National, Labour shouldn't rule out wartime-style 'grand coalition' to keep extremist fringe parties out of power - commentators

Right-leaning political commentator Matthew Hooton says New Zealand's Opposition and Governing parties shouldn't rule out a grand coalition to keep extremist fringe parties out of power as they gain public support.

A grand coalition, when a country's two major parties join forces to form a Government, has only happened twice in New Zealand's history - the most recent during the Great Depression and before that World War I. 

Now, with the emergence of Hannah Tamaki's Vision NZ, Matt King's Democracy NZ and Jami-Lee Ross' Advance NZ parties as well as anti-vaccination group Voices for Freedom planning on standing in the local elections in October, Hooton told AM's Ryan Bridge that Labour and National should be open to the grand coalition idea.

"If they got together they would get 5 percent, I think, and they would get into Parliament," Hooton said of the fringe parties.

"I think Brian Tamaki would absolutely love to be in Parliament with 5 percent of the vote and get to interview Christopher Luxon and Jacinda Ardern, and decide which one would be Prime Minister.

"If we ever did get in that situation - where an extreme right-wing or extreme left-wing group had that type of power and was playing those games - I think it would be the responsibility of the leaders of the Labour and the National party to reject that proposition and talk to one another, and at least establish some type of temporary grand coalition."

Brian Tamaki, the controversial anti-Government Destiny Church leader, hinted at forming a political movement during Freedoms and Rights Coalition protests in Auckland earlier this month. 

During election 2020, his wife Hannah's Vision NZ party garnered 0.1 percent of the vote.

"I think Matthew's right," political scientist Bryce Edwards said of the grand coalition idea, appearing on AM alongside Hooton. "Labour and National do have to decide how to deal with this sort of force, and ruling them out is sort of illegitimate.

"When elite parties start ruling out these anti-establishment ones, it actually gives them more momentum - you need some ways of actually dealing with the issues that the malcontents have.

"I think that's the problem at the moment; Labour, National, the Greens - whoever - aren't actually dealing with the actual organic forces at the bottom," Dr Edwards added. "They've moved into the centre of politics, they're not dealing with poverty, inequality - all these crises - and it can look too much like we're ignoring these people."

Last week, polling showed right-bloc parties National and ACT would be able to form a Government with 62 seats combined (61 needed to govern) while the left-wing Labour, Green and Māori parties had 58.

The only fringe party of those mentioned above that registered in the poll was Vision NZ with 1 percent.

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