Joe Hendren

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gordon the waka-jumper

With Gordon Copeland's bizarre decision to leave the United Future party tonight, I can't help but think he cited the 'anti-smacking' bill as his reason for waka-jumping merely because he thought this might be his 'popular' issue to go out on.

Now I am not one normally to defend a strong party whip, as I believe New Zealand political parties are usually far more authoritarian than they need to be. Consider the number of British Labour MPs have voted against Blair - this would never happen in New Zealand, given the authoritarian legacy of Prime Ministers such as Peter Fraser, Piggy Muldoon and King Dick Seddon. But there are times when caucus discipline is important, where a moment of idiocy can be as good as a visit from the mass assisted political suicide squad.

On Tuesday Copeland put out a press release bemoaning the failure of the Labour-led government to cut taxes and gave strong support to a report by the Centre for Independent Studies, a group that could only be described as a far right think tank. Did he not stop to think that his comments may cause some embarrassment to his leader Peter Dunne, given that he is the Revenue Minister in the so called Labour-led Government? Especially given it is budget week.

Yesterday Dunne put out a press release criticising the inaction of Justice Minister Mark Burton for being "blissfully unaware" of public concern over the way evidence is presented in New Zealand courts in the wake of the Bain case. Looking back on it now, this release could have been motivated heavily by caucus frictions calling on Dunne to 'differentiate' himself from Labour.

Copeland now says he has been considering resigning for six months, despite the fact Dunne claims Copeland gave him an assurance last week he had no plans to leave United Future. So not only does he define his Christian principles by the right to smack kids, it appears lying does not appear to be much of a moral problem either. It will be mighty interesting if written material happens to emerge over the next few months concerning this tussle in United Future.

Gordon Copeland's claim that his resignation was over the so called anti-smacking bill does not add up. The parliamentary party had already given Copeland a conscience vote allowing him to oppose the bill. My suspicion is that Dunne confronted Copeland over a caucus discipline issue, and Gordon then threw his toys out of the cot.

As the New Zealand Day Bill came up for debate in the house tonight, Dunne began his speech "On behalf of my loyal colleague Judy Turner..."
Update: Please note I wrote this before the budget. Inflation adjusting tax thresholds has long been one of Copeland's particular hobby horses, so I imagine he was less than impressed when he discovered Cullen was about to axe the 'chewing gum' tax cuts. Did Copeland's press release on Tuesday almost give away a budget secret? If so, Copeland would be a very naughty boy.

Span links to a number of posts discussing Copeland's resignation from United Untied Future, along with her own thoughts.

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