board?

Posted by Graeme : 5/16/2007 03:04:00 PM

So anyone expecting an early election?

Gordon Copeland has no loyalty - he is in Parliament due to Peter Dunne, and has just dicked him.

Posted by G7 : 5/16/2007 03:26:00 PM

I just became convinced of the merits of waka jumping laws. Can we pass one under urgency now please.

Posted by Rich : 5/16/2007 03:34:00 PM

This is a pity. Copeland was typically measured and intelligent (cf Larry Baldock), with a good grasp of his portfolios (and a number of other areas).

He would have made an effective minister.


That's true. He seems well-regarded as deputy chair of the Commerce select committee, and he was the most engaged on the day I gave my submission on the Copyright Amendment Bill.

So does this mean he loses his deputy chairmanship? Or even his place in the committee? It'd be a shame to throw away something useful for the the sake of the "right" to hit children. But I don't understand that Christian thing with that anyway.

Posted by Russell Brown : 5/16/2007 03:43:00 PM

Christianity: don't understand, obey.

Posted by Moz : 5/16/2007 03:51:00 PM

My one experience of Copeland is seeing him at an immigration forum saying that if we didn't have so many abortions in this country we wouldn't need so many immigrants. Hardly a picture of measure or intelligence...

Posted by Tane Wilton : 5/16/2007 03:51:00 PM

Graeme: really? Based on his voting record and the legislation he's put up, I'd picked him as a fundamentalist whackjob and a propertarian absolutist. Economically, his BORA (property rights0 amendment bill puts him out there with the Libertarians.

G7: Not immediately - there's no doubt that the government still has confidence and supply, and I don't think Winston will be in any hurry to pull the plug and force an election. But the government is going to find it increasingly difficult to pass any legislative agenda, and it may reach the stage where it can no longer credibly carry on. At that stage, I expect it either to realign its coalition (if they can find any common ground between the Greens and Maori Party and one or other of their existing support partners), or to call it a day and go to the polls.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2007 04:00:00 PM

Rich: I disagree. This is a natural and normal part of the political process, and a vital means of forming new parties and new agendas and testing them before the electorate.

It's also worth noting that, given the high Christian vote for United Future, Copeland could argue that it is Dunne who has betrayed his constituents, not vice-versa. But in the end, I'd rather the decision as to who has betrayed whom is decided by voters, not self-intersted party leaders.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2007 04:04:00 PM

Is he opposed to his party having a conscience vote? To Dunne supporting the original bill? Both of those positions are well established, months old.

So why is he announcing this now? He has been an MP since 2002, and Helen Clark, loathed by all True Believers, from Maxim to the Bishop, has been governing with - relying on - his support. He's got some explaining to do if he's now going to rail against the godless government he has kept in power.

The only change is that Dunne's name is on the new amendment, in line with his known views. So?

As for the bigger picture, National's nightmare, bubbling under the surface of NZ politics since the 2005 election, and especially since Brash quit, may be turning into reality. A separate Christian/social conservative party, and a replay of 1996, when the Christian Coalition got over 4%. Wasted votes.

The Nats either want a) those votes themselves or b) a coalition partner IN PARLIAMENT with those votes. Which realistically means a sitting MP to deliver an electorate.

So, will the Christian right actually end up saving Helen Clark?

Simon

Posted by Anonymous : 5/16/2007 04:10:00 PM

"The only change is that Dunne's name is on the new amendment"

Another change is that it will become law - which wasn't always certain - I suppose he could have quit a couple of weeks ago, but I haven't too much problem with his waiting until today.

Yes, there was opposition to Civil Unions and other matters - but those matters didn't make parents criminals - the s 59 amendment actually effects "real people" - in a way the CUB didn't.

Posted by Graeme : 5/16/2007 04:22:00 PM

Simon - good points. What exactly is the guy's problem? He got to speak, and vote, against the bill. One of his colleagues thought the same way, and one of them did not. Big deal.

Graeme - I'm not too sure what you're getting at with your last sentence.

Posted by dc_red : 5/16/2007 04:33:00 PM

Yes, Graeme, but he is leaving the party, supposedly on principle. Even though the law would pass without United Future.

So the question is - what did his party do?

Answer - had a conscience vote. Therefore, he must be opposed to that policy, and to Dunne exercising his conscience in the "wrong" way. Copeland was entirely free to follow his conscience, and he did so. There is no logical reason for him to leave his PARTY because of the Bradford Bill alone. United Future has done nothing "wrong" - unless he believes that the party should have a whipped position against the bill.

Simon

Posted by Anonymous : 5/16/2007 04:34:00 PM

Simon: An interesting thought. The right put a lot of effort in in 2005 to line up the Christian conservative vote behind their radical economic policies (for example, through the supposedly "independent" Maxim institutes church-based political forums). If they go their own way, it could tilt the balance.

But more generally, if United falls back to a single seat, National is going to be in real trouble come coalition time. While they're polling high at the moment, this won't last, if only because the kiwi abhorrence of majority government will kick in as it did in 2002, and they'll need partners. But who do they have left? ACT draws its votes from the same pool as National, so there's no gain there. United we've already discussed. New Zealand First is headed for oblivion (though they could still make a comeback). Which leaves them with the Maori Party and the Greens - hardly likely to be sympathetic (particularly given the way National abuses and denigrates the former in the House). I've been thinking for a while that Labour may fail to win a plurality at the next election, but still be able to form a government because it has more potential partners and more common ground available. Copeland's resignation (and the expected demise of his vehicle) makes that more likely.

Finally, is there a chance of Peter Dunne's vote rebounding? People liked him in 2002 because he was sensible and middle of the road; they were put off when they realised who his friends were. If he can now reposition himself as a secular party, there's a chance of some of that centrist "common sense" vote returning. This is bad for the left, but probably good in the long-term for our political system.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2007 04:36:00 PM

Copeland has impressed as Dep Chair of Commerce. And unless the House says otherwise he continues in that role.

What may be more significant is he is the swing vote on Commerce, and as a presumably Opposition MP, it means the Govt may struggle to get legislation through there. Same on Finance and Expenditure where he is a key swing vote along with Hone Harawira.

Posted by David Farrar : 5/16/2007 04:36:00 PM

I think Graeme's last point needs to be read in an ironic voice (the Christian Right don't believe gays are people of course). At least I hope so.

I/S - I agree that an early election is not likely, but there is no point for Labour to be sitting in power, being unable to do anything. At least if they do now, they have someone to blame the instability on. Although they are not going to win the election anyway, so one could argue that they should stick in there for the 'baubles of office'

Posted by G7 : 5/16/2007 04:37:00 PM

DPF - Copeland may lose his seat. the distribution of select committee seats is largely done by the parties, and no one will give up a seat for an independent with no hope-in-hell of getting back in.

I/S - I can't see Dunne doing well, if anything, he is going to lose support and credibility over this. I wouldn't expect him to bring in anyone else at the next election.

Posted by G7 : 5/16/2007 04:40:00 PM

G7: there is no point for Labour to be sitting in power, being unable to do anything.

Sure there is: stopping National from doing anything. That's pretty much what this whole Parliamentary term has been about - a rearguard action to prevent them from trashing worker's rights, gutting the RMA, or restarting the Revolution by engineering a strategic deficit.

It's not inspiring, but its better than the alternative. And I want Labour to hang on and do it for as long as possible.

As for Dunne, it's a possibility, but I don't think its a good one.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2007 04:50:00 PM

G7 - they are initially done by the parties but once confirmed by the House, can only be changed by the House or Business Committee (I think) and I am not sure the Govt could get a majority to replace him.

Posted by David Farrar : 5/16/2007 05:32:00 PM

"But the government is going to find it increasingly difficult to pass any legislative agenda,"

Maybe. But the limb they have had to go out in on behalf of Sue Br. and co. is pretty astounding as are the poll hits they took as a result.

If the Greens don't offer stronger legislative support then they look incredibly cynical and flaky. Who would want to give them anything in the future?

Posted by Anonymous : 5/16/2007 05:33:00 PM

Anon: Good point - and the Greens also have strong reasons to cooperate in ensuring that the government gets some climate change policy through before the end of the year. But don't expect them to swallow too many dead rats - their brand is all about principle and pulling Labour in their direction, not about collaborating in undermining human rights or bashing immigrants (for example).

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2007 05:44:00 PM

Interesting piece on RNZ's Checkpoint just now, including interviews with Copeland and Dunne.

1) Copeland decided to leave UF two weeks ago, then told Dunne he was committed to the party.

2) Copeland has given his proxy to the government whip. He will be supporting the budget and all items in the UF agreement with the government.

So I suppose his strategy is to campaign for Future NZ at the next election as a sitting MP, but break with the government at some point before that (he'd be crazy not to). Along with the S59 referendum campaign, that gives him a chance of getting media coverage and being taken more seriously than groups trying to break into Parliament from outside.

I can't see him linking up with Field and Bishop Brian though - so it looks like a splintered "Christian" vote getting a sizeable but wasted chunk in 2008. Even 2% could make a difference. 5% spread over several parties would be Key's nightmare.

Simon

Posted by Anonymous : 5/16/2007 05:49:00 PM

I/S - Fine, but I don't expect the Greens to behave like Copeland either - given the considerable size of the S59 rat Labour just swallowed on their behalf, do you?

(Not opposing S59, just pointing out it was close to political suicide).

Posted by Anonymous : 5/16/2007 05:50:00 PM

The anti-smacking bill just passed its third reading, 113 - 7. Despite throwing his toys out of the cot over it, Copeland didn't vote.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2007 05:59:00 PM

Dunny boy has always been Labour through and through. Just that he could never bring himself to be in a party led by the old guard left, Clark and Co. Don't be in any illusions over this, he is just another Labour toady.

Posted by Swampy : 5/16/2007 06:17:00 PM

"I just became convinced of the merits of waka jumping laws. Can we pass one under urgency now please."

Ho ho ho
That would be with the support of that great waka jumper Jim Anderton would it? LOL

Posted by Swampy : 5/16/2007 06:19:00 PM

"So why is he announcing this now? He has been an MP since 2002, and Helen Clark, loathed by all True Believers, from Maxim to the Bishop, has been governing with - relying on - his support."

I'm going to suggest to you several possibilities
- Labour's validating legislation of October last year (election spending rorts).
- More recently National's backdown which many socialist commentators wrote up as National sidelining the conservative Christian community.

Which has convinced me that there is a place to reform FNZ for conservative Christian support.

Posted by FNZ Supporter : 5/16/2007 06:23:00 PM

"A separate Christian/social conservative party, and a replay of 1996, when the Christian Coalition got over 4%. Wasted votes."

Under MMP those are redistributed in proportion to the parties that pass 5%. So if National gets more than Labour they could still win.

Personally, I'm not bothered. The liberals in the National Party who want National to sideline Christian electors have only themselves to blame if this happens.

Posted by FNZ Supporter : 5/16/2007 06:27:00 PM

"is there a chance of Peter Dunne's vote rebounding? People liked him in 2002 because he was sensible and middle of the road; they were put off when they realised who his friends were."

Oh no they weren't. Every Christian who voted for UFNZ in 2002, and that's where most of their increased support came from, knew exactly what they were getting.

Posted by FNZ Supporter : 5/16/2007 06:29:00 PM

"It'd be a shame to throw away something useful for the the sake of the "right" to hit children. But I don't understand that Christian thing with that anyway."

The issue is, as we've said all along, Bradford seeking to undermine the authority of parents in the home. The Act outlaws all force for the purposes of correction. Force can include picking up your child to physically remove them, however gently and painlessly, to another place.

Now, add that into the socialists constantly passing laws to undermine parental authority and you can see easily what the issue is about.

Posted by FNZ Supporter : 5/16/2007 06:31:00 PM

"Finally, there's a lesson in this for our politicians: you can't trust Christian parties to deliver the votes they have promised - they will flake and betray you. Hopefully this will introduce a note of caution into any future negotiations with such groupings."

Labour are the biggest bunch of liars in Parliament, as we can see the electorate no longer trusts them.

National liberals betrayed the Christians who are supporting them.

Posted by Swampy : 5/16/2007 06:37:00 PM

FNZ

I would recommend a simple political principle.

Work out what your opponents want you to do. Then don't do it.

A loud Christian conservative fringe party, making life difficult for John Key, with National's divided caucus squirming in the middle, is exactly what Clark would love.

From the left, I wish you all the very best, and thank you.

Simon

Posted by Anonymous : 5/16/2007 06:45:00 PM

"so it looks like a splintered "Christian" vote getting a sizeable but wasted chunk in 2008. Even 2% could make a difference. 5% spread over several parties would be Key's nightmare."

OK so then Key has to come and negotiate, maybe support.

For the record, I don't see Destiny getting support outside their own church, and the numbers are relatively small compared to the size of the Christian community. Destiny is not well liked by other churches regardless of political alignment. Although they got 14,000 votes last time I can't see that increasing, in fact it's possible some of that will shift back to FNZ if it came from outside Destiny.

Overall I like what you are suggesting. I support what Copeland and Baldock have done if they have done it for the reason that National has set out to sideline the Christian vote. That, after all, is what the National liberals and left-wing commentators like Chris Trotter and Colin Espiner have been writing since the Section 59 rout. I'm a National member and so far I haven't been able to get a satisfactory answer within the party as to whether National is interested in the conservative Christian vote.

PS Is it just me or does word verification spew occasionally?

Posted by Swampy : 5/16/2007 06:50:00 PM

"Work out what your opponents want you to do. Then don't do it."

Is that the liberal wing of the National Party you're talking about there?

Posted by FNZ Supporter : 5/16/2007 06:53:00 PM

FNZ of old was a broadbased party. Given the involvement of former members including MPs I can't see why they would go a different way now.

Posted by Swampy : 5/16/2007 08:19:00 PM

FNZ Supporter: Under MMP those are redistributed in proportion to the parties that pass 5%.

Actually no - they are ignored. Read the Act - s191 (4) - if you don't believe me. It's mathematically equivalent to proportional redistribution, but not the same thing.

From a large party's point of view, I'd think that 4% of the seats is better than 2% any day of the week. But some parties seem to have real problems playing well with others.

Oh, and as for Dunne's 2002 vote, I was talking about his secular supporters - the ones the Christian cuckoos in United Future hoodwinked. They may be drawn back if United returns to secularism. Or not.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2007 08:31:00 PM

Swampy: For the record, I don't see Destiny getting support outside their own church

And the same goes for Future NZ, just as it did for Christian Heritage. Doctrinal division makes for political weakness - something the secular majority in this country are quite thankful for.

As for National being forced to negotiate or support the new party, dream on. National's strategy over the last two elections has been consistent: they work to eliminate potential coalition partners on the right rather than support them. And I don't expect that to change - especially when Key is trying to distance himself from the stench of Pope Tamaki and the Exclusive Brethren.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2007 08:45:00 PM

Swampy: FNZ of old was a broadbased party.

Indeed. So "broad-based" that they received 1.12% of the vote in 1999 - only 350 votes more than the Aotearoa Legalise Cannibis party.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2007 09:13:00 PM

Oh, and as for Dunne's 2002 vote, I was talking about his secular supporters - the ones the Christian cuckoos in United Future hoodwinked.

I think this is complete nonsense, a popular but non-factual claim of the left. Most of the party's support came from the Christian community.

Posted by Swampy (FNZ Supporter) : 5/16/2007 10:35:00 PM

Idiot/Savant said...

Swampy: For the record, I don't see Destiny getting support outside their own church

And the same goes for Future NZ, just as it did for Christian Heritage. Doctrinal division makes for political weakness - something the secular majority in this country are quite thankful for


FNZ doesn't represent a single church, unlike Destiny. That's what broadbased means.

Posted by Swampy (FNZ supporter) : 5/16/2007 10:37:00 PM

Idiot/Savant said...

Swampy: FNZ of old was a broadbased party.

Indeed. So "broad-based" that they received 1.12% of the vote in 1999 - only 350 votes more than the Aotearoa Legalise Cannibis party.


In coalition with Dunne in 2002 they added more than 6% to the 1999 result for United.

Posted by Swampy (FNZ Supporter) : 5/16/2007 10:43:00 PM

Personally, I'm not bothered. The liberals in the National Party who want National to sideline Christian electors have only themselves to blame if this happens.

fnz supporter: Here's an idea - the stub of a tail does not get to wag the dog. And just for the record, there are hundreds of thousands of Christian citizens in this country Tamiki's sock puppet and Gordon Copeland do not now, never have, and never will represent in the political realm. We're not "sidelined" in any sense - and I'm quite happy to be in the mainstream of the centre-right.

So stick that in your thurible and smoke it. If there's a theo-con bloc out there that Gordon can tap at the next election, that's democracy. But on past form, I don't see it pushing Future NZ over the five percent threshold.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 5/16/2007 11:05:00 PM

"Based on his voting record and the legislation he's put up, I'd picked him as a fundamentalist whackjob and a propertarian absolutist."

Well, fundamentalist Christianity usually implies protestant, and propertarian absolutists wouldn't be likely to vote in favour of unbundling the local loop, so you may be a little off track there.

He also strongly supports Working fo Families, etc. It's just easier to pigeon-hole your opponents, I guess.

Posted by Graeme : 5/16/2007 11:28:00 PM

Swampy: FNZ doesn't represent a single church, unlike Destiny.

"We have both kinds of Christian - Pentecostal and Evangelical"

As for "broadbased", I thought it meant representing a wide cross-section of the community. Wheras the new FNZ's target support base is limited to the subset of people who a) believe in god; and b) think that She should run the country. That was a small pool in 1996, and (in case you hadn't been paying attention to long-term census trends) its got smaller since.

But hey, good luck to you. As Craig said, if it works out, that's democracy. And if it doesn't, I hear there's a spare basement next to the climate change deniers...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/17/2007 01:27:00 AM

Graeme: I'm aware he's Catholic - but he takes it extrmely seriously. For Azathoth's sake, he's still talking about abortion (a battle the lunatic Christians lost twenty years ago), and tried to pass a law saying that the government couldn't regulate without financially compensating everyone disadvantaged (well, I guess that particular insanity won't be seeing the light of day). These are extremist, radical positions, and I don't think we should dignify them by pretending otherwise.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/17/2007 01:31:00 AM

I/S,

You don't show much respect for unfashionable religous groups. I'm absolutely convinced that you would not have described it as throwing toys out of the cot if Copeland was Muslim or had resigned over an issue that you support.

Posted by Oliver : 5/17/2007 02:09:00 AM

Oliver: There's an obvious sense in which one person's principle is another person's toy-throwing - but I think Simon's covered that aspect pretty convincingly.

As for respect, I don't show much respect for religion period. Unlike Kant and Rousseau, I believe people have a right to be wrong. However, I see no need to dignify their delusions by treating them with any seriousness or with a pretence of intellectual respect, any more than I do flat earthers or homeopaths.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/17/2007 02:34:00 AM

"These are extremist, radical positions, and I don't think we should dignify them by pretending otherwise."

I'm not suggesting anything about the positions. I'm telling you about the person - and Gordon Copeland is not "a fundamentalist whackjob and a propertarian absolutist."

Perhaps he thinks that, like many think with s 59, in a generation or two people will be horrified that some killed babies, just like they may be horrified that some spanked children.

Posted by Graeme : 5/17/2007 08:59:00 AM

Re: waka jumping legislation, I think the position should be that if a list MP changes party, the MMP (de Hondt) calculations should be redone as if the MP had run for that party at the election.

So Copeland would lose his seat (party didn't meet threshold) and there would be an additional list seat allocated to the next party in turn.

Posted by Rich : 5/17/2007 12:41:00 PM

rich - NZ uses the Sainte-Lague, not de Hondt, but I get your point.

Are you suggesting that if, for example, Dunne was to resign/die etc., that both Turner and Copeland would be out of a job?

Or if a party (say NZF at the 1999 election) was just under the threshold, that a subsequent victory in a by-election, could result in a complete change to the balance of power?

I'll explain the last one with a hypothetical. 2005 - NZF get 4.7% of the vote, Bob Clarkson wins Tauranga, Labour forms Coalition Government with the Greens. Bob Clarkson resigns a year into his term. Winston Peters wins the by-election. Electoral apportionment done again - NZF picks up 5 seats (incl winston), National loses Clarkson and one other, and Labour loses two and the Greens one. NZF, keeping its pre-election promise to not support a Government with the Greens in it refuses support on confidence, and the Government falls.

Good result?

Posted by Graeme : 5/17/2007 01:15:00 PM

Graeme, I assumed Rich was onlt talking about MP's changing parties or at least leaving the one they were elected in, rather than quitting parliament. But you're right, it would lead to situations where if any one member of a particular party quit it the whole shape of parliament would change. I think that might be quite a good idea, but the detail would depend on how often it happened and what sort of pressure was applied to MPs in a position to cause the shift.

Posted by Moz : 5/17/2007 01:42:00 PM

Thanks Graeme - I guessed de Hondt (thats Northern Ireland isn't it?)

When a list MP dies or leaves parliament, the next on their parties list gets in don't they?

As Moz says, it's only when they *change* parties that a problem occurs (the composition of parliament no longer matches the party votes).

Posted by Rich : 5/17/2007 03:08:00 PM

Rich - yes, when a list MP dies or resigns from Parliament, they are replaced by the next on their list.

When an electorate MP resigns they are not replaced (even though they use a place on the list).

E.g. Labour has 52 seats. Tariana Turia resigns. A by-election is held, Turia is elected. Labour goes down to 51 seats. Maori Party up to one.

My hypothetical is a step removed from your analysis, but when you talked out the calculation being redone (which seems different from forcing someone leaving their party to resign), I thought about what redoing a calculation might mean in other circumstances (I've been thinking about this a little recently - e.g. instead of Clarkson resigning, what would have happened/should happen, if he'd lost his seat in Winston's electoral petition).

Posted by Graeme : 5/17/2007 03:39:00 PM

I believe the Donna Awatere scenario with ACT applies if Copeland has left United - if it doesn't it should as the only way Copeland got into Parliament was as a list MP for United Future. If he's left the party, he's no longer eligible to be in Parliament and the next United MP on the list goes in.

Copeland has just done a Sampson act and pulled the roof down on himself.

Posted by terry : 5/17/2007 08:41:00 PM

I/S: "I'm aware he's Catholic - but he takes it extrmely seriously..."

ROTFL... What would you prefer? Someone who claims a faith but it's really just a passing fancy?

..."Oh well yes, I am Jewish. But it's nothing serious!"

Seriously Idiot, that statement was just dumb.

Posted by muerk : 5/21/2007 10:11:00 PM