Labour woes may be set to multiply, with rumours all week that Taito Phillip Field is set to leave Labour. Not for good reasons, but as a threat to Helen Clark, whom he wants to reappoint him as a Minister. As the Executive is already at a record 29, I can’t see him being reappointed.
The Labour-Progressive-NZ First-United Future Government has 61/121 votes. If Field leaves Labour, then they lose their majority. They will still have confidence (as the Greens abstain) but it will mean they will have a much harder task to pass legislation.
So what are the options here:
1) Clark succumbs to blackmail and reappoints Field as a Minister (unlikely, but not impossible if she is desperate enough)
2) Field is not reappointed, listens to reason, and remains a Labour backbencher, maybe with a promise of promotion after the next election if they win.
3) Field resigns from Parliament. Until a new MP is elected, the Government has only 60/120 votes so will have to delay some legislation. It is likely Labour will win the by-election, but you could see a split vote between Labour, Field and the Maori Party.
4) Field defects to United Future (Field is very conservative on moral issues). This would keep the Government as a majority one, but would humiliate Labour. This will not happen though as Peter Dunne is not a stupid man, and he will know allowing Field to defect would be electorally fatal.
5) Field becomes an Independent MP. The Government loses its majority and has a much harder time passing legislation. Labour may then try and get the Electoral Integrity Act passed back into law more quickly so it can expel Field under its provisions.
There are other options such as Field defecting to the Maori Party, but no suggestion to date this has been canvassed.
Field is deeply unpopular within Labour. I would go so far as to say he is detested by the socially liberal wing. He was also widely seen, even putting to one side the conflict of interest allegations, as a pretty dismal Minister who was made a Minister just because he is Polynesian. Now Labour have replaced him in the Ministry with Winnie Laban (who unlike Field is regarded as actually doing a pretty good job as a Minister) so if Clark makes him a Minister again, she will alienate many within her own party, and make Field an easy target for the Opposition.
In the best interest of open Government expect to see Clark make an announcement at 4.30 pm on a Friday 🙂