Unstable Ministries

During the 19th century, before 1890, elections were not held every three years, as they are today. The government of the day simply came from those who could, at any time, muster a majority. This led to a very unstable form of government.

During the 19th century, before 1890, elections were not held every three years, as they are today. The government of the day simply came from those who could, at any time, muster a majority. This led to a very unstable form of government.

Between 1854, when our first government was formed, and 1890, when the 3-year election cycle was introduced, there were something like 25 different governments, or Ministries as they were called. It was simply a matter of getting the numbers, and then moving a motion of no confidence in the Ministry then governing. All going well, you would win the motion of no confidence, and assume office.

For example, New Zealand’s First Parliamentary session – August 1854 to September 1855 – was made up of 3 separate Ministries. The first was led by our first Premier, Henry Sewell, which lasted 2 weeks. The second Ministry, led by William Fox, also lasted 2 weeks.

The third Ministry fared better. Led by Edward Stafford, it lasted from 1855 to 1861, before being toppled by William Fox who returned in 1861 to his second, and not his last, tenure as Premier.