Politik on Labour/ Greens

Written By: - Date published: 7:57 am, November 24th, 2016 - 18 comments
Categories: act, greens, labour, mana, maori party, national, nz first, peter dunne, Politics, united future - Tags: ,

I started a subscription to Politik – Richard Harmon’s paywall site, and I find that I have been enjoying it. Now that I have my uncompensated, unexpected, and unsolicited plug out of the way…

I was rather amused reading today’s Politik’s “Despite the pact Shaw takes on Robertson which you may or may not be able to see from that link (I have no idea how their paywall operates). I was struck by the strange way that some political commentators and probably some politicians view the world at the political coalface – which isn’t in parliament.

Despite the Labour-Greens memorandum of understanding, Greens co-leader James Shaw has decided to go head to head with Labour’s Grant Robertson in the Wellington Central electorate at next year’s election.

My immediate reaction was to wonder what in the hell did a MOU between these two parties have to do with electorates? The Greens seek list vote. They stand in electorate seats primarily to boost list vote. Not standing in a seat means that they’d get less face time and media attention to attract voters with. Labour is far more interested in electorate seats.

What in the hell does a inter-party MOU have to do with that?

A MOU is for a more general cooperation and awareness between the parties so they don’t get at cross-purposes pursuing their individual interests and thereby advantaging their mutual opponents. It isn’t for allocating votes. Voters make those decisions and they usually just ignore or severely disadvantage the politicians who try to make it for them. There is no ‘ownership’ of a vote by political parties, regardless how much some political numbskulls may think that there is.

Sure a Labour MP might stand for an electorate seat and actively try to take it, and yes that the Greens may stand a candidate might result in that seat not going to Labour. But FFS – this is a MMP system and that is what the list is for.

I have been hearing these kinds of obvious misunderstandings about how real political parties deciding to work loosely together for years. What it actually means for strategic political parties is tat they tend to concentrate more on their own ecological niche, and less on trying to go into direct conflict between each other. Why? Because it doesn’t matter if it is a political party, a business, or animals on Savannah – direct head to head conflict is expensive and dangerous.

It isn’t like the arrangements that National has where they help smaller parties to die gracefully while being tactically held up by National. The history on that is pretty obvious. Peter Dunne is down to one MP, Act is down to one MP, and so is the Maori party is on hospice bed with their two MPs. All of those parties have had their vote escape either away from National or to National. Their party members now only fill small rooms.

NZ First narrowly escaped that clutch of a National death back in the 1990s and rebounded. They were also deliberately attacked by National using their Act patsies in 2008 over a matter that was all fluff and no substance (a trademark of National’s disgraced dirty politics brigade). It probably explains why they don’t seem to be particularly enthusiastic to try being drained of vitality by National again.

Real political parties compete for votes and try to retain and grow memberships rather than dying. Labour, Greens and NZ First will get into arrangements with each other, but those arrangements almost certainly will not extend to failing to stand up so voters and members can see them.

I suspect that the Mt Roskill by-election was what got the chatterers  excited recently. Back to Richard H who appears to think that way.

In fact what the decision may show is that there may be less to the Labour-Greens pact than meets the eye in that discussions between he two parties have not yet got down into campaigning details.

Apparently the decision by the Greens not to contest the Mt Roskill by-election was made without any formal discussions with Labour.

Labour accepts the argument from the Greens that because Wellington Central is their highest polling party vote, they need a high profile in the electorate to maintain that vote.

FFS. Accept it? The Greens didn’t stand in Mt Roskill because the effort of doing so wouldn’t return them much (and probably there wasn’t anyone willing to be a candidate). They will stand their best in a general election for Wellington Central because there are votes to be made.

Political parties will expend time and resources where they think that they can get headway just like any other party. If they can’t see benefits outweighing the costs, then they won’t. What parties see as costs and benefits varies a hell of a lot depending on their circumstances, strategies, and resources. They are really no different from any organisation I have ever worked with or for.

Labour has pretty well always stood a local candidate, even in places that are damn near impossible to campaign in. They even do it in unwinnable by-elections where they can find a decent candidate (I’m thinking the recent 2015 Northland by-election here). That is because they are interested in having a  on-the-ground party system across the country. It helps them as a strategy across many elections. But even then, they won’t expend resources recklessly. You can see that in a number of seats in general elections and  by-elections where their candidates simply don’t get a lot of support (and frequently complain bitterly about it).

The Greens and NZ First are a lot weaker at that ground level. So rather than dispersing they tend tend to think about party votes in general elections and concentrating their people power into electorates where they can get the most party votes. Because of the types of party policies they have, they concentrate in different areas.

Just as National has their strategy of spending money and hiring bodies rather than using volunteers, and sucking the life out of any party that is daft enough to get too close to them.

Frankly I’m always puzzled by any political party that wants to get too close to another party without actually agreeing to merge. A working cooperation with limited attacks on the other is all that any rational party would be after. Anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time (like a couple of decades) down at the coalface of a real political party (or any organisation really) knows this inside their bones. It just seems to me that only the political dilettantes do not.

I consider that the marriage arrangements of the type that National likes inflicting on their ‘friends’ like in the Epsom or Oharui electorates, or the daft ‘cooperative’ plans that the fools from Mana were after in the last election are just outright weird.

Political parties who start thinking at that kind of tactical level like that simply aren’t thinking about how to achieve their objectives over the long term by surviving and growing. Instead they are just volunteering to go quietly into a grave to be forgotten – for someone else’s benefit.


Updated: In the light of writing this early today, it is kind of amusing to hear from RNZ on the way to work that the Maori Party and Mana Party are talking to each other about “unification”. Strategy or tactics?

18 comments on “Politik on Labour/ Greens”

  1. mac1 1

    “Sure a Labour MP might stand for an electorate seat and actively try to take it, and yes that the Greens may stand a candidate might result in that seat not going to Labour. But FFS – this is a MMP system and that is what the list is for.”

    Absolutely. That has been my experience. Similarly, regarding ‘ownership’ of votes, again you are right. We must not underestimate the choice and the reasons for why people choose one candidate over another. Recent elections in the US, Brexit and Northland here in NZ are lessons.

    Party vote is paramount. All the rest is personal ambition, for good or ill.

  2. roy cartland 2

    “They [NZF] were also deliberately attacked by National using their Act patsies in 2008 over a matter that was all fluff and no substance.”
    What incident are you referring to?

    • Scott 2.1

      I think it is a reference to what wiki summarizes in the following way:

      “New Zealand First leader Winston Peters faced an attack on his party’s credibility, first over allegations that his party did not declare a $100,000 donation from millionaire ex-patriate property developer Owen Glenn to cover Winston Peters’ legal costs in a challenge to the result in the seat of Tauranga. This was referred to a House of Representatives Privileges Committee. On 22 September, the committee determined that Peters had “provided misleading information” and recommended he be censured; this was done by the House of Representatives in a 62–56 vote two days later. The second allegation revolved around the party’s failure to declare the use of a secret trust to funnel large donations into New Zealand First’s bank account, even though no donations over $10,000 to New Zealand First has been declared, as the law requires. This case was referred to the Serious Fraud Office for further investigation; on 11 October, New Zealand First was cleared of charges that Peters called a “waste of time” and on 24 October, the New Zealand First party was cleared of wrongdoing by the Electoral Commission, which was investigating donations that the party failed to declare.”


      • lprent 2.1.1

        Pretty much. Basically NZ First had rather amateur accounting and piss-poor audit trails. However that isn’t something that that poses a legal threat.

        However there doesn’t appear to me or any robust examination to have been anything deliberately concealed.

        The first claim pushed by Act with National providing the ammo and the dirty politics cadre and then run through what was effectively a kangaroo court operating on purely political grounds on a basis that wouldn’t have stood up under any legal scrutiny.

        The second claim was just ludicrous hysteria by some idiots wasting everyone’s time.

        However the nett effect with the dirty politics from Act, National, Greens, and some munter journos with the approximate ethics that barely rose above those of Cameron Slater was to spoil NZ First’s election campaign in 2008. It was a quite deliberate ploy orchestrated and initiated by National specifically to achieve that.

        That was quite obvious from very early that it was a complete fabrication, even to someone like me who doesn’t particularly like either Winston Peters nor NZ First.

        • Scott


          I didn’t mind it that much. It had a sense of karma about it in the way it echoed the Exclusive Brethren thing in 2005. I’m also no fan of Winston.

  3. John up North 3

    Attack lines such as this attempt to push the meme ” look at this dogs dinner of a coalition, at each others throats, a complete mess, imagine them in power” oh noes……

    Anytime the two separate political parties have differing policies, the push is always to create a trouble in camp atmosphere. You would think “journalists” and others would know what and how a MOU works?

    • Scott 3.1

      That is not an irrational or unrealistic concern.

      It seems to me the idea that the right is one voice, and the left isn’t, is a significant impediment to swing voters voting left. If you vote for the right, you know you’re getting National making the decisions, and any lip-service to ACT, Dunne, the Maori Party, or even Winston will be very minor at most. If you vote for the left you don’t know whether you’ll get the Labour policy, the Greens’, or Winston’s. If you like one’s policy on a topic but not the others, you have a problem.

      Take house prices in Auckland. The Greens and Labour seem to have quite different ideas about what they would do. Personally I don’t mind the Labour approach, and I don’t mind National’s, but I hate the Greens’ idea. If I were to vote Labour, I’d potentially be voting for the Greens solution – I just don’t know.

      I don’t know how to overcome that other than Labour re-emerging to become a 40% party.

      The MOU doesn’t seem to be the solution.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1

        If you think the right speaks with one voice, you aren’t paying very close attention. Everyone in the National Party agrees with Judith Collins, and then you woke up.

        • Scott

          I didn’t mean it that literally (but I think you know that).

          What I mean is that I know if I voted for ACT, or Dunne, or the Maori Party, I would in fact be lending my vote to National’s policies. I might want to have some influence exercised by the particular party I vote for, but I know what it is I’m going to get if the “right” in general wins (leaving aside whether the pre-election promises are then delivered), and I can make my decision accordingly.

          On some major policy issues I cannot say the same if I vote for the Greens or Labour. That will put of some for whom the differences matter – an in the example I gave.

          If I vote for Winston, well, I don’t even know who my vote might help to become PM.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            Democracy is strongest when there is a genuine contest of ideas. As a Green voter, I know that this Parliament will adopt a few of their policies, be influenced by others, and of course reject the majority in favour of enriching the National Party’s owners.

            As the likely junior partner in any Left government, they’d have more influence, and there would still be policy compromises.

            I’d have to look beyond the infantile shrieking that passes for media political commentary – “Bitter Divisions Threaten Coalition Unity!!!!” – and I have to do that already.

  4. Pasupial 4

    With the likelihood of a MANA/ Māori Party merger, you have to recall this from back in August:

    In a speech at the tenth anniversary of his coronation, Maori King Tuheitia has called for the Mana Movement and the Maori Party to work together.

    He said, “If Mana and Maori do something together we’re just about there we’ve got Mana Maori.”


    That is a big deal to Māori, though obviously Peters wasn’t too keen on the possibility, but then; ” He might be a Maori but he doesn’t act like one”. The Māori electorates are quite different than the general electorates, and a M/MP could reasonably be expected to take them back from Labour and cause an parliamentary in parliament in the process.

    • Pasupial 4.1

      Whoops, that comment should have ended; “a parliamentary overhang in the process” (I was trying to get rid of an “in” from that sentence and typoed myself from clumsy to unintelligible).

    • DoublePlusGood 4.2

      Such a merger would just represent the capture of MANA by the influence of the Māori elite that the Māori Party represent, and thus, the loss of a party that sticks up for Māori that aren’t the elites.

      • Clump_AKA Sam 4.2.1

        The problem I have with all this is there isn’t a heck of a lot of publicly available infomation to say any amount of legal man hours has gone into a merger. I won’t discount the possibility but until a see a photo of Hone/Annette/Flavel/Fox in the same room together this is all so unconvincing

        • Pasupial

          LPrent’s OP link has a pic of Hone Harawira and Tuko Morgan together, which is a start. My concern is what happens with Flavell and Sykes both contesting Waiariki? My guess is that either he is standing down as leader of the MP for Fox to take over, or Sykes will have to relocate.

          In July this year, Harawira and Māori Party President Tukoroirangi Morgan met to discuss a possible merger.

          Mana Party member Annette Sykes told Te Kāea, “The meeting is a step up from previous meetings with the executives of both parties in attendance, looking to explore issues of mutual benefit.”


          Although Harawira says he has no expectations, I can’t see him signing on to support National. I’m guessing that any merged M/MP would be looking at the crossbenches if NZF has anything to say about it anyway.

          Importantly; the Mana Party is not the MANA movement. Take the tactical cooperation with the Internet Party at the last election as an example of that.

          • Clump_AKA Sam

            Pasupial is right about the name Mana Movment, that said. Grass roots organisers of both Mana Movement and the Maori Party have always had a close working relationship since Te Ururoa applied to the baord of the Maori party, to have Hone’s membership cancelled for breaches of conduct. The only constant since then is a merger isn’t just desired but necessary.

            • garibaldi

              To get back to the MOU of the Lab/Greens, I am a Green supporter and have been waiting to see some evidence of this “understanding”. Is it somewhere up in the ether ?

  5. Brigid 5

    I’m rather amazed at the arrogance of Richard Harmon, in that he expects me to pay to read his words. Especially when he writes garbage.

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