Nats lose their political nerve over booze law
...Its recommendations aside, the commission's big challenge to Parliament is its call to end conscience votes on alcohol-related measures.
The commission is dead right. Conscience votes on such legislation have traditionally been granted to MPs on the grounds that drinking is a matter of personal morality.
This is a charade which allows parties to abrogate their responsibilities on things like the drinking age where public opinion unpredictably waxes and wanes on raising or lowering it and the politics get too difficult.
Parties should act as a body and predictably on matters they have campaigned on. Did National campaign on reversing alcohol consumption laws?
Did it campaign on removing conscience votes?
John Armstrong is only taking this line because it suits his position on the issue.
Contrast what Armstrong writes above to what he wrote about the Civil Union Bill and conscience voting;
Labour's gay MPs have been told to take a back seat to prevent critics accusing the Government of pandering to the "pink vote".
And she [Helen Clark] has stressed this is ultimately a conscience measure and thus Parliament's decision, not the Government's.
It hardly adds up to a rip-roaring celebration of the measure's intent.
But both Helen Clark and David Benson-Pope, the minister in charge of the bill, have kept their nerve, not least because the left faction in the Labour caucus will be furious if they buckle.
So nerve was kept in this instance but lost when it comes to alcohol laws.
There are very good reasons why parliament has conscience votes on moral issues. They are too important to relinquish.