Monday, March 30, 2015


That's the only way to describe National's defeat in Northland over the weekend. You have to go back 30 years to 1985 to find another by-election where a government's candidate was defeated - and then it was a narrow victory. Winston's victory is a comfortable one. Turning a safe National seat into a safe (if Labour doesn't stand) opposition one is something I haven't seen before, and a testament to Steven Joyce's campaigning skills.

As for what it means, Peter Dunne and the Maori Party just became the effective checks on government policy they were in the last Parliamentary term. In concrete terms, that means that National's plans to oust local decision-making from the RMA and have Ministers micromanage everything (coincidentally turning them into a nexus for corruption and patronage - sorry, campaign donations) is dead again, because those two parties won't vote for it. And I think the same can be said for their plans to grant the SIS and GCSB wider powers after their strapped chicken "review" this year: the Maori Party won't vote for spies who spy on them, and they've burned Peter Dunne once already on this issue and he won't be fooled again. Which means they'll need to rely on Labour or NZ First for votes, both of whom are likewise suspicious / see some votes in refusing to give the government a blank cheque. They're still going to be able to pass a lot, but just six months into the term their policy agenda is in tatters. And meanwhile, the opposition will be able to pass legislation over their heads if it unites. There are three examples in the past month where they found issues they could all agree on: feeding the kids, paid parental leave, and warm and healthy homes. I expect we'll see bills for all of those reintroduced to the ballot the moment Standing Orders allow.

And meanwhile, someone should be asking Dunne and Flavell what they think of National's "mixed model" for Canterbury. Because that will require legislation, which means one or other of them has to support it. If they don't, Canterbury gets its democracy back by default in 2016 when the current law expires.

National is not going to cope well with this. They're the party of arrogant entitled people used to getting their own way. And now they're not going to. I expect much pouting and foot stomping. And I'll enjoy every minute of it.