Wednesday, January 31, 2018
If the latest reports in the media are to be believed, then National Party Leader Bill English is currently under a siege.
More than the National party, it is Mr English, who is believed to be under the siege, or at best, is being cornered, in the current media landscape.
Mr English is being cornered for his stance on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s newly announced Child Poverty Reduction Bill and the reports of an imminent leadership change in the Party.
Welcome to the opposition Mr English.
In opposition, one thing that happens very often is that the mettle of the politicians is tested, and often very relentlessly, on issues that are real, and many times fictitious.
It will be great to see how Mr English comes out of this siege that he has been so conveniently portrayed in the media-space when he delivers an important speech later today on the Child Poverty Reduction Bill.
Going by Mr English’s body-language in recent times and his leadership example so far, it seems that the siege under which Mr English is portrayed to be, is unreal.
The fact that Mr English is being deplored for not immediately embracing Ms Ardern’s Child Poverty Reduction Bill is slightly over the top.
In politics, all party consensuses do not happen automatically at the very moment a bill is announced or introduced in the parliament.
It happens after sustained or even protracted talks between all parties, regardless of the sanctity of the issue involved.
In this case, despite Ms Ardern’s commitment to the cause of child poverty reduction, Mr English has developed some credibility, however minuscule on the issue, through his “social investment approach,” and personal commitment “to bring 100,000 children out of poverty” during election campaign – a territory that Mr English should be expected to defend, rather than surrender, meekly.
Anyway, what this latest Child Poverty Reduction Bill is seeking to introduce is making future governments accountable to the targets of reducing child poverty.
Governments in a parliamentary democracy are already expected to be held accountable for their actions (and inactions). What this bill is seeking to do differently is to make the accountability binding on the future governments by requiring governments to report back on child poverty using an internationally accepted set of 10 measures.
In this endeavour, the government is getting rid of the previous National Government's Better Public Service targets, which included specific measures around areas such as recidivism, and reducing the number of serious crime victims, although did not include child poverty reduction targets.
Again - an act that will not guarantee immediate approval from the National Party.
Indeed, Prime Minister Ms Ardern has the momentum on her side, especially on the issue of child poverty, but expecting National Party to cede the ground to her meekly is at least a wishful thinking if not political naivety.
Similarly, the reports dominating in our mainstream-media since morning that Mr English’s leadership is under a crisis is untimely, if not intriguing.
To suggest that knives are out in the National Party over the election loss, at this point is slightly beyond common sense.
The reason being, that the parliament has just begun for the New Year, and there has not been much action after the end of the last session of the parliament to suggest that a coup is impending.
Moreover, it’s not a safe bet for any of the prospective claimant of the leadership position, such as Simon Bridges, Paula Bennett, Amy Adams, or Judith Collins, etc. to seek leadership so early in 2018, full three years away from the next elections, especially when the Party is still polling well.
If more so, it is the time for the National Party to accept the reality of being in opposition, and chalk out a strategy and plan of action for this year and the remaining term in opposition.
A quick leadership change will not change their fortunes immediately, anyway – a revelation that is hard to believe that the National caucus would not be aware of – as is being so conveniently assumed in the mainstream media.
In fact, the timing of the news of “crisis of leadership” appears to further corner Mr English and possibly compel to change course on the way National Party should be acting in the Parliament, and especially on the Child Poverty Reduction Bill.
There is nothing cynical about this, and it comes naturally with being in opposition. What matters is that how Mr English feels, and chose to react to this siege, which is at best unreal.