Upton on Lockwood

November 4th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Upton writes in the Dom Post:

While coalition politics has certainly blunted the arrogance with which big parties behave in power, only Question Time guarantees that ministers are given a rocky ride, which is why I always found it so hard to understand why Speakers hid behind the mantra that they weren’t there to comment on the quality of ministerial answers – thereby giving carte blanche to those lazy ministers who couldn’t be bothered doing their homework or didn’t want to front up. My political awareness was switched on in the early 1970s listening to Question Time during the days of the Muldoon ascendancy.

His devastating control of Question Time as Leader of the Opposition had me enthralled. By the time I arrived in the House in 1981 that mercurial brilliance had turned to stone.

Muldoon was devastating not just as Opposition Leader, but even as Deputy Opposition Leader. Kirk banned Ministers from going on TV with him.

did not spend his parliamentary career dreaming of the ’s chair. But the infelicitous comments that sidelined him from ministerial office turned out to have a deeply silver lining: Dr Smith is requiring ministers to answer the questions that are put to them. This seemingly obvious requirement is, for our Parliament, revolutionary. For the first time, Opposition members have an ally when a minister contemptuously greets a serious question with a non sequitur or a put down. Finally, voters get to see ministers held accountable. And it is all thanks to an MP who has decided that if he’s going to occupy the third highest office in the land, he’s going to take that office seriously. Three cheers for Mr Smith.

It is ironic. Lockwood ended up Speaker partly as a “punishment” for gaffes, but as says it has a silver lining in the way he has taken the job so seriously.

Whether his brave departure from an indefensible tradition sticks will, of course, depend on whoever succeeds him. Labour and its allies will in due course return to office. Will they be prepared to nominate a similarly tough-minded democrat for the job and be prepared to submit to the same treatment? I hope Phil Goff and his colleagues are taking stock of what Lockwood Smith has done for them. He is the best Speaker in living memory – on this one ground alone – and his initiative deserves to be perpetuated.

If Labour were smart they would keep Lockwood on as Speaker, when they return to office. I suspect he may have retired by then.

Let’s assume Labour win in 2014. Who might be their Speaker? King would be good, but I expect both her and Goff will retire between 2011 and 2014. Darren Hughes will want ministerial office first. Maybe David Parker if he is still here – a lawyer can be useful. I presume Barker and Ross Robertson have retired by 2014.  A possibility could be Winnie Laban – she would be dignified. Damien O’Connor might be a possibility also, if he is still there. He would be popular with most MPs.

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14 Responses to “Upton on Lockwood”

  1. transmogrifier (522 comments) says:

    Quite frankly, I’m appalled that previous Speakers were so permissive. I never paid much attention in the past, but I think it is the basic tenet of democracy that the people governing us actually explain what they are doing and why. I never though much of Smith, but good for him. Long may it continue.

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  2. transmogrifier (522 comments) says:

    Also, I don’t hold any hope of Labour, if and when they regain power, continuing with a strong Speaker. If there is one thing Labour is not good at, it is encouraging internal debate and promoting accountability.

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  3. Fisiani (1,032 comments) says:

    Why assume that Labour will ever get back in power? Just because we have always had cycles of political change does not predict the future. It is an assumption but not a given inalienable right. Why assume that the Labour party will remain intact. After several electoral defeats it may well self destruct in factionalism.
    Shocking????. Impossible????
    The past cannot predict the future. Just ask the Kiwi punters who lost over $7 million at the Melbourne Cup. The winner was indeed Shocking.

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  4. Lipo (229 comments) says:

    I can tell you exactly what will happen when there is a change of government. You do not have to be a brain surgeon.
    Labour will install some flunky Speaker that has a direct phone line to the Prime Ministers office and may as well be listed #2 on the Cabinet Roster
    New Speaker will direct Labour ministers to answer however they like. It happened before with Hunt & Wilson and I can’t see any reason why things would change

    The biggest laugh I have will be National supporters including DPF thinking it will all be different from now on. Get real!!

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  5. John Ansell (874 comments) says:

    What a disgrace that we should think it revolutionary for a Speaker to act with integrity.

    All Speakers are offered a knighthood. Yet only Lockwood Smith, it seems, will have earned his knighthood for his actions since becoming Speaker, not merely for becoming Speaker.

    These Nats certainly are teaching Labour some valuable lessons about ethics. Sadly, I doubt whether Labour would have noticed.

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  6. Inventory2 (10,301 comments) says:

    DPF said “Let’s assume Labour win in 2014.”

    No DPF, let’s assume no such thing. The way the Labour MP’s and their acolytes continue to behave in the wake of an electoral shellacking just a year ago suggests that six years will not be anywhere near enough for genuine repentance.

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  7. Pete George (23,479 comments) says:

    “Let’s assume Labour win in 2014.”

    I think that’s a good assumption to make at this stage. The way things are now National are looking good and Labour are looking hopeless for 2011, National would have to stuff up big time to lose it and Labour would have to start to look like a viable alternative.

    But after two terms the incumbent should be getting a bit jaded and vulnerable, and by rights the opposition should have had time to recover and rebuild. It doesn’t mean Labour will win in 2014, but they should have the upper hand if their personnel and policies are politicking good enough, and National don’t maintain an unusual level of support.

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  8. Willie_Escaped (29 comments) says:

    Is there a reason why we can’t elect the Speaker seperately as a control on party politics?

    Assuming a return to FPP… one vote for a representative, and one vote for the Speaker of the house.

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  9. OldNews (38 comments) says:

    We should follow the model used in NSW for the speaker of their Legislative Assembly. A secret ballot of all MPs.
    This would mean that the person elected is clearly “Parliament’s Man”.
    Now this might lead to some stupid results. For example, if you recall the vote in 1996, Hunt may well have won on a secret ballot over Kidd, which would have been a tradgedy. Kidd is clearly the best Speaker in recent times. Smith might catch up, but is still in Kidd’s shadow. Hunt on the other hand is unfairly credited with being better than Wilson. Both were bad, but an serious analysis will show Hunt was the worst Speaker in NZ history.

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  10. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Pete George

    “lets assume Liarbore win in 2014″

    “I think that’s a good assumption”, whats the bet Pete’s a grief counsellor, has to be to be that delusional.

    Smith is light years ahead of the white witch and the wine and cheese minister, shit parliament was a three ring circus when these fools took to the chair. Lockwood brings some decorum to the joint, long may he rein.

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  11. PaulL (5,971 comments) says:

    I’m very interested in the content on Lockwood, and generally agree with the analysis.

    I’m also very interested in the tail end of that article – talking about S26N and the requirements for governments to do a serious job of talking about future costs of their programs on society. DPF, you didn’t mention that at all, but I would have thought the retirement income aspects of that would have been very interesting to you.

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  12. tvb (4,366 comments) says:

    I am surprised you are speculating about Labour’s next Speaker, the possibility simply does not exist. I assume they will chose their Assistant Speaker when the time comes, if it comes.

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  13. Tassman (234 comments) says:

    I totally agree. Those so called power pushers hiding behind the security of parliamentary priveleges that have given them the right to call cheap shots and ridicules, especially in front of an ochestrated media; if you want a real gentleman fight, then put your money where your mouth is. My backyard is available or anywhere in the neighbourhood would do.

    So come on then, let’s see what ya got behind that motor mouth of yours huh!

    Guess I’ll be waiting for the Police, SAS squad, instead….

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  14. lofty (1,310 comments) says:

    @Tassman….what the hell are you on about????

    Strange person!

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