The Greens “Metrofied”

Metro and North & South are to the daily political media what haute cuisine is to fast food. And so it was with considerable pleasure that I digested a feature on the Greens in the Metro that hit the shops today. It left me edified.

The article, written by Deputy Editor Bevan Rapson, discusses the Greens’ prospects at and after this year’s election. One interesting line of argument he pursues is whether Clark’s own hold on the Labour leadership will lead her to pluck for the Greens after this year’s election. He writes:

The Labour caucus may have been a tame beast in recent years but another victory this year would surely prompt consideration of whether Clark could win a fourth time. If circumstances bring a slump in the polls, vulnerable Labour MPs will then begin pondering who might succeed her. At which point, she will not wish to have given any succour to Labour’s small but tightly-knit right wing, the potential support base for, say, a Phil Goff tilt at the leadership.

Labour’s right-wingers already have friendly relations with New Zealand First MPs. Clark supporters are aware any coalition with the Peters-led party might create a worrying cross-caucus power-base. Why would she strengthen the hand of those who might one day seek to topple her?

Labour’s left – Clark loyalists – regard the Greens as their natural allies and point to the success of red-green coalitions in Europe. “Ultimately, they are the closest to us on policy issues”, says one Labour MP … Any preference for New Zealand First over the Greens as a coalition partner is a “minority view” in the Labour caucus. The majority would take some convincing to stomach betrothal to Peters. For what it’s worth, Clark is also said to have a good personal relationship with Jeanette Fitzsimons. If all else is equal post-election, the level of trust and empathy between the two former University of Auckland lecturers may just tip the final balance.

Nandor tells Rapson that the consensus among the party membership is moving in the direction of wanting to play a more direct role in government. He says:

People are proud of what we’ve done and are now keen to see, ‘What could we do if we actually had some ministers and were able to steer some ministries and deal with some big budgets?

These are interesting times indeed for the Green movement in New Zealand. So far, all junior coalition or confidence and supply partners have been squashed in our short MMP history: 1996-1999 damaged New Zealand First almost fatally; 1999-2002 did damage the Alliance fatally; and 2002-2005 looks likely to rob United of at least half of its caucus.

How can the Greens buck this trend? Part of the answer would be ensuring that the public saw two parties with different agendas working together to find a compromise whilst in power together, rather than as running one, monolithic government. Says Keith:

If you’re in a coalition the tone has to be perhaps a little different from when you’re outside. You’re talking about disagreements in a family rather than hostile targets… There’s still a bit too much of a tradition in New Zealand where [governments] all stick together and all speak in one voice. In reality, as long as the government can still function, why does everyone have to speak with one voice?

Well, one reason everyone has to speak with one voice is that the media will jump on any kind of divisions in the government ranks. To be sure, if there were to be disagreements between Labour and the Greens whilst in Government – and there surely would be – they’d have to be very well managed.

3 Comments Posted

  1. Hmmm.

    The problem a minor party in govt faces is that to maintain its constituency it must get credit for what it accomplishes – else the main party of the coalition is assumed to be responsible for everything.

    So this “the govt speaks with one voice” – you’d have to be clear on when you are speaking as a ‘merely one part’ of the govt coalition and when you are speaking on behalf of the govt mind-meld hive-being. NZ’s traditions re cabinet do not necessarily work well with the MMP reality of coalition govt – and so those traditions may have to be brought up to date.

  2. You raise an interesting question Frog – how would the Greens buck the chewed up and spat out trend of coalition? I like Keith’s inference which points to a more mature and more funtional approach to politics – the family of opinions sitting around the table having a good ole debate (differneces of opinion allowed even encouraged) yet mediated and constructively resolved – not sure if the spitting the dummy party is up to working in such a way – the Greens may have to teach Labour a lesson in consensus and contructive decision making. Viva the political cultural revolution bringing less heirachy and more co-operation.

  3. Excellent post frog, I had been wondering where you had got to today, hopped off somewhere did you?

    maybe it just took you all day to read the metro article – it’s huge!!! 😀

    (what great press for us)

    haven’t actually read it myself yet, BTW our next door neighbour is one of the yogi photos in the same issue. cheers

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