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The Politics of the Three R’s: Roads, Reconstruction, Resentment

Written By: - Date published: 11:58 am, March 29th, 2011 - 11 comments
Categories: election 2011, greens, International, Left - Tags:

A few weeks ago I posted a blog called A Reassuring Rebuild: The Freiburg Parallel about the sensitive rebuilding of the city of Freiburg, in the German state of Baden-Württemburg.

Now I see that the Greens have won control of the Baden-Württemburg state government, ending 58 years of conservative rule in that state.

This was partly swung by the nuclear power / Fukushima issue, as the conservative Minister-President of Baden-Württemburg was a big nuclear power buff.

There is an interesting parallel to New Zealand, and that is National’s chronic conflict with the three ‘green mayors’ over transport and, in Christchurch, over a range of issues including the demolition of historic buildings.

Plus also National’s (or NACT’s) obvious ties to the most unproductive and speculative factions of capital in New Zealand, which put it to the right of the International Monetary Fund over issues like a capital gains tax on real estate.

These are National’s weak spots. First roads, over which it is every bit as vulnerable in Auckland as the German conservatives became, over nuclear power, after Fukushima.

But also, reconstruction. And resentment, against the ‘banksters’ as so many like to call them.

The latest posts on The Standard and on Transportblog speculate on a snowballing political movement against the government’s urban roading policies, in particular, in Auckland.

A recent Herald editorial Future City calls for Bold Vision compared the government’s obsession with roads to insanity. None of the comments, at the time of writing, have stuck up for Joyce. In fact nine out of ten seem to fulsomely endorse the leader-writer’s position.

Elsewhere, people have speculated as to why Labour isn’t making more hay out of this issue.

Perhaps that’s because Labour is too distracted with its own internal upheavals. Labour, I think we can take it as read now, if not last month, has no chance of winning on its own, the traditional Plan A of New Zealand politics up to now, mainly because it was the only realistic plan under FPP.

Yet on the other hand, the politics of what we might call the 3 R’s, “roads, reconstruction and resentment” is there for the taking by anyone who has a bit more of the “mongrel” in them, as Matt McCarten says, and fewer distractions.

This raises the interesting possibility of a more significant surge to the so-called minor parties, the Greens and New Zealand First, than we might have expected otherwise. In short a Plan B in which Labour is saved by the emergence of a fairly broad coalition.

Suppose the 3R’s mean that the Greens get 10 per cent and NZF 10 per cent as well. This might leave Labour very close to being primus inter pares, though I’d be surprised if Labour ends up behind the Greens. Which is what happened to the Social Democrats, the German equivalent of Labour, in Baden-Württemburg.

That’s probably a fluke. But big swings to the Greens seem to be happening everywhere and we certainly have the issues in NZ, not least because the Greens are muscling into traditional Labour ‘social’ territory, as is NZF.

Under the circumstances, a big vote for the Greens and NZF should be positively encouraged, as it seems to be the only way that a potential Labour coalition could still pull votes from wobbly Nats and the stay-at-home brigade.

Lab-Green-NZF coalition?

In turn this will put a premium on coalition building and on the question of who might be charged with coalition building, i.e. who in the higher ranks of Labour has the best links with the Greens and/or NZF, preferably both. Given the past reluctance of NZF to work with the Greens. Labour will have to be the go-between.

At the same time it might also be fruitful to look at who ends up in the grey zone of the respective parties’ lists once they are picked, since some in Labour are likely to be out and some in the Greens / NZF to be in.

In some ways it’s a rerun of 1975. That is, an uphill struggle for Labour under a leader not regarded as especially inspiring and/or secure (Bill Rowling then, Phil Goff now, or else a newbie if Phil does get rolled). Conventional wisdom therefore has it that Labour can’t win.

Yet the numbers on the night would have returned Labour to office in 1975 under MMP, albeit as a coalition with Values (forerunners of the Greens) and Social Credit (forerunners, in some ways, of NZF). So history doesn’t repeat but it rhymes, and thank goodness for MMP, which allows this kind of Plan B.

There has been plenty of speculation about a coalition. But I would suggest that the combination of

– Labour’s travails

– the Baden-Württemburg state victory for the Greens and the parallelism between nukes and roads

– 3 R’s more generally, which the Greens and NZF can champion, or channel, more effectively than Labour

all mean that Plan B’s the only plan.

[PS. name the flag above to win four metric tonnes of kudos -Eddie]

11 comments on “The Politics of the Three R’s: Roads, Reconstruction, Resentment”

  1. Simon C 1

    Biafra!

    The red/green/black is a givaway that it’s an African flag, and a quick google turns up the answer.

    • Lanthanide 1.1

      This would be somewhat of a replay of 2002, but with Labour the weaker party (and also the opposite electoral outcome, hopefully).

      In 2002 we saw National crumble to 21%, with the slack picked up by NZFirst, Act and United Future who got 10.4%, 6.7% each.

      Swap in Greens for Act, and don’t leak votes to United Future (doesn’t really gel so much), and we could see Winston easily getting over the line.

      Also I don’t think that this plan B is particularly more relevant now than it was last month. Goff’s ructions aside, the polling hasn’t changed significantly for quite a while.

    • Eddie 1.2

      quick work! we’ll make arrangements to deliver the kudos. you’ll need to clear some space in the garage…

  2. Rich 2

    NZF have always been rather keen on roads. A pork-barrel-highway from Tauranga to Mt Maunganui was a specific coalition requirement made by Peters in 2005.

    Also, in Wellington, our supposedly “green” mayor seems to be a convert to massive and unnecessary road building, which is not what I thought we were voting for.

  3. Pascal's bookie 3

    You kind of wave your hands over the ‘NZFirst hates the greens’ issue. He has made keeping the greens out of government a bottom line in coalition talks before.

    If a NZF/G/LP coaltion is necessary, then a NAT/NZF coalition (or some other variant) is also on the table.

    I put zero stock in Key’s pledges about Peters, and a high value on the idea that Winston would love to make Key flipflop on them.

    Especially if Hide is gone from parliament.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      Did you see Winston’s recent speech? I doubt a National-NZFirst coalition could achieve anything if he bars asset sales. The MP won’t stomach them either, and with Act out of the picture, there goes National’s policy plank to recovery.

      Also see Winston’s remarks about “remaining on the cross-benches” and voting for whatever is good policy. He may not choose a formal coalition with either party.

      • ianmac 3.1.1

        Asset Sales. Remember it was Winston as Treasurer (?) who refused to sign off for the Asset Sale of Wellington Airport. This caused the collapse of the Shipley Government and probably explains the hate of National for Peters and the campaign to down him. Watch out for dirty tricks this year.

  4. Luxated 4

    A correction. From the synopsis:

    In Sunday’s Baden-Württemburg state election, the Green party was the highest polling party.

    No they weren’t, the CDU was with ~39% (60 seats) of the vote (understandable in state which has been won by the CDU since ’53, during ’52-’53 it was won by their preferred allies the FDP). Alliance ’90 The Greens managed ~24% (36 seats) vote and SPD ~23% (35 seats), the FDP made up the remainder of the house with ~5% (7 seats).

    With a majority of the house a Green/SPD coalition seems likely, however a CDU/SPD wouldn’t be unheard of in Germany albeit probably no one’s first choice in this situation.

    • The Greens being the 2nd highest polling party leading the government ?. An interesting outcome. But of course the SPD were a very close 3rd. Their combined result gives them a majority.

      I liked the variation of the proportional voting system that seems to only apply to B-W, in that there is no party list for the ‘list seats’.
      Those that win a list seat are selected from the electorate candidates that didnt win ,in highest polling order.
      As well as is common in Germany, there are top up seats for the major parties

      • Shane Gallagher 4.1.1

        Interesting. Once we ensure that we keep MMP we could look into that as an option for here. That would cancel out the FPP argument that you don’t vote for “people” with MMP party votes. But it would make the bigger parties uncomfortable as the smaller party candidates would then be very keen to get individual votes from the the dominant Lab/Nat candidate. Marginal seats would then be very unpredictable…

        That could be rectified by going to STV for electorates rather than FPP thereby freeing people up to vote for their preferred candidate.

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