Cock-up, conspiracy, crisis or beat-up? All of these theories are being invoked to explain the Maori Party's sudden stroppiness yesterday. Given that the new parliamentary term hasn't even really begun yet, the threat to leave the coalition came as a surprise to most, not least to National itself.
There is good evidence for the cock-up theory, especially on National's part, with John Armstrong saying the Government has misjudged 'the political pressures now raining down on Turia and Sharples' http://bit.ly/xL3Cj9. Tariana Turia's claim that discussions with National only begun yesterday - after the story had broken - certainly point to poor coalition management. After being completely ignored in Key's state of the nation speech it is no wonder the Maori Party is pondering the electoral price it paid to keep National in power.
Andrew Geddis criticises John Key for downplaying the significance of the Section 9 Treaty clause. Geddis makes the point that if the clause has as little meaning as Key seems to think, then it wouldn't need to be excluded from legislation - see his blog post, If it's just a symbol, why do you care?. Rolling back the obligation for the Crown to act consistently with the Treaty would be a major backwards step according to John Pagani - see: Don't set Treaty back 25 years.
The Maori Party also cops quite a bit of criticism for not seeing it coming. Scott Yorke at Imperator Fish and Joshua Hitchcock at Maori Law and Politics both ask why the Maori Party did not sort this out in the coalition deal negotiations, as the asset sales policy was well and truly known at the time - see: Yorke's This Should Not Have Surprised Anyone and Hitchcock's The Strategic Stupidity of the Maori Party.
Whether by accident or design, however, many commentators feel that the Maori Party needed to be seen to stand up for its Maori constituents. Vernon Small says that the issue is mainly about the Maori Party's political positioning and its need to 'deny it is National's poodle' - see: Treaty stand-off: Maori Party defection unlikely.
Morgan Godfery speculates that it all comes down to both ineptitude and political grandstanding on the Maori Party's part. He, like most, doubts the party would walk from government over this issue - see: Further comments on the Maori Party's threat. Certainly as Vernon Small tells it, John Key was very relaxed for a Prime Minister whose coalition was under any real threat. And Geoffrey Palmer, who knows a thing or two about the Treaty and law, thinks that any crisis will be fairly easily averted - see RNZ's No crisis over asset sales - Palmer.
The problem may be, as David Farrar points out, threatening to walk is a tactic you can only use once or twice with any credibility and there are a lot more potential flashpoints to come in this parliamentary term - see: Asset Sales and the Treaty.
The debate over the usefulness of Labour's Red Alert blog continues, with List MP Raymond Huo copping flak for using the blog to publish a lengthy response to a comment by David Farrar about Huo's fundraising prowess. Red Alert's ongoing obsession with Farrar is lampooned by Danyl Mclauchlan Red Alert Frequency Analysis 2012 and Scott Yorke Shock As Labour Discovers David Farrar Is Not The PM , while the Labour-friendly Standard despairs - see: Shut it down. Labour activist Robert Winter cuts to the chase in a four word post asking: 'Better dead than read?'.
The real must-read political item of the day is Brian Rudman's Dotcom raid threat to sovereignty. In this, Rudman expresses his frustration with Labour politicians 'suddenly wrapping themselves in the New Zealand flag and shouting "New Zealand assets/land for New Zealanders" while ignoring a much greater threat to national sovereignty: the US becoming the worldwide internet police. Rudman refers to the arrest of New Zealand resident Kim Dotcom, saying that 'the ownership of a handful of remote dairy farms is of much less concern to me than the thought of the world's only super-power, dialling up the local Auckland police and deputising a mini-swat team of 70 to swoop down in helicopters in a dawn raid on a Coatesville mansion to arrest the leaders of an international internet file-sharing site that's been getting up the noses of Hollywood film moguls'.
The next most important item of the day is Colin James' Management Magazine column, Defining the Key government, in which James forecasts the major goals for the National Government this year: 1) revamping public services, 2) selling Mighty River Power, 3) reform of resource management laws and the labour market, 4) 'More and faster oil and minerals exploration and exploitation', 5) lowering benefit numbers, and 6) fostering science and innovation. Finally, Gordon Campbell delves further into the political problems in Christchurch with his blog post, On today's protest march in Christchurch.