Looking at the latest poll of polls, it’s pretty clear: the Greens have managed to hold on to the massive gain they made during the last election campaign, largely at Labour’s expense as it imploded. Labour’s back to its pre-campaign level, at National’s expense. Lab+Green=Nat or thereabouts but the Left needs a good 5% more from the Right to feel confident. So, this is not the time to be listening to John Armstrong’s advice (is there ever such a time?) that Labour should to try to discredit their one viable partner – the Greens – or the advice of the Herald, for that matter, which recently advised Shearer not to try to win in 2014 and just wait until 2017 when the public would become utterly sick of Key on its own accord.
Reading the old Tory’s piece today (replete with factual errors, as always: Norman made no announcement that he’s after Finance, for instance – in response to a classic Paddy ambush he said it would be one portfolio that would be subject to negotiations), I imagine him as a Wormtongue-like figure spilling filth into Shearer’s ear:
‘Go after the Greens, they’re your real enemy’
‘But don’t we have to grow the combined Labour/Green vote if I want to be PM. How does attacking them help that? Seeing third parties to your extreme as a threat, rather than an asset, is such FPP thinking’
‘No! They stole your votes! Take them back!’
‘Doesn’t any reasonable analysis show that, actually, we lost about 100,000 votes to National in 2008, more to non-vote in both 2008 and 2011, and some 50,000 to the Greens in 2011 because leftwing voters didn’t believe in Phil? Whatever votes the Greens get go towards the total for a Labour/Greens government. Shouldn’t we be going after the soft National and non-vote?’
‘No, the people fear Russel Norman. He’s crazy insistence that the policies which has seen 78,000 people lose their jobs in 4 years and manufacturing decimated are not the correct ones for New Zealand will make middle New Zealand afraid to vote for Labour because of the risk it will bring him into a position of economic power’
‘But isn’t Russel Norman, by wide acclaim, leading the opposition to the government on economic issues, and hasn’t that been central to their success this year? If people fear the Greens so much, how have they managed to not just maintain but grow their support since their record election result? Historically, minor parties decline mid-term – the Greens were skirting 6-7% this time the last term. Hell, the guy talked about money-printing and their polls rose!’
‘And whose votes are they taking?’
Well, isn’t that part of the problem with Labour’s outlook? They’re not really ‘our’ votes, are they? Don’t we have to earn them, just like any other party? Rather than trying to shut up anyone who makes us look bad, isn’t the correct response when another opposition party starts to take centre stage as the primary opposition to the government on economics to up our own game? Shouldn’t the competition between us be to best critique and embarrass the government and offer the best alternative, not to snipe and bicker as if we’re already fighting over the spoils of a battle not yet won?’
‘Next you’ll be saying it was a mistake to banish your best economic spokesperson! No, Shane Jones is your best asset, driving that wedge between you and your only viable coalition partner has done wonders in the eyes of New Zealanders as they look for an alternative to this failed National government.’
Are you sure it was a good idea to let a man renowned as lazy, arrogant, and a misuser of public money do proxy attacks for us on the Greens? It didn’t really achieve much except making it look like I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, control my caucus and it gave Norman the opening to frame the Greens as offering the real alternative and us as dithering, unprincipled neolibs who would maintain the status quo and only really want to put ourselves at the top of the heap.
‘And that’s why you need to go for the jugular! Only when you have convinced the voting public that your only coalition partner is comprised of raving loonies who shouldn’t be allowed near the Treasury benches before hell freezes over do you have a chance of getting the right election result.’
And, what would that result be, John?
Um… yes, well, gotta go.