Saturday, December 13, 2008

The game is joined

Ever since the NZ elections, it’s all been about National, as you’d expect. The deals they did to form government, what their agenda would be, that sort of thing. Based on media coverage, you’d be forgiven for thinking life would now be nothing but sweetness and light.

Obviously, that wouldn’t last long.

Parliament is now deliberating on National’s agenda and of course the new government’s getting everything it wants (they have the majority, after all). But this week we saw Labour outstanding in opposition.

I watched Parliament TV as the House was debating a change to bail laws—under urgency, of course, so the public could have no input. As each reading was held one after the other, I saw Labour MPs absolutely eviscerate Government MPs who were reduced to speaking spin or simply attacking the former Labour-led government. At the best of times, Parliament is a circus, but this was one entertaining show.

But as Labour MPs took to full flight, several National MPs crashed and burned. Brand-new MP Melissa Lee had the temerity to declare that no one in Labour understood what it was like to be a victim of crime. Labour gratefully accepted the gift from Ms Lee and attacked her arrogance (rightly, I think). Then Chester Borrows stood to defend Lee and came across as the grumpy old man who yells at the kids to get of his lawn (and he’s only a couple years older than me). Amid pro forma attacks on Labour, he repeated the holier-than-thou nonsense talking points from some National MPs (especially Gerry Brownlee), that now that National’s in charge, the House will be so much more civil than it was when Labour led government. Yeah, right: Brownlee was one of the biggest loudmouths in the old Parliament—so he’s reformed his ways, has he?

I’m not the only one who was noticed Labour’s performance. Christchurch Press political editor, Colin Espiner, wrote on his blog on Stuff:

I have been extremely impressed by the way Labour has pulled itself together since its defeat. It would have been easy to limp back to Parliament sullen and bitter, and slump into the Opposition benches with arms folded and the odd interjection. Yet Labour has positively bounced back this week.

Mind you, National made it easy by pushing through things under urgency, even massive changes that the public should have been able to be involved in. Having so many inexperienced MPs leading legislation hasn’t helped their cause, either, but even so, Labour did very well in its own right.

It’s funny reading the comments on mainstream news stories: The extremes of the two main parties attack each other with silly and childish rhetoric, while the folks in the middle (like me) opt out of participating. But if I did, I’d say this: There is no way anyone can know right now who will win the 2011 election, and it’s absurd to declare who will and who will not be government or opposition then. So neither the good performance of Labour nor the wobbly performance of National are indicators—this has been one very early week. Now if this continues, that’ll be another matter, but there’s no way we can know that, either.

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