So what happened to the opposition?
In Labour’s case I think it was Goff’s super-conservative, zero-risk leadership style. If he opposed the CERRA and denounced it as a power grab then the government would have accused him of abandoning the people of Canterbury. Risk. Risk. Risk. It might have cost him popularity in Christchurch going into the Mayoral race and by-election. Canterbury based Labour MPs might even have crossed the floor – and then Goff’s leadership looks even weaker. It’s typical of modern-day Labour that not a single MP broke ranks and defied the most ineffectual opposition leader I’ve seen in my lifetime.
Once Labour supports CEERA the Greens are in a terrible position. The media would have ripped them to pieces: ‘The only party to vote against the struggling people of Canterbury citing some silly nonsense about a dictatorship – when even the Labour Party supported the bill unanimously.’
But the Greens are a small party – they don’t have to worry about widespread public opinion. Their voter pool overlaps with Labour’s and the Labour supporters are incandescent with rage about their party betraying them. People who are angry about the CEERA have nowhere to take their vote.
Sure, Paul Henry would have told mean jokes about the Greens and John Armstrong would have written a withering column but they don’t speak to potential Green votes. To use an old cliché their vote was worse than a crime – it was a mistake. When they inevitable abuses roll in they would have been the only party in a strong position to condemn them.
Meanwhile, back in the real world Christchurch had another night of aftershocks – they seem almost calculated to cause as much psychological trauma as possible.