In his column in the Herald on Sunday, Matt McCarten doesn’t give a very flattering thumbnail sketch of New Zealand First Leader, Winston Peters.
….in 1996 when Winston Peters went fishing instead of attending coalition talks. Then he jumped into bed with the National Party after consistently indicating through the election campaign he’d go with Labour.
Reading this unflattering portrayal of Winston Peters, by Matt McCarten, reminded me of Matts assertion two weeks ago, in an article on the minor parties(HOS Jan. 2, 2011)that in his opinion New Zealand First, along with the Greens and the Maori Party will join a Labour led administration.
“I certainly have no doubt Peters will go with Labour if he gets in.”
Matt McCarten HOS Sunday Jan 2, 2011
In my opinion this would be a risky bet. Personally I wouldn’t put money on it.
A more likely result would be Matt’s other assertion in the same column, that the Maori Party would join a Labour led coalition. This is because the Maori Party policy direction is much more membership driven, compared to New Zealand First which is more autocratic, top down driven.
“The Maori Party may well be the kingmakers after election day. Although their supporters currently give them the benefit of the doubt given National doesn’t rely on their vote to keep them in government, this will change after the next election – particularly if their vote will determine who the government will be. I have little doubt grassroots pressure will make it likely they’ll throw in their lot with Labour.”
HOS Sunday Jan 2, 2011
In the same article Matt McCarten also pointed out that no future Labour led coalition is possible without including the Greens.
But, at a similar crossroads after the 2005 election, Peters demanded as a condition of his party’s support of a Labour led coalition that the Greens be excluded.
Going further back, as Matt pointed out this week. After waging an electoral campaign in opposition to the Bolger National government. To everyone’s astonishment Winston Peters then gave his party’s confidence and supply to a minority Bolger National Government even though the Labour Party had far more votes than the Nats.
This usurpation of the democratic will of the electorate, by Peters of course is now history. But what about today?
Today Peter’s Party is strongly in the camp of the the global warming deniers. In politics nothing is certain, and there is always a possibility that NZ First may change their position on global warming, but until that happens, there can be no accommodation of the two parties, (Greens and NZ First), in the same coalition. This will be another pointer in the direction of which the New Zealand First party will give their support.
Added to all this, is Peters demonstrated personal penchant for the “baubles of office”. So whoever can give him the most prestigious government office either inside or outside of cabinet, may also influence who gets his party’s support.
On the other hand:
The New Zealand First Party has been titled a “populist party”. This is not automatically a bad thing. To gather electoral support New Zealand First has in the past championed ‘populist causes’ that have been of real benefit to flax roots New Zealanders. Like a demand to raise the minimum wage which they extorted out of the Nats, to the very popular “Gold Card” which was part of their confidence and supply agreement with the Clark government.
So what ‘populist’ concessions will NZF be seeking to wring from this year’s coalition negotiations?
As looks likely, Tax will be the big election issue.
In the Past NZF has campaigned against GST on petrol.
Is this still a goer?
In my opinion, at the very least, NZF will have to give public campaign support to the Labour Party’s call for the removal of GST off fresh fruit and vegetables. If NZF don’t publicly support this measure in the lead up to the election, then this will be another indication of who NZF will be giving their support to after the elections.
This is because the National Party is decidedly against removing GST from fruit and veg. and would never concede to this demand in coalition negotiations with NZF.
If NZ First do decide to support removing GST off fruit and veg. it might be in their interest to go even further.
Because if NZF stop there, why wouldn’t people who support this measure just simply vote Labour?
To pick up with the grumpy/disillusioned vote and to show differentiation from Labour, NZF could benefit with an increase in voter support with a campaign to repeal the GST rise to 15%. This would not only have the benefit of differentiating NZF from the Labour Party, but the National Party as well, as both the major parties are determined to maintain the 15% increase, despite the hard ship this has caused at the bottom of society.
Possibly, also if NZ First do decide to go further and to tap into their core support base as the party that was created around a populist campaign against big business corruption and tax avoidance. NZF may even be favour the idea of a Financial Transactions Tax levelled on all banking transactions.
These two campaign planks are a logical offshoot of each other, because calling for a cut in GST alone, would leave the government accounts in serious deficit.
To remedy this deficit and make up for the loss in government revenue caused by repealing the GST increase, a FTT would be necessary and would be deliver more than enough to cover the loss. Countering the supporters of GST rise, who argue that GST is very hard for big business tax cheats to avoid, but an FTT is also very hard to avoid, and is even more easily detectable than GST evasion.
Again, as well as being extremely popular, calling for a Financial Transaction Tax would also differentiate NZF from both Labour and National.
So what should those other parties opposed to a second term of National led government be doing to court New Zealand First?
Obviously the Labour Party should be lobbying NZ First to come out publicly in support of removing GST from fresh fruit and veg. By getting NZ First to agree to this, would put NZF beyond the reach of any agreement with the Nats. (at least on this issue), Making a coalition with NZ First and Labour much more likely, than a back room stitch up with the Nats.
The Greens should also be lobbying NZ First to try and find some common ground.
Obviously talks around the evidence of global warming should be at the centre of this outreach.
The Greens should in a spirit of friendship enquire if they could give an address on this issue to the next NZF conference to explain their stance, and answer NZF members concerns and worries over global warming.
If New Zealand First is not open to any friendly overtures coming from Labour, or the Greens then this will be a further indication of where NZ First will be putting their coalition support after the election.
In this case it behoves these parties to announce to the electorate that a vote for NZ First will be a vote for National.