Chris Trotter has always been a keen observer of Winston Peters and in his blog he comments on what the victory in Northland means for Labour and for National.
To hold Northland will NZ First be required to veer to the Right – thereby alienating the thousands of Labour supporters whose votes provided the foundation for Mr Peters’ upset win?
Will the National Government, looking ahead to 2017 and beyond, begin to re-position itself as NZ First’s future coalition partner?
How will Mr Peters’ Northland victory influence Labour’s political positioning – especially its relationship with the Greens?
Good questions which Trotter goes some way to explaining.
Labour, if it is wise, will seize the opportunity provided by Mr Peters’ victory to put even more distance between itself and the Greens. In his continuing effort to “re-connect” Labour with its traditional constituencies, Andrew Little must already have marked the numerous ideological affinities that draw non-National provincial voters towards one another. These are conservative people, whose personal morals and political values often place them at odds with the more “progressive” voters of metropolitan New Zealand.
The extent to which Labour’s Northland voters defected to Mr Peters indicates that, at the very least, the NZ First leader’s political values presented no insurmountable barrier to Labour’s people following their own leader’s tactical advice. Indeed, just about all the insurmountable barriers to the re-connections Labour must make if it is to regain the status of a “40 percent party” have been raised in the cities – not the provinces.
Even in the cities these obstacles persist. Labour’s traditional urban working-class supporters have more in common with their provincial brothers and sisters than many Labour Party activists are willing to admit.
Shunting-off their social revolutionaries to the Greens might decimate the ranks of Labour’s membership, but it could, equally, swell the ranks of those willing to vote for the party in 2017. Shorn of its radical fringe, Labour not only becomes a much more comfortable fit for NZ First – but also for working-class New Zealanders generally.
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