I think there are a few things driving the events in Parliament over the last few days:
- Labour is ‘moving to the centre’, and we often see politics become nasty when parties fight for centrist votes because they’re not battling over ideology or policy, but rather voter perceptions of the parties and their leaders. So our politics may continue to be very nasty until the election
- The Speaker is terrible at his job. I don’t just mean that he’s biased – Labour’s last Speaker Margaret Wilson was biased, but Wilson was also a trained lawyer and a Professor of Law and she (mostly) applied her bias through deft application of the Standing Orders. Carter doesn’t have the wit for that, and he applies his bias through changing the rules every few minutes depending on who is speaking and throwing opposition MPs out of the House whenever they challenge him on it, and by childish tricks like pretending not to hear offensive statements from National MPs, which is less than convincing when he’s just been roaring with laughter at them.
- Carter also seems to have a big problem with women MPs. He’s generally happy to engage in debates over Points of Order with people like Chris Hipkins and James Shaw, but Metiria Turei or Jacinda Ardern, say, tend to get snapped at and silenced within a few seconds of rising to their feet.
- Not everything in politics has to be strategic. MPs who have been the victims of sexual assault and who have worked as advocates for the victims of assault are going to be pretty angry at being accused of ‘backing rapists’ (especially now we know that the Prime Minister mislead the media and the House about the presence of rapists and murderers among the New Zealand detainees on Christmas Island.) Like, I’m sure there are considerations that this stuff will hurt Key with female voters and maybe it will, I genuinely have no idea. But most of it is driven by people being genuinely offended by Key and his Speaker.