Every supporter of the New Zealand First Party ought to be embarrassed by the "waka jumping" bill. No respectable political party in a democracy needs a law to keep its elected legislators loyal to it.
Labour and the Greens ought to be embarrassed too that they are obliged to support their governing partner on this bill. Green Party members, to their credit, have made their distaste for it very clear before and during their annual conference at the weekend.
Labour and the Greens are real political parties. That is, they are organisations of like-minded people who can channel their values and views into a coherent political programme to put to a public vote. They choose their candidates for Parliament through internal votes that produce competent and usually reliable MPs.
New Zealand First is different, as it has effectively declared with this bill. It cannot rely on its MPs to remain loyal to the party that put them in Parliament and needs a law that will allow its caucus to expel a member from Parliament who will not go along with something the party intends to do.
Labour and National have both had MPs who "crossed the floor" on rare occasions and though it can bring down governments, neither has felt the need of a law to prevent it. They are parties in the Westminster tradition which values the ultimate right of elected representatives to act on their personal sense of what is right and what is in the nation's interests.
Not so NZ First and the reason is obvious. Though the party recently celebrated 25 years of existence it remains a one-man band.
It has not developed a body of principles and people larger than allegiance to its founder. It remains difficult to imagine the party existing without Winston Peters.
A party such as this is not good for democracy or stability of government. Allegiance to a person rather than a party is shallow, as we have seen in NZ First over the years. Peters has fallen out with a number of his MPs and his need for this legislation suggests his latest caucus is no more reliable.
A few days ago we learned they have all been obliged to sign an agreement to pay the party $300,000 if they resign from its caucus or are expelled and do not leave Parliament within three days. It is an abject disgrace that Peters can require that of those he brings into Parliament with him but it is their business, it is less of a public concern.
Legislation to impose the same sort of rule on all MPs, minus the fine, is of most serious public concern. It offends our deepest political principles. We elect people to Parliament, not stooges.
They are elected on the brands of political parties but their first allegiance should be to New Zealand.
If they find themselves party to a course they do not believe to be in the country's interest, they should be free to use the position voters have given them to resist it. No party should need this bill.