Until just a few weeks ago, one of the big questions over Labour’s suitability for government was its inability to organise itself.
Those questions quietened when Andrew Little resigned and was replaced by Jacinda Ardern.
Ceremonies to open New Zealand’s 52nd Parliament have kicked off with National threatening to gatecrash Labour’s party over the election of new Speaker Trevor Mallard.
The election is normally straightforward and comes straight after all MPs swear an oath of allegiance.
However, things threatened to go pear-shaped when National MP and shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges asked whether MPs who were not present today and therefore not sworn-in could vote. . .
However – in what is an embarrassing oversight for the new Government – at least five of its MPs were absent.
That meant it lacked the numbers to have Mallard elected, and things threatened to go pear-shaped when National MP and shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges raised a point of order.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Trade Minister David Parker are on their way to Manila for APEC. Green MP Gareth Hughes was also absent.
“Where’s Winston when you need him?” Bridges taunted the Labour benches.
“Get used to it,” another National MP commented.
After hurried discussions between Bridges and Labour’s leader of the House Chris Hipkins, Mallard was finally confirmed as the new Speaker. . .
National’s delaying proceedings can open it up to accusations of pettiness.
Probably only political tragics will take any notice.
But the government has a wafer-thin majority and it can’t afford to be sloppy over process.
Organisation matters for a party and even more for a government.
UPDATE: In discussion over Labour’s lack of a majority, National got Labour to agree to increase the number of select committees from 96 to 108.
UPDATE 2: Counting and calmness matter too – Labour did have the numbers but panicked when challenged.