The Dim-Post

December 19, 2009

Awesome plan!

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:13 am

Audrey Young at the Herald has an exclusive (I guess it was leaked to her by the PMs office) about an abortive leadership coup in the ACT party:

Rodney Hide survived moves to oust him as Act Party leader last month after Prime Minister John Key privately indicated National’s deal with Act would be off if the minister were dumped.

And it is believed that at the height of controversies in the two support parties – the Act leadership and the Maori Party’s turmoil over MP Hone Harawira – Mr Key briefly considered a snap election to gain National an outright majority.

Act founder Sir Roger Douglas, with deputy leader and Consumer Affairs Minister Heather Roy, is understood to have led moves in the party against Mr Hide during the controversy over the international travel costs of his partner.

Sir Roger hasn’t lost his political acumen. ACT exists because Hide has the Epsom electorate seat. What the fuck happens to the party if you roll the guy as leader and he resigns from parliament?


  1. Mr Key briefly considered a snap election to gain National an outright majority.

    The Gambler in Key said, ‘fuck it do it we don’t need those douche bags in ACT’. Somewhat wiser heads said ‘no, you will have to explain what your step change to the economy will actually be, policy and all that boring stuff you hate and the all blacks have a game that day’.

    This is going to be a bad day for the ACT true believers, they were ‘this’ close to the second coming.

    Comment by andy (the other one) — December 19, 2009 @ 8:27 am

  2. This might be a stupid question, Danyl, but why do you think Key’s office leaked this? I see a lot of risk and little gain for National in all of this coming out other than the fact it’s a good time of year to bury bad news.

    Comment by IrishBill — December 19, 2009 @ 9:14 am

  3. It’s written by Audrey Young. Nough said.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — December 19, 2009 @ 9:34 am

  4. Of course Roger Douglas should roll Rodney Hide for his irresponsible use of parliamentary travel perks. Because Roger Douglas has been SO much more restrained in his use of parliamentary travel perks, hasn’t he?

    Comment by kahikatea — December 19, 2009 @ 9:48 am

  5. The more I think about this story the more absurd it appears. John Key was prepared to pull the plug over Hide’s rort? WTF?? Is he as easily spooked as that? On reflection I find it difficult to believe! His kitchen cabinet certainly wouldn’t be easily spooked.

    If on the other hand it IS true he contemplated calling a snap election, what does that tell us about how he will react to the much more serious political crises lining up to come next Autumn/Winter?

    As for the ACT party… Everyone knows they are as mad as March hares. But Jesus H. Christ, contemplating dumping their leader – the man who got them there – in an internecine purge over ideologically purity led by Roger Douglas? ZOMG! That’s just so fucking crazy that you could stick a hat on it and call it redbaiter.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 19, 2009 @ 9:50 am

  6. You’ve gotta have a little sympathy for Rog though. Last time he was in Parliament he had the sole charge mission to create the free market paradise of the south seas. A whole effin economy to play with! This time around he’s playing 2nd fiddle to some bloke whose idea of a succesful term would be to get Auckland to sell off the last of their airport shares – that and get ever deeper spray tans.

    Roger’s a man of action – he’s not going to be satisfied with silly ocean swims.

    Comment by taranaki — December 19, 2009 @ 10:52 am

  7. I don’t think Key ever really considered a snap election. Threatened Heather Roy that he would call one, more likely. An excellent way of showing ACT who’s boss.

    Comment by Fuzzy Dunlop — December 19, 2009 @ 11:14 am

  8. Is a Prime Minister allowed to call a snap election, less than one year (as it then was) after the last one?

    Shouldn’t the Governor-General ask him to try and form a new government, based on a majority in the House – which presumably Key could have got, with the Maori Party? Or even ask somebody else to form a government (albeit unlikely with the current numbers).

    I think this chair-reshuffling (without an election) happens quite often in European countries with PR. I don’t know the constitutional situation in NZ, but it seems strange that a very recently elected Parliament should be dissolved, for no good reason.

    Comment by sammy — December 19, 2009 @ 11:25 am

  9. This might be a stupid question, Danyl, but why do you think Key’s office leaked this?

    I could be wrong, but I really doubt it was leaked by anyone in ACT, and the story makes Key look like a hero and has information that sounds like it came from his office (like him considering a snap election). I guess she could have heard it from someone else and called Key to confirm it.

    My guess is they wanted to control when the story broke and ensure that it was angled to flatter Key and so they did it in the weekend before Christmas when no one is paying attention.

    Comment by danylmc — December 19, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

  10. The GG is obliged to follow the advice of the PM.

    We saw this recently in Canada where the GG prorounged Parliament for a month at the request of the PM, even though the PM has informally lost the confidence of the House.

    Comment by dpf — December 19, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

  11. I don’t think Key ever really considered a snap election.

    It must have looked pretty tempting. Go to the public and get a mandate for partial privitisation of SOEs and other such policies, Labour running a ‘free silk scarf printing classes for everyone’ campaign, an almost certain chance of a huge victory and majority government. In the end the justifications simply weren’t there.

    Comment by danylmc — December 19, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

  12. The ACT hyper-patriots over at the sewer are busy renting their clothing and generally arguing over who should lead the Albigensian Crusade.

    One of them is opining it is Douglas who has leaked the story.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 19, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

  13. “renting their clothing”?

    Comment by StephenR — December 19, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

  14. the latest poll has ACT’s support down round its ankles with Labour soon to follow and NZF at 4%.

    Greens up, maybe Labour voters not impressed with the We Are All Bikers Now approach.

    Can’t say any of the Labour MPs have done anything this year but look small-minded and stupid. Fitzsimons was quick to take advantage of Chavel’s latest stupidity.

    Comment by Neil — December 19, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

  15. The GG is obliged to follow the advice of the PM.

    We saw this recently in Canada where the GG prorounged Parliament for a month at the request of the PM, even though the PM has informally lost the confidence of the House.

    It’s different in New Zealand – the Governor-General here only acts on the advice of the PM when the PM has support from a majority in Parliament.

    Of course, with the support of the Maori Party, Key would have majority support so it would be proper for the GG to issue the writ.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — December 19, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

  16. So Graeme, are you saying the Maori Party would have to agree to a snap election? What if they didn’t?

    Can a Prime Minister call an election, against the wishes of the majority of Parliament?

    Comment by sammy — December 19, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  17. @StephenR

    1. An opening made by rending or tearing; slit; fissure.
    2. A breach of relations or union between individuals or groups; schism.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 19, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

  18. @Sammy:

    “what if they didn’t”?

    someone else could (maybe Labour would say we want a new election, hoping to capitalise on voter rejection of disunity or something, or maybe the new leadership of ACT would). Or a situation could arise in which no-one had (or could get) confidence of the House, in which case the GG could exercise his reserve powers to call one himself.

    Can a Prime Minister call an election, against the wishes of the majority of Parliament?

    No. Not in New Zealand. A Prime Minister who didn’t have the support of Parliament would not have the confidence of the house. See this excerpt from a speech by Dame Sylvia Cartwright:

    As I have emphasised previously, the essential principle of responsible government in New Zealand means that the Governor-General acts in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister and Ministers, as long as they retain the confidence of the House of Representatives.

    It is well established that if the government loses the confidence of the House mid-term, the Prime Minister should state that the government will operate as a caretaker government until the political situation is resolved. The caretaker government would continue to advise the Governor-General on the normal business of government, while observing the caretaker convention.

    Just as in the post-election situation, the Governor-General’s role in this kind of situation is to ensure that a government of Ministers with a clear democratic mandate is established or re-established. In doing so, the Governor-General depends on the political parties represented in the House to clarify, within a reasonably short timeframe, whether the caretaker Prime Minister can re-establish his or her support, or whether an alternative administration can be identified from the existing Parliament. During this period, the caretaker Prime Minister’s power to advise the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and call an early election is subject to the caretaker convention – that is, it requires the support of a majority of the House.


    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — December 19, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

  19. Graeme – we do not know that a NZ GG would act diffferently to the Canadian GG. In Canada the PM has not lost a formal confidence vote, so she still followed his advice. This surprised many people as informally the majority of Parliament wanted an election.

    It is quite possible in NZ a GG could still follow the PMs advice up until the point there is a formal loss of confidence.

    Comment by dpf — December 19, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

  20. DPF – other quotes in the speech make reasonably clear that while a loss on a formal vote of confidence is a clear indication, a formal vote is not necessary for the caretaker convention to be invoked:

    In practical terms, this means that during any period of political uncertainty, it is helpful for political leaders to state publicly their positions in respect of support for the government. Votes of confidence are an invaluable mechanism for demonstrating support, if Parliament is in session.

    Public statements can be good enough. I know Dean Knight agrees with me that a formal parliamentary vote of no confidence is not required – see

    My sense on this point – and consistent with discussions of other local folk with expertise in this area – is that if this scenario arose in the New Zealand context, it is probable that the formal advice to the Governor-General from the Opposition parties about the loss of confidence would be sufficient to trigger the obligation to resign – that is, a lost vote of confidence would not in itself be required.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — December 19, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

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