Thursday, September 07, 2006

Should Labour quit?

People are saying that it's time for the government to quit - or even for the Governor General to send them packing. And looking at the uproar that is Parliament over the last few days, it's a superficially attractive choice.

But it's not as easy as that.

Constitutionally the GG can intervene only if the existing government cannot secure a majority on a vote of confidence. If that is the case, he would first invite the leader of the Opposition to form a government, and if that turns out to be impossible, dissolve Parliament. These are essentially the same powers reserved to the Queen, in whose name the GG acts. For the GG to step in on his own account and declare a dissolution without a loss of a confidence vote would, I think, be unconstitutional and would probably lead to his rapid recall.

We saw such powers exercised in Oz in the 70s when Whitlam's flaky government eventually devoured itself, and the Australian GG John Kerr invited the Opposition to form a government, which correctly and constitutionally called an immediate election. That is what I would hope and expect would happen here.

I think if I were the National leadership I would be thinking about moving a vote of confidence. That seems to me the Parliamentary way to go about this affair. It would be interesting to see the way the minor parties would go in such a vote: Peter Dunne's United Future would be much more at home in a National coalition, and so might Winston Peters and NZ First, although there is much bad blood to be seettled between Peters and Clarkson. Rodney Hide would be champing at the bit for such an opportunity - and the Maori Party would be wondering how it would fare in a new election now that we have seen the real nature of Hone Harawira. All of which might motivate some in the present coalition to abrogate their agreements with Labour, except that this would demonstrate that they really could not be trusted.

As for the Greens, well. Who knows why they have so assiduously made themselves so unelectable for so long, and why the present such unelectable people as their candidates in so many places? I would happily support a genuine ecological party - but so far, the NZ Greens ain't it.


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