What are we to make of the news that Cabinet are preparing for a referendum on MMP?
And why the sudden announcement? Especially after the mauling Key has received in certain sections of the media, after he ignored the results of the silly smacking referendum.
Here are my theories:
The economy's stuck in a hole and someone's run off with the ladder. There won't be much good economic news for a while. Key must be wondering how he'll fight the next election. Well why fight it? Make sure the main issue for debate in 2011 is the electoral system. Do that and people might just forget how bad things are, and give Key three more years.
Bolster power of Nats
A First Past the Post election would probably wipe the Greens out. Rodney Hide would survive, as would the Maori Party and Peter Dunne.
Against them would be Labour and some old guy in Christchurch who must be thinking about retiring soon anyway.
Result: the Nats remain securely in power for several more years to come.
Of course, that presupposes the Nats will campaign against MMP. Key will probably play the statesman, so it will be left to other senior National members to attack the current system. And I predict they will.
John the champion of democracy
Maybe Key just wants some heat taken off him. He wants to be liked, and the recent claims he is anti-democratic for ignoring the recent referendum must hurt. By announcing that the MMP referendum result will be binding, he may convince people he's listening to the masses.
Anyway, what I really want to know is this: what actually is wrong with MMP? When it was introduced many of its opponents predicted we would have a succession of unstable governments where nothing would get done. We would have legislative paralysis.
Instead we've had a series of stable governments clinging mostly to the political centre, and politicians have actually talked to people in other parties.
But I'm sure we'll hear how awful the current system is in months to come. MMP will be portrayed as bad for business (they won't tell us why: we'll just have to trust them), bad for stability (again, trust them), allowing minorities to hold governments to ransom.
And if we're stupid enough to give them what they want we'll only have ourselves to blame when we discover the party in power can do what it likes, despite the wishes of the majority. Remember the'80s and early '90s?
Isn't that why we demanded a change to MMP in the first place?