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Two Left Feet, or a Kick Ass Combo?

Written By: - Date published: 8:45 pm, January 20th, 2012 - 26 comments
Categories: greens, labour, Left, political parties, Politics - Tags:

When this column is translated into political terms for New Zealand, commentators are already pointing to the Green Party as the natural point of contact for media comment. This commentariat view will translate into consistently higher media profile for them.

Witness the Genesis decision to can the Lammamoor project. On National Radio this morning, Greens were given good airplay even though they stated from the outset that they had never had a position on the matter. Labour was absent.

Witness also the most recent Roy Morgan poll of the year – Green are significantly up again, Labour is static.

It may well be that there is a test for the Greens in this Parliament as the Greens track towards 20% and are hence attacked by Labour’s Mallard, Jones etc. But the best response the Greens have had to that is to respond with the same kind of calm and dignity that Jeanette Fitzsimmons displayed in Parliament.

The real question is whether the Greens and Labour can unite against the Government, start operating like that in the House, and appear as if they are ready to be the government. It would take the meshing of two vastly different political cultures to be able to achieve that, and it is the single greatest difficulty to a progressive government next time, not whether National can get partners to form a further government.

Imagine if Labour simply ceded to the Greens its Environment and Conservation and perhaps even Transport portfolios. After all that is what a Coalition government would probably look like. In reality Labour are never going to outcompete the Greens in these areas. It is what any alternative-government politics needs.

It could also be efficient for Labour to cede some of its Select Committee slots to the Greens – to just let the Greens have the running on some bills, and in turn for the Greens to cede some of theirs. This will again be good practise for actually having to form a common legislative agenda as a government and to cooperate.

Possibly this shift will occur in the media anyway as the Greens start to hire more media and research staff with their greater parliamentary funding, and Labour in turn has less. Default media commentary will shift perceptibly more to the Greens.

Previous practise is that the Greens are utterly shut out of Labour coalitions. That’s simply no longer an option next time.

National has shown that it responds adequately – just adequately – to the general disasters of being in government. It also remains very, very popular.

Unless the Greens and Labour show in Parliament that they can work together with substantial cooperation, then there is little reason for the electorate to be persuaded that they can operate together as a government.

A testbed for all of this is of course The Standard. Can Green and Labour supporters look like they are united on issues and stand together in the broader political market of live discourse.

And so a challenge for The Standard: which site will be the natural home for any petition against asset sales? With that petition will come of course huge traffic and profile. Is The Standard ready? Because a common Green-Labour site is what a progressive government will have to operate as well.

Copied from a comment by ad here RL

26 comments on “Two Left Feet, or a Kick Ass Combo?”

  1. Very good comment AD and very important.

    My political preferences are very clear but some of my best friends are greens …

    So do we fight or do we unite against the common foe?

    It feels a bit like William Wallace’s Scotland where they tossed up who to fight, the English invaders or each other … 

    • QoT 1.1

      Just to be pedantic, micky, I don’t think this is about both the Greens and Labour deciding who to focus on. Just ’cause there’s been precious few posts on frogblog whinging about Labour stealing the Greens’ “rightful” voter base …

    • alex 1.2

      I’m a Green, and while I would much rather see a Labour government that a National government, I don’t think the parties should form any sort of common front, simply to keep out the Tories. I vote Green because I think they are focused on the long term issues our country (and species) faces, and I don’t really see that from Labour. On the other hand, I know some Labour voters who think the Greens don’t focus enough on how struggling families can get help now. Without a doubt there is some common ground between Labour and Green, but neither party should compromise their independence just to kick the Nats. They are focussed on different goals, and some sort of formal alliance or arrangement will come back to bite both in the ass.

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.1

        They are focussed on different goals, and some sort of formal alliance or arrangement will come back to bite both in the ass.

        You don’t think that the Greens will want or deserve Cabinet seats in the next Labour Govt?

        • alex

          It seems like the writer is proposing the beginnings of a more formal electoral alliance. A governing coalition would be fine, but neither should compromise their electoral independence.

  2. vto 2

    A double left foot kicking combo.
    Just what is needed.
    How will you let all the sheeple know?

  3. My concern is that Labour are aware that the current government has a very slim majority and have signalled their intention of implementing some unpopular policies, which will almost certainly result in National being in opposition after the next election. Like National did last term, when they were sure shot winners for 2011, I expect Labour will take the “two left feet” path and try to eat their coalition partners. And that’s a classic sign of the short-sighted short term thinking that pervades politicians in NZ.

    • just saying 3.1

      I agree. And it is sad.
      Victory next election will probably hasten Labour’s demise, because despite having the best opportunity in decades of returning to being Labour and still winning, the parliamentary wing have gone feral, and will look out for themselves and their own, first, second and last.

      • the sprout 3.1.1

        all excellent strategy proposals, many of which would be supported by NZLP members, and none of which will be listened to by the current NZLP parliamentary wing.

    • Peter 3.2

      I would be happy as Larry if National lost three seats, just so I don’t have to see John Keys face again, it makes me want to be sick. If only Christchurch hadn’t been brainwashed by John Key’s rhetoric National might not have won at all. *sigh*

      • Hami Shearlie 3.2.1

        Well Peter, we seem to be looking at John Key in the same way – I can’t bear to look at his vacant blank eyes either – a smug zombie comes to mind! I’m wondering when the brainwashed plebs are going to wake up? The people of Christchurch were also brainwashed by Bob Parker too, though I suspect the lustre on Parker is at last wearing off – he’s the only person in Christchurch who thanks God every night for the earthquakes – they were his salvation!!

      • Populuxe1 3.2.2

        If only there hadn’t been a bloody earthquake *sigh* A continuing series of them *sigh* that forced thousands of potential Labour voters to relocate elsewhere *sigh* If only all those bloody earthquakes that half destroyed the place hadn’t terrorised and all of those traumatised all of those Canterbury swing voters so much they did what the psychology usually dictates – they voted status quo *sigh* If only patronising idiots who don’t live here would STFU *sigh*

  4. While I’m not an active member at the moment, I can assure you that the entire Green Party, and most of its supporters, are willing and ready to work with Labour as soon as an opening is given to us, and to co-operate in good faith to do the best for New Zealand.

    I hope that David Shearer is progressive in ways other than being Republican, and that while he’ll still compete with the Greens for the party vote at the election, he’ll also point out that since the Greens entered Parliament, some of the best policy they’ve achieved has been hammered out in co-operation with Labour, and that both parties stand to gain from working together in government, and he’ll refrain from attacking the Greens the way Labour and National tend to attack each other.

    That’s the hope. Being pragmatic, I think indiferrence is probably more likely the best outcome we can expect given the Labour Party’s past actions in respect of its potential support partners, involving several incidents of name calling over hard feelings, given how many small parties split off from Labour.

  5. lou 59 5

    Labour was a pathetic opposition party in the last term, here’s hoping with any luck they can work with the Greens and become a viable opposition this time. National are certainly going to give them alot to work with.

  6. Dean Reynolds 6

    A Labour Green coalition govt will be of huge benefit to NZ but I can’t get my head around the election mechanics – under MMP, the number of MP’s depends entirely on the party vote obtained. If Labour & the Greens are each trying to maximise their party votes, won’t they cancel out each other? If so, how do they each get enough MP’s to form a coalition govt?

    • Dean: To some degree, the Green Party and Labour appeal to different types of voters, so there is value added in having a large coalition partner like the Greens with some similarity in philosophy that reaches a different audience. By having a powerful coalition partner instead of just a minnow, people know Labour will be held accountable from the left and on the subject of the environment, giving people more confidence to deliver their party vote to Labour without worrying they’ll create an outright Labour government without any support parties, especially if they would otherwise simply choose not to vote.

      If the parties campaign in a way that is to some degree co-operative, they might even be able to focus on expanding their voter base, especially as the Greens have an incredible appeal to the youth vote- that way, even if they “take votes from each other” by convincing previous supporters, they’ll still be growing their total vote together enough that nobody will care about who convinced whom.

      Labour needs to understand that it will never be an outright government party again, and that this means working with small parties the way they’ve worked with Jim Anderton in the past.

  7. Fisiani 7

    A double ass kicking could well be in store for Labour. National eroding the centre base with popular welfare and education reform and generally building a brighter future. See latest Roy Morgan showing NZ moving in the right direction markedly up.
    On the other hand Shearer trying to make Labour into National-lite will entice the Left into the Greens. Now that it looks like the Greens are here to stay and are forever linked to Labour then a Green led coalition could render Labour the junior Party.

    • Bwahaha, National building up the economy… oh, that’s hilarious.

      The Nats here might not have made this recession, (that was done by Act’s buddies, the Republican Party of the USA) but they are certainly responsible for the multiple dips back into it, and how deep it got when they frantically started slashing the budget to avert a downgrade that happened anyway. (we should have just ate the downgrade and stimulated our economy)

      You’re right that Labour is likely to eventually become the junior partner, just because people who think of Labour as the serious party are going to suffer from generational attrition. (read: they’ll either die off or come to think like the younger generation) But it’s incorrect to say that Shearer will lead Labour into becoming National-lite: Labour has been struggling with its base’s attempts to stop them being National-lite ever since they ditched Douglas, which has actually gotten worse as a trend since MMP was implemented. That’s the one strategic criticism I have of MMP from the left: it tends to accelerate the drift of left parties towards the right.

      • felix 7.1.1

        Interesting comment at the end there. What is it that’s inherent in MMP that causes such a shift?

        • One of two things generally happens in list systems in general:

          a) A centre “swing” party develops, and usually controls who becomes government, or
          b) The two largest parties from before the list is implemented either become more centrist parties, or attempt to appear centrist in order to win the swing vote, or a mix of both.

          Labour has genuinely steered towards the centre since MMP, while National has marketed themselves as centrist “liberals” that won’t do nasty things in order to swing the vote back to them. In the long run, unless Labour’s base reign them in, and presuming the Greens continue their rise in popularity, Labour are likely to switch our parliament from type (b) to type (a). (That doesn’t necessarily ever mean they’d go into coalition with National, but it does mean they’d occupy the centre ground, leaving room for more left parties to emerge)

    • Populuxe1 7.2

      Really? I think you’ll find it’s not National building the economy up – economies tend to do that anyway after a slump – that’s why it’s called a cycle. Of course that won’t stop National claiming credit for it – even if it is like claiming credit for the sun rising in the morning.

  8. John D 8

    Genesis Energy didn’t can the Hayes project, Meridian did.

    The Greens were probably consulted on this because of their financial interest in the wind industry

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      What financial interest, and in what companies?

      • John D 8.1.1

        Windflow. I know that Fitzsimonds and Donald has shares. Maybe they have sold them.
        Not sure about the current crop.

        The election posters featured windflow turbines. They looked a bit like product placement to me

  9. George D 9

    I just wish Labour were stronger. Seriously.

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