Labour and the Greens are making a match. But there's an ex-boyfriend hovering over proceedings

They've been 'just good friends' for so long. We all knew they liked each other, but neither of them wanted to ask the other out first, in case they looked to needy or weak. Yet today, Labour and the Greens finally came out with their first PDA.

Parliament's second and third most popular parties - but without the second most popular leader - have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding heading into next year's election. 

Said Labour's Andrew Little:

“We are sending a clear signal to New Zealanders who want a new and better government that Labour and the Greens will work together to deliver that,” Little said.

“It is our intent to build on this agreement to offer New Zealanders the basis of a stable, credible and progressive alternative government at the 2017 General Election".

In truth, both Labour and the Greens would rather not have made this public. They'd have preferred to keep their romance under wraps (even though everyone knew what was going on). While under David Shearer this sort of deal looked possible, the Cunliffe revolution blew it out of the water. If nothing else, Cunliffe has chutzpah and wanted to lead a charge to the left, to conviction politics that would leave Labour as the dominant party. Remember the primary race between him, Robertson and Jones when they were boldly arguing which one of them could get Labour closest to 40 percent?

It's become clear that 40 percent mark isn't going to be reached in the foreseeable future, so if you can't be with every voter you love, better to love the ones who might just be with you. Strength in numbers, could mean numbers that are stronger.

Because 'the one' both parties really want to have a relationship with, the one they really want to get the rose from... no, not Winston... is the swinging voter.

Swingers are hard to pin down at the best of times, but if you're hooked up with someone they don't like as much as you, they'll just ditch you and go off with someone else. The risk is that those swingers look at these two as weak. And we all know no-one is attracted to the weakling. We're drawn to confidence.

But we're also drawn to stability, and this is where the MoU pitches its woo. The hope is that in this political Tinder, voters will swipe right (and vote left) and give this pairing their vote because they look like they can work together. But now they've wed themselves to the idea of stability, they need to walk the talk, they need to act like they mean business.

So what about Winston? He says this is all "a waste of time". And for him it would be. Why tie yourself down when you can play the field? He's now wonderfully placed as the cool, buff, slightly unattainable guy in the room that everyone wants to go home with. He's oozing confidence. And if that changes, if this MoU stability proves to be sexy after all... or if it becomes self-destructive, he can join in or not as it suits him.

Because we all know that this marriage of convenience could fall apart if Winston so much as whistles. Metiria Turei and James Shaw are certainly not so naive as to realise that they will be on the scrap heap if voters give enough roses to Labour and New Zealand First. The simple fact of the MMP dating game is that the Greens get to sit home and wait for Labour to call, knowing full well that Labour really wants to cop off with Winston and only bring them into the threesome a) if needed and b) if Winston doesn't mind.

So will Winston mind? Of course he will. Not because I think he's intrinsically opposed to Greens politics or has any personal issues with Turei or Shaw. But Peters' first and second rules of political love have consistently been that two parent governments are best (none of this hippy co-parenting) and he - currently the second most preferred PM - ain't never gonna be a third wheel in any relationship.

Thing is, rules are meant to be broken, especially if you're a rebel like Winston. Might he be willing to go for a threesome if the numbers are right? Could his desire to remove John Key convince him to break those rules? Or perhaps... just perhaps... could he be in a position to insist that he is the alpha in this dating dance and demand the Prime Ministership in return for his rose? 


Comments (7)

by Alan Johnstone on May 31, 2016
Alan Johnstone

At the end of the day, this stuff only goes so far. On election night, the numbers are the numbers.

Is it good strategy by Labour? I think it is. A joint platform on core topics with the Greens means they don't have to own everything the Greens might do.


by mikesh on June 01, 2016

I disagree. I think there has to be at least the appearance of honour in politics. Labour and the Greens, having reached an agreement, will have to cling together after the election or suffer the same fate as Winston in 1996. It is not as though NZ First can sit comfortably with National. If Winston doesn't want to join a Labour/Green coalition he probably find himself sitting on the cross benches, and, knowing Winston, he would probably relish doing so.

by Tim Watkin on June 01, 2016
Tim Watkin

I was playing around with the relationships in this post. A more sober reflection is that this is mostly window-dressing to create an air of stability around a potential new government.

It's not as if last week they're weren't both pushing for a change of government and they weren't meeting and working on that plan together. This is the optics of stability and a tightening of a few bolts in their relationship (maybe one party or the other standing aside in some seats), but little more.

Similarly, Winston Peters' disgust with this arrangement is mostly feigned. It's certainly not his style of politics, so that much is true. But it doesn't change the MMP maths or make his rejection or acceptance of a coalition offer more or less likely.

The fact remains that if he holds the balance of power, Labour or National will have to offer him the moon to get him onside. It will be about baubles to some extent, but I believe he's utterly genuine in his argument that it will also heavily depend on final vote numbers. He won't join any party or parties that he doesn't think has a mandate to govern.

by Fentex on June 01, 2016

It doesn't mean anything if it doesn't have an effect.

They must announce what policies each concedes to the other and/or who represents them on topics.

If it doesn't translate to action and a demonstration of how they can and will cooperate it is, and will be perceived to be, a stunt of no consequence.

by mikesh on June 01, 2016

I think there is enough common ground for the two parties to form a coalition. I think the general public would recognise that. The parties don't need to spell out policy concessions etc at this stage.

by Charlie on June 01, 2016

The Greens need to be tied to Labour like a swimmer needs to be tied to a boat anchor.

All the Greens have achieved is:

> Associated themselves with a loser, because it's obvious Little has a fairly short shelf life.

> Cut down their options in the 'mating game' post election

> Branded themselves as 'the other left party' rather than a truly green movement

> Condemned themselves to sticking at 10% forever and never getting on the Treasury benches

My suspicion is that there is a tussle within the Greens and this was a card played by the lefties to block Shaw's attempts widen the party's appeal



by mikesh on June 02, 2016

A "truly green movement" could possibly exist, but there can never be such an thing as a truly green party. A Green Party will still have to adopt some sort of stance on those economic and social issues which lie outside of the main green concerns. This is even more the case if they wish to enter government as a coalition partner to one of the main parties. I would say, however, that a Green Party would probably sit more comfortably within a social Democratic ethos than within the neoliberal rubbish that we have at present.




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