Mitch Harris: National Party Opposition in full grief cycle

Bill English and his National Party team.
Bill English and his National Party team. Photo credit: Newshub.

OPINION: In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book called On Death and Dying.  

It was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients and listed what she considered to be the five stages of grief that terminally ill people - or those who had lost a loved one - go through.  

The grief cycle became a model to help understand the emotional rollercoaster that can affect anyone who goes through a traumatic event, from redundancy to divorce.

The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

The National Party and its media boot-lickers seem to be exhibiting classic signs of the grief cycle, after losing power on election night.


This was spectacularly evident on election night, when the faithful gathered at Sky City did not seem to realise that they didn’t actually have the numbers to govern on their own.  

They also didn't have any potential support partners, other than NZ First.  

Because of its born-to-rule, entitlement mentality, National just assumed it would form the next Government, because it was the biggest party.  

And nothing was going to stop the party.


Denial turned immediately to anger, when the penny dropped that maybe they were not in control of their destiny.

That was when the attack dogs were released, mainly in Winston Peters' direction, with an extraordinarily nasty level of vitriol, aimed at undermining the veteran politician’s integrity.  

This went on throughout the wait for the special votes and the coalition negotiations.  

Such was the level of anger, it did not seem to occur to them that this was not helping them in the negotiations.


This is the stage they seem stuck at now, pleading with New Zealand to help right this terrible wrong.  

They are banging out the line that they will be a strong and effective opposition so hard, it feels as if they are back into election-campaign mode again, as if that result can somehow be overturned.  

As his credibility crumbles around him, Steven Joyce is launching a fighting fund and keeps finding new fiscal holes.  

Bill English wails that all his hard work is being "frittered away".   

Meanwhile, Labour scored a huge win, when it revealed that limiting foreign ownership of our housing stock will not necessarily compromise our trade agreements.

This was a lie perpetuated by National, as part of its efforts to keep the immigration pump priming the economy.

I imagine the bargaining part of the cycle will continue for some time yet, until the tragedy of Opposition, the end of the deferential treatment and taxis instead of Crown limousines puts them into full depression mode.  

Only after acceptance will they realise that the old guard will have to go, and new tactics and policies will be needed.

I expect that it will be a long time before National reaches acceptance.

Mitch Harris is host of RadioLIVE's Night Talk night.