Sunday, November 09, 2008

All good things...

All good things eventually come to an end. And so has the fifth Labour government. They made a good run of it, but as a third term government hoping for a fourth, the odds were always against them. In the end, the mood for change was just too great. But looking at the final result - a likely National-ACT coalition - I'm wondering whether this was really the change people were looking for.

While Key has promised to govern for all New Zealanders, carefully moved his party to the centre, and promised to retain core Labour policies such as interest-free student loans and Working For Families, the coalition demands of ACT and the current financial crisis make those promises worthless. And the result, I suspect, is that they will be left by the wayside, dumped because Roger Rodney demanded it, or because we "just can't afford it" (while shovelling vast wodges of cash at the rich). Even if Key - who seems to have no solid beliefs beyond his own ambition - was inclined to resist ACT's demands, National's hardliners, the 90's retreads like Bill English, Lockwood Smith, Murray McCully and Maurice Williamson, won't be. And with 64 MPs between them, there will be no effective check on their legislative program.

The good news is that I doubt the public will stand for that sort of betrayal. If National pulls that switcheroo and rules from the right having run from the centre, it will be a one-term government. But it could still do a significant amount of damage in that term - damage which would take another decade to repair.

As for Labour, while they've lost, they've also brought in a pile of new talent, and should be in a strong position for 2011. Until then, it's probably going to be a nasty, bitter three years.