OPINION: Under promise and over deliver goes the oft-used Parliamentary maxim.
It echoes through our political history from the Christchurch reconstruction to KiwiBuild.
To that list one might add the trials of National leader Judith Collins and Act leader David Seymour who fought for the return of in-person Parliament this week, only to have the result fizzle out today.
The arguments for recalling Parliament ultimately come down to the distinction between what an MP can do and what an MP should do.
Parliament can sit in person. Most people agree the epidemiological risk is low enough - but should it, when MPs can meet remotely?
Collins and Seymour have a reasonable argument for why it should go ahead as planned: simply, Parliament should almost always sit as normal; when it cannot, the still largely unbridled power of our government means opposition parties' views should probably be weighted when it comes to deciding what sits in its place.
This view is effectively codified in the way Parliament runs itself using the consensus-based business committee. This means even a majority government like the current one, cannot operate unilaterally when it comes to Parliament. That's quite something, especially as a majority government can do essentially whatever it likes when it comes to basically anything else.
The question in this case, was whether in-person Parliament accomplished anything that a digital Parliament could not.
The answer today was more or less "no".
The most interesting moment was a motion from Seymour to re-establish the Epidemic Response Committee, countered by Leader of the House Chris Hipkins seeking leave to adopt a sessional order to establish a virtual Parliament.
Don't bother reaching for your McGee to refresh your sessional order rules - it's not worth the calories one would burn picking it up.
Essentially, MPs met in person to make a point they'd been making via press release and social media over the weekend: the opposition wanted a powerful digital committee and some form of Parliament - the Government just wants a digital Parliament.
Problems with the convening of the House aside - MPs did establish the value of proper Parliamentary scrutiny.
Collins grilled Defence Minister Peeni Henare on the Defence Force's evacuation from Afghanistan.
Worryingly, Henare and the Defence Force don't seem to know much more about the situation in Afghanistan than they did before the Taliban gazumped our intelligence agencies by swiftly seizing control of the country.
Henare does not know how many of the Afghans who supported the Defence Force were unable to be evacuated, nor did he have much of an idea about the number of New Zealanders left behind.
Other questions, regarding whether New Zealand could take Afghan refugees, were brushed off as being matters for the immigration minister.
Collins' Covid-19 spokesman, Chris Bishop extracted some useful information from Hipkins, speaking in his role as Covid Minister.
The 1pm media briefings have revealed that people are waiting quite a while to be transferred to a quarantine facility after a positive Covid test.
Under questions from Bishop, Hipkins revealed that about 50 to 60 people were awaiting transfer as of this morning - quite alarming given the past two days have delivered relatively low numbers of new cases.
Bishop managed to score a small win too, asking that the Government begins to include the R (reproduction) rate in its daily updates, which Hipkins said could be done "if that's what the member wanted".
Seymour also teased some interesting information out of the Government - in the latest outbreak, fewer than 10 contact tracing notifications were "activated or sent" because of Bluetooth tracing. The implication here is that the Government is not making adequate use of a powerful contact tracing tool.
Parliament is an incredibly powerful tool for scrutiny. Its ability to extract information from the government is vastly more powerful than a 1pm press briefing or even an Official Information Act request.
But that wasn't at stake in the House today - all of that information could have been extracted over a Parliamentary Zoom call.
Supporters of the Government's digital-Parliament preference are probably overly blase about the problems, practical and symbolic, presented by a digital Parliament.
A reduced or substandard Parliament is a serious abridgement of one of the organs of our democracy. It should be treated carefully - particularly the views of the opposition, who is likely to be the biggest loser.
But months and months of digital Parliament was realistically never on the cards. In-person sitting would likely have resumed within weeks. The opposition needed to demonstrate why in person sitting was needed for this session, and this week - it failed to do that.
Their arguments were not wholly without merit.
Our political system works well when there's a healthy tension between the government and the opposition; when the opposition looks credible enough that it could easily take over if it could snatch a few wavering MPs from the Treasury benches.
Democracy is choice - it only works when the opposition can conceivably be that choice.
It is very hard for a leader of the opposition to look like a credible alternative government when its leader is cooped up at home, Zooming into Parliament while the Prime Minister has full use of the trappings of the Beehive.
Framed in the lacquered proscenium of Parliament's grand Legislative Council Chamber and debating chamber, Collins and National can now claim to at least appear prime ministerial. That healthy tension between the Government and the people who would be government has returned.
But Collins needs to fill the optics out with substance - more substance than was visible today.