There have been a couple of recent contributions to the debate about whether Labour should adopt an aggressive or a cooperative strategy with respect to the Greens this election year.
Stuart Nash suggests at the daily blog that the Green’s polling will decline back to historical levels this election day. He does not provide any reasons to show why and to be frank I doubt that this will happen. I have been really impressed by the Green’s discipline and sense of purpose this term and I believe that they have established a new band of support which will not drop without something unusual happening.
He theorises that after the election Labour could go into coalition with NZ First instead of the Greens which is always possible depending on the numbers after the election. He also does not rule out the Greens going into coalition with National. I suspect that hell would have to freeze over before the Greens would even think about this and past refusals to rule this out as a possibility have had more to do with the need to preserve their options than anything else.
He states that the only way for the Greens to grow their vote is to cannibalise Labour’s vote and here I disagree with him. They are well placed to persuade a portion of the 800,000 who did not vote last time to vote this time and even a modest reduction in the non vote could pay significant dividends for the Greens.
He thinks that a too close coalition with the Greens before the election will harm Labour’s prospects. Again this is only true if the only votes Labour is seeking are those of people who voted National before. The non vote provides fertile territory for Labour to improve its support.
He concludes that the battle this year will be between Labour and National and again I disagree. The Greens performance this year will be vital and for the left to win both Labour and the Greens will need to perform well.
Josie Pagani has also joined the debate. She has tweeted that the real action this year will be between the “major” parties and not the “small” parties. She obviously thinks that the Greens are “small” despite their having polled over 10% for a considerable period of time. Her accumulated wisdom on the matter is behind Listener’s paywall. My objection to enriching the owners of that once liberal but now challenged magazine has meant that I have not been exposed to the full intricacies of Josie’s analysis but I suspect that her tweet says it all.
With the greatest of respect their analyses are misguided. This is MMP and every vote counts. The next Government will be formed by the biggest block as long as they can get confidence and supply. If the Greens maintain their current polling and Labour gets to 37% or above then it is likely that there will be a Labour Green Government at the end of this year.
And the recurring problem is that by expressing these views Nash and Pagani are adding to National’s framing of the issue. Barring some major catastrophe it is likely to again be the highest polling party this year and it will probably seek to intimidate NZ First into giving it support because of this. But under MMP if the left block can garner more support then it should have first run at forming the new Government. The individual support that a party has is irrelevant and this has been shown by how every single MMP Government has only been able to form a Government with the support of smaller parties.
National will try and tie the Greens and Labour together and suggest that the Greens are an extremist party. I have never thought of them as extremist, their only sin is that they are ahead of mainstream thinking on many issues and it takes a while for mainstream opinion to catch up. For instance they have campaigned on climate change issues for years. It is only now that arch tories such as David Cameron and John Key accept that climate change is real. It is a shame that they cannot show the political bravery needed to actually do something about the issue.
So I don’t think that this election should be, at least in terms of the party vote, a battle between Labour and the Greens for party voters. I hope both parties put their full efforts into growing the left vote. I do believe however that for the electorate vote there may be occasions where progressives should think about voting strategically.