We finally have a government, 41 days after the general election was held.
While some of us have seen this [not] lengthy [enough] interregnum period as a blessed respite from the Sturm und Drang of wall-to-wall political coverage, others – mainly political reporters – have characterised it as an affront to democracy itself – an assessment that can probably be interpreted as actually being more about their own sense of relevance than anything else.
In any case, now that the various arrangements between the National, Act, and NZ First parties have been announced, can we – for the love of all that is good and holy – please, PLEASE stop referring to the government as “a three-way” coalition?!?
Leaving aside the fact that this phrase conjures up an intimate mental image of Messrs Luxon, Peters, and Seymour that will probably prove impossible to scrub clean from one’s brain pan, “three-way” is an unforgivably regressive – not to mention reductively sexualised – description of a form relationship that these days is much more appropriately and sensitively expressed as “polyamorous”.
By the same token, some have unkindly opined that the splitting of the deputy prime minister role into two 18-month stretches to be served by Peters and Seymour is a measure of the two men’s overweening egos.
Even worse, others have suggested that the decisive factor in deciding the batting order [with Winston first] is down to a pragmatic assessment about which of the two gentlemen is more likely to still be standing in the second half of the three-year term.
But such analyses ignore a more generous – and hopeful – explanation: that the approach being taken to this position is actually a subtle signal that, despite all the predictions that the government formed by these three ‘right wing’ parties will see the precious social progress of recent years wound back, this will really be a coalition of kindness that continues the long march towards the utopian Aotearoa that the previous regime was always gesturing towards.
After all, what could be more properly progressive than job sharing?
Even if it turns out that the slightly less positive take is more accurate, and this is really a spot of petty three-upmenship [“You thought Jacinda taking time off from being PM to have a baby was modern and enlightened? Well, get a load of this!”], it’s still a form of progress, right?
And let’s face it, even if the new government proves to be a three-headed abomination that proves all the dire predictions of its ideological opponents, at least the interactions between this triumvirate are likely to be highly entertaining, given the big frenemy energy they exhibit together.
Karl Marx observed that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. But despite what political journalists have inevitably referred to as the “unprecedented” nature of this governing agreement, on the evidence of their first press conference after officially sealing the deal it appears that Luxon, Peters, and Seymour are skipping straight to the comedy phase.
It remains to be seen whether they’ll be more Marx Brothers or Three Stooges. But between Peters’ veteran insult comedian act and Seymour’s smirking drollery, with Luxon serving as shiny-headed straight man, things are already looking pretty promising on the chuckle front.