If Barclay goes, the Government loses its leverage over minor parties

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Prime Minister Bill English says he went to police over secret recording by Todd Barclay

ANALYSIS: Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay isn't quite a dead man walking, but his job isn't exactly looking safe.

On Tuesday afternoon Prime Minister Bill English confirmed that Barclay himself had told him he recorded the conversations of a staff-member - just hours after Barclay had "totally refuted" the allegations and directly said that he had not told the Prime Minister about any recordings.

Barclay's options are slimming fast. He can either admit to misleading media and the public, argue on a technicality that he was denying the "allegations" not the actual recording, or publicly call the Prime Minister a liar. Two of those seem likely to lead to a resignation. So what would that mean for the rest of the House?

Todd Barclay "totally refuted" the allegations on Wednesday morning. Later that day Bill English seemed to contradict him.
Debbie Jamieson

Todd Barclay "totally refuted" the allegations on Wednesday morning. Later that day Bill English seemed to contradict him.

Clutha-Southland is deep blue safe seat for National, but since we are less than six months out from an election a by-election will not take place.

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And since he isn't a list MP, his spot in Parliament wouldn't be snapped up by the next person in line.

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I totally refute the allegations: Todd Barclay.

Instead, Barclay's seat would remain vacant and the number of MPs in the House would drop from 119 to 118.

Labour worked out a deal with National when John Key was on his way out to let David Cunliffe resign at the same time, maintaining the overall balance. That doesn't seem likely to happen this time.

So what would happen? National's number of MPs would drop to 57, but with the four seats from Maori Party, ACT, and United Future they would retain a two-seat majority - 61 seats, two above the 59-seat line.

Meanwhile the opposition parties of Labour, the Greens, and NZ First would still sit at 57. That means a vote of no confidence is unlikely and the Government won't dissolve until at least September.

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But it would greatly complicate things for National. If the Maori Party's two MPs vote against National we end up with a tie vote - 59 to 59 - which in most circumstances means the vote fails, and whatever legislation the Government wants to pass will fail.

It also means the Government won't be able to rely on just the Maori Party, as they did as recently as April for some changes to the Resource Management Act that United Future and ACT rejected.

It also means if the Maori Party and either United Future or ACT decide to vote with the opposition on something, it will pass against their will.

Luckily for the Government there are just six weeks left before the House rises for the election, and no obviously controversial legislation that they could be held hostage over.

But it certainly would make things a lot tighter, and the Government would lose the leverage it has against its coalition parties making a fuss.

Then - National have relied on their partners for years now. They can probably manage for a few more months.

WILL HE GO?

If Barclay wants to go then he will go. But if the party itself decides his position is untenable they can not actually force him from Parliament.

This is what happened with New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan, who was expelled from the party in 2012 but chose to remain in Parliament.

While possible, this is pretty unlikely. If the party - who are now investigating Barclay's reselection process in Clutha-Southland - want him to go, he probably will.

 - Stuff

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