Thursday, May 04, 2006

Kite flying by the number

The Gerry Brownlee comments about the National Party's stance on the Maori seats is fascinating, not for what it tells us about National's policy but for what it tells us about Brownlee’s relationship with party leader Don Brash.

Brash today told Radio Pacific that Brownlee’s statement that National could reconsider what happened to the Maori seats "created some confusion and he's apologised to the caucus for that".

Brash said the National Party wants “a democracy where everybody is on the same roll. So that means that we want to get rid of the Maori seats."

Setting aside questions of why one roll means democracy, particularly in a proportional voting system, Brash has reiterated the policy.

In the process, he made the National Party caucus sound like some sort of Maoist self-criticism session. "I apologise for creating confusion.” Sounds like weasel words to me.

Brownlee is right. His statements over the weekend were a mix of scaremongering – "Martha. There may be 10 Maori seats after the electoral option. Head for Queensland!" – and realpolitik.

As long as the Maori Party retains seat in Parliament, and as long as Tariana Turia is one of those MPs, the Maori Party will not support a Helen Clark-led Labour government. That means their votes are available for a National-led coalition, if the price is right. Given the current state of the New Zealand electorate under the MMP system, making such an accommodation may be National’s only hope of regaining the Treasury benches.

Brownlee can do the numbers better than the former Reserve Bank governor. He is probably picking that Brash won’t be the one leading National into the next election campaign. He wants to make sure that whether it is John Key, Bill English or Jackie Blue leading that campaign, Gerry will still be in the number two slot. Or maybe even number one. So he is setting himself up as the go to guy, the one you need to talk to to get a deal.

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