|With the news that National's Nikki Kaye and Green List MP Kevin Hague will be jointly backing a private member's bill on inclusive adoption reform, what will happen now?
I'd have to say that this marks the end of National's 'inertial conservatism' phase, when it seemed to be obsessed with the economy at the cost of social reform, and seemed to intentionally be delaying LGBT reforms. While it was possible to dismiss Key's earlier declaration of support for same-sex marriage as more symbolic than substantive, the same cannot be said for this measure. Indeed, Key has stated his support for inclusive adoption reform, although caution should be exercised. In previous contexts, he has also stated that if his Helensville electorate opposed it, then so would he, regardless of his liberal conscience.
What extent of support does this measure have within the National caucus and party organisation? The Northern Division of National passed a remit supporting inclusive adoption reform in the context of civil unions, and the Young Nationals also support it. So do prominent centre-right bloggers like David Farrar and Cameron Slater. I suspect that some National MPs will take their cue from the Prime Minister, but there will also be one or two troglodyte fundamentalists exposed.
Labour and the Greens will support the bill, as will United Future. As happened with the Human Rights Act almost two decades ago, it will therefore be National Party social conservatives, New Zealand First and ACT's John Banks pitted against liberal National MPs, Labour, the Greens and United Future's Peter Dunne. I'm not sure how the Maori Party will vote on this one, although the Mana Party will also support reform.
This has some strategic implications for both parties. If adoption reform proceeds through the house and becomes law, then it will drive a wedge between Labour and the Greens on the one hand, and New Zealand First on the other. However it also has the potential to cause damage within the ACT party organisation- John Banks has a reprehensible social conservative voting record, but much of his party organisation consists of centre-right social liberals. As for the Conservative Party, this may well put paid to any National/Conservative coalition, unless...
Notwithstanding Key's symbolic statement of support for same-sex marriage recently, it is possible to envisage a post-2014 situation where National cannot govern without the assistance of the Conservatives. Given that it has absorbed the Kiwi Party, whose Gordon Copeland has already tried a pre-emptive same-sex marriage ban once before, would that therefore become the price of a National/Conservative coalition if the latter is allowed to hold the balance of power?
What will Labour do to counter this? I suspect that it might tack to the left on same-sex marriage, promising reform sooner than might have otherwise been the case in the event of a centre-left election victory in 2014 (or 2017).
Recommended: "Political rivals unite over gay adoption" New Zealand Herald: 28.05.2012: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz./news/article.cfm?c_id=1