Monday, 8 September 2014

Three’s Company: Labour-Greens-NZ First may just be the coalition New Zealanders are looking for.

Conservatively Radical: The leaders of the Labour-Greens-NZ First combo have just 11 days to campaign for a Government possessing the collective wisdom to distinguish necessary from unnecessary change, and the political courage to make it happen.
 
WITH LESS THAN A FORTNIGHT to go until Election Day, the broad outlines of the voters’ choice are becoming clear. Labour has refined its position to one of anticipating a tripartite arrangement with the Greens and NZ First. The National Party, unmoved by recent polls, is hoping the voters allow them to begin their third term with the same support partners as their first and second: Act, United Future and the Maori Party. John Key cannot, however, discount the possibility of having to enlarge his support combination by including Colin Craig’s Conservative Party.
 
Both of these configurations reflect the central political reality of this election campaign: that New Zealanders have become considerably more cautious and (small-c) conservative than they have been for many decades. If, for whatever reason, voters desert National in sufficient numbers to allow Labour, the Greens and NZ First to make a centre-left government, it is clear that it will be a coalition shorn of radical policy.
 
David Cunliffe is sending three important messages to the electorate. 1) That he considers NZ First indispensable to effecting a change of government. 2) By very publicly ruling out any kind of accommodation with either Internet-Mana or the Maori Party he is signalling that he understands “Middle New Zealand’s” current distaste for radical ideas. 3) He is inviting them to interpret his reaching-out to NZ First as proof of his moderate bona fides.
 
John Key faces a very different set of problems. On the right of New Zealand politics there is a growing impatience with what it scorns as “Labour-Lite” policies. In this context, Nicky Hager’s revelations concerning Judith Collins will have come as a Godsend to the Prime Minister. They have allowed him to temporarily spike the guns of Ms Collin’s and her Far-Right faction of the National Party caucus and reassured nervous National supporters that the Government is not about to embark on any Tea Party-like excursions into ideological extremism.
 
The downside of Hager’s disruption of the election campaign is the bleeding away of votes it has occasioned to National’s right-wing rivals.  Both NZ First and the Conservatives have benefited from these defections (the former more considerably than the latter) and this raises the very real possibility that Key, in order to remain in office, will be forced to make the sort of political concessions that could seriously destabilise his government.
 
If he opts for NZ First, he will be obliged to anchor his government very firmly in the harbour of Mr Peter’s caring, paternalistic and overtly interventionist “one nation” conservatism. This will outrage his own neoliberal colleagues, strengthen the hand of Collins’s supporters, alienate Act and empower those Conservative MPs (we are assuming here that the Conservative Party crosses the 5 percent MMP threshold) excluded from Key’s political solar system.
 
On the other hand, if he throws in his lot with Colin Craig’s Conservatives he will have hitched his wagon to a new and untested band of political eccentrics and Tea Party-type “ultras” with the capacity to drag his hitherto unthreatening and predictable centre-right government into the ideological badlands. In the finely balanced Parliament both sides are expecting post-20 September, the Conservatives could very easily prove to be much more trouble than they’re worth. And, if they were seduced into making common-cause with the equally eccentric Ms Collins, the Conservatives could conceivably end up threatening the Prime Minister himself. Craig’s messiah complex is unmistakeable – and there can be only one!
 
Clearly, the potential for instability and ideological confusion is considerably greater on the right of New Zealand politics than it is on the left. Once Internet-Mana are excluded from the constellation of acceptable Opposition stars, what the electorate is presented with in a Labour-Greens-NZ First combination is a coalition government erected on two extremely solid foundation-stones: economic nationalism and environmentalism.
 
Popular antipathy to land sales to foreigners (almost certainly intensified by Act leader Jamie Whyte’s ill-considered intervention over the weekend) is reflected in the manifestoes of all three parties. Combine Labour, Green and NZ First pledges to put the heft of the state behind a major effort to improve the productivity of New Zealand Incorporated with the growing public concern about the health of New Zealand’s waterways because of “dirty dairying”, and the populist potential of the Labour-Green-NZ First policy agenda is readily apparent. All three parties will find themselves free to manoeuvre on extensive common ground.
 
David Cunliffe, Russel Norman, Metiria Turei and Winston Peters have just 11 days to convince a confused and jittery electorate that although a Labour-Greens-Internet-Mana combination may have represented an unmistakeable and unwarranted lurch to the Left, a Labour-Greens-NZ First combo could turn out to be something much more palatable.
 
All three parties must campaign hard for a Government possessing the collective wisdom to distinguish necessary from unnecessary change, and the political courage to make it happen.
 
This essay was posted on Bowalley Road  and The Daily Blog blogsites on Monday, 8 September 2014.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I disagree with the comment that a centre left Govt will be shorn of radical policy as both Labour and the Greens want a tax on irrigation which sets a precedent for charging for water. Water is a necessity of life - right now we only pay for the reticulation of water in our homes but not the water itself. If farmers pay for the water itself (they already pay for the irrigation schemes which covers reticulation) it will be a small step towards charging all commercial entities and then another small step to charging everyone for using one of life's basic necessities. It may also open up precedent for certain tribes to charge hydro power stations for the use of the same water if a court so decides.

Clem said...

Great post.

This is the ideal coalition that the country can have now.

It brings in experience, pragmatism, moderation and wisdom.

Labour-Greens-NZF will be the best palatable tonic and medicine for the economic, social and environmental good of the entire country, instead of a dangerously corroding malady that is bound to afflict NZ if a National led coalition takes over. Hopefully over 50% of the voters selflessly recognise this very important fact.

Internet-Mana and the Maori party can, if they wish, give such a government confidence and supply in return for concessions to some of their good policies.

At the same time, the Greens' excesses(perceived or otherwise)can be moderated, which will ensure a stable, fair and sensible government which can last for much more than a single term, enabling more of the progressive policies implemented over time without alienating the people.

Bring it on, I say!

paul scott said...

I suppose Winston will be surprised he is to be part of a Green/ Labour coalition. Lab 26% Green 11% NZ 10%. And so the Government doesn't go left. Without IMP of course.
Also now the centre right are alerted there could be a claw back of votes. Are centre right NZF people really going to risk it?
Its a good try from Cunliffe, but everyone knows that his feet are firmly shifting around in the sand.

Debbie Sullivan said...

not quite correct annon...water is indeed charged for, not just the infrastructure to deliver it....ask the metered rate payers....so the Greens policy could hardly be classed as radical.

Draco TB said...

Sorry, I disagree with the comment that a centre left Govt will be shorn of radical policy as both Labour and the Greens want a tax on irrigation which sets a precedent for charging for water.

I live in Auckland, ergo, I pay for water. The problem we have is that the farmers don't and so they just use it and pollute with no thought for the consequences because it's not them paying to clean it up after them.

greywarbler said...

Just off the top of my head.
I like the images of the leaders you have put up Chris. They all look, decent guys, thoughtful and positive. Often we see a view that caught them swallowing flies or looking exhausted or sly. Good for a change and all looking like the men we know who do seem like possible contenders as you say.

Anonymous said...

Hold on, was this not a slap in the face to the Maori Party, or is it a case of the ends justifying the means? The Maori Party have proven to be anything but extreme, so this was clearly a tactical move by Cunliffe, a move that leaves me feeling a little uneasy. There is an underlying prejudice within NZ, we all know that, surely this is simply a nod to that sector. In the absence of extreme policies or ideology within the Maori Party, I am unable to reconcile this manoeuvre.

Victor said...

Alas, I suspect that the center-left isn't going to make it this time.

However, of it did, this would certainly be an interesting combination.

Moreover, its moderation would probably be of an innovative sort, given the policy wonk proclivities of both the smaller partners and of some of Labour's current front bench.

For what it's worth, I've noticed Winston making more lefty-centry noises than usual of recent weeks, which suggests he wouldn't be averse to participation.

But, clearly, any government of which he's part would need to retain knighthoods until he reached the point of retirement.

Anonymous said...

Victor, I believe a poll indicated that around 70% of NZF voters would prefer a post-election coalition with Labour rather than National. Although Winston often comments, buggar the polls, I'm certain he took notice. Not saying that would influence his decision after the election, but would certainly influence his 'tone' pre-election. I believe Winston would go with National, the largest block.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I may have to swallow a dead rat, but I think that Labour are on to a hiding to nothing. Particularly as the nature of New Zealand elections is pretty cyclical. These third term things are often a toss-up.

Draco TB said...

The Maori Party have proven to be anything but extreme

Actually the mP, by their support of National, have proven themselves massively extreme and all that corruption in National gets splashed over them as well. As the saying goes, Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

Jigsaw said...

A Labour-Greens-NZF government would be the most unstable we would ever have had.

Tim Mallory said...

There is a lot of mis-info about water reticulation. What you are paying for is the delivery of water to your property and the removal of waste water away there from. the cost is calculated by the amount used, hence the metering. The water itself is free. The cost covers things like running the pumping stations for both fresh water and waste water.

Neither of which applies to me as I have my own well and septic tank. It still costs me to pump the water to my house.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jigsaw, you have a habit of making these pronouncements without the slightest evidence. The Greens have worked well with Labour in the past, though not in government. But they did a very respectable job on confidence and supply. I must confess the wildcard is Winston, but the most unstable government I can think of would be the National / New Zealand first coalition of some years ago :-). And that actually was hardly Winston's fault.

Jigsaw said...

My 'evidence' is just that NZ First would have to work with the Greens who they despise (if you watch the House you can hardly be unaware of this) and as you point out the Greens and Labour would have to work together-even more difficult as the left loves to argue and the Greens are hated by many in Labour or have you not noticed!. I freely admit that I seldom offer evidence when it appears so self evident-to most people anyway.

Jigsaw said...

Tim Malloy is correct about water - we are in the same position and although the water is without a charge when it falls from the sky it still costs us to pump it to a useable place. The same applies to waste water although I am at a loss to know why we pay such high rates when the council doesn't supply either to us....nor any rubbish collection. I hope that offers enough detail for GS to be able to grasp the situation...

Chris Trotter said...

Matters deemed to be "self evident", Jigsaw, are usually only evident to the self who deemed them so.