Audrey Young writes:
But the party-hopping bill passed in Parliament ahead of the party’s convention can barely be called an achievement, let alone qualify as a proud one.
It has been Parliament at its worst – indulging a powerful politician with an obsession with defectors.
This is a law passed to benefit just one New Zealander. Winston. He has a pathological inability to manage his caucus, so he bullies everyone into passing a law to allow him to expel his colleagues when he gets sick of them.
It was only when party-hoppers left New Zealand First rather than joined it that the notion became objectionable, to Peters.
The most pernicious effect of the new law is not the actual expulsion of an MP from Parliament. Rather, it is the chilling effect it will have on strong, independent thought and voice of MPs within parties and within Parliament. In turn that will have an impact on the selection of MPs.
The most damaging effects of the law will be invisible and immeasurable.
Who will criticise a party’s direction, if their colleagues can expel them for doing so?
Dissent has been a strong theme throughout Peters’ career.
He talked about in his maiden speech in 1979 when he lambasted people whom he saw as destructive critics who criticised for the sake of it: “Opposition, criticism and dissent are worthy pursuits when combined with a sense of responsibility. They have a purifying effect on society. Areas in need of urgent attention can be identified and courses of action may be initiated. However embarrassing to community or national leaders, the results are enormously beneficial to the total well-being of the community. The critic I am [condemning] has no such goals. He sets out to exploit every tremor and spasm in society, the economy or race relations, seeking to use every such event as a vehicle to project his own public personality.”
Had never seen that quote from his maiden speech – he is describing modern day Winston perfectly.
That would be unfair. While his plasticine principles on electoral law have bent to whatever suits his party at the time, the party has been consistent on many issues and much of the time it is a constructive player.
That is being rather generous.