Magazine article New Zealand Management

Unlikely Bedfellows

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Unlikely Bedfellows

Article excerpt

United Future wants a very different tax system from Labour. It opposes most of Labour's workplace law and the Air New Zealand-Qantas alliance. All its MPs voted against the Prostitution Bill while almost all Labour MPs voted for it. It is suspicious of abolition of the Privy Council.

So what on earth has it been doing this past year in bed with Labour?

What indeed? asks the National party, infuriated that a "natural" ally should have gone with the enemy.

National lists a string of failures or incompatibilities: the Care of Children Bill and the Responsible Gambling Bill; voting through the Local Government Bill after accepting a petition opposing it; failing to stop the workplace safety legislation and to limit change to the Resource Management Amendment Bill; and failure to get the Transmission Gully road out of Wellington on the 10-year programme.

From day one, National ripped into United Future in Parliament and elsewhere, accusing it, in effect, of a betrayal of principles and its voters.

This shocked the tenderfoots who had thought politics was an honourable occupation. Their reaction was to harden support for the decision to go with Labour which leader Peter Dunne drove.

National hopes United Future will self-destruct. But if it doesn't, National's attacks have hardened the likelihood that after the 2005 election, United Future will go with Labour again unless there is a clear indication voters want a change of Government. That would lock out a four-way National-led coalition.

In the meantime, far from shrinking from its commitment to give the Government the numbers in the House--which includes allowing ministers to push through bills under "urgency"--United Future has stuck to its promise. Labour has turned to the Greens only twice in a year for support for "urgency".

United Future has not been deterred by the fact that in helping the Government pass bills it agrees with, it is also ensuring earlier passage for bills it disagrees with.

Moreover, United Future MPs' expression of frustration or annoyance with being snowed by Labour's wily old operators has so far got no further than corridor talk.

But can this hold? The signs are that it will.

From Helen Clark down, Labour's leaders pay attention to their unlikely new mates. The top brass have regular meetings, which are said to be cordial. …

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