The Siamese Twins of NZ Politics


John Armstrong has a great article in the Herald today about the Siamese Twins of New Zealand politics.

It was bad news enough for Labour this week that two major opinion polls registered morale-sapping widening of the gulf in the party’s support compared to National’s rating – a gap which had begun to close in previous months.

What had Labour seething, however, was the errant wording of a question in the 3News Reid Research poll.

The mistake may have been a simple oversight rather than a deliberate attempt to skew the result. But Labour felt it was at best the victim of sloppiness and at worst the target of a media stitch-up.

The survey asked voters whom they trusted when it came to managing the economy – John Key and Bill English, or, David Shearer and Russel Norman.

That Key and English were preferred by 55 per cent to 37 per cent came as no great surprise to Labour. The party’s own polling has similarly recorded Labour trailing well behind National when it comes to competence of economic management.

What really annoyed Labour was the inclusion in the poll’s question of Norman, the Greens’ co-leader, instead of David Parker, Labour’s finance spokesman. 

The reality is that if you vote Labour you get the Greens, they have been announcing joint policies flat out and standing on the stage together. There can be no mistake that a Green/Labour government is possible.

It has long been assumed that should the next election deliver the requisite number of seats, Labour and the Greens would bury their differences and form a centre-left government.

That would still seem the most likely eventuality. But it is by no means guaranteed.

Shearer is increasingly making references to a “Labour-led” Government – not a “Labour-Greens” one.

This is in part to counter Key’s demonising of such a combo as the “devil beast” by making it clear that Labour will very much be in charge.

But it is also becoming clear that Labour increasingly thinks it might be preferable to strike a deal with Winston Peters.

There is a growing belief that it might be easier to govern with New Zealand First than the Greens who can be fractious, averse to compromise, and prone to being holier than thou, and, perhaps worst of all, are in fierce competition with Labour for the same segments of the vote.

There are also strong indications that Peters is becoming less inclined to be party to a Labour-led government which includes the Greens.

If Peters were to hold the balance of power, he accordingly might well eschew a three-way arrangement with Labour and the Greens and align with National.

It would thus be in Labour’s self-interest to ignore the Greens and negotiate with Peters.

The Greens run the risk that Shearer will do to them what Helen Clark did and they will be like the proverbial spare prick at the wedding again. But how Labour can think that a deal with Winston Peters is somehow better than the Greens is beyond me. They might be weirdos but they aren’t deceitful like Winston Peters.

The immediate difficulty with that scenario is Labour and NZ First combined would be unlikely to secure a majority in Parliament.

However, the Greens might find they had little choice but to prop up a Labour-NZ First Administration if only through abstention. The Greens would have nowhere to go.

Having briefly played touchy-feelie politics with National before the 2011 election, the Greens have since made it pretty plain that they and the current ruling party are fundamentally incompatible. The Greens would have to play ball with Labour and NZ First or risk insult and odium being heaped upon them if they were to force a fresh election.

Sucks to be green. Labour will not hesitate in bending them over and running one up them hard.

The two parties have an odd relationship. Labour and the Greens are the Siamese twins of New Zealand politics. They are forever trying to escape from one another but are doomed to having to live together. It is consequently a relationship which has the life and energy sucked out of it by an underlying and debilitating mixture of ambivalence and wariness towards one another.

The respective leaderships meet fairly regularly, but there seems to be little enthusiasm or drive when it comes to projecting a Government-in-waiting.

The closest thing to that happening was the joint press conference in April which saw Shearer, Parker and Norman share a platform to unveil their broadly similar plans to intervene in the wholesale electricity market to force down power prices.

The joint release of policy happened by accident not design, however.

Labour is not keen on a repeat. That reluctance is based on the assumption by Labour that the Greens got more positives out of the exercise than Labour did.

And how did that go for them both? Not well according to the latest polls.


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  • Rodger T

    The poll got the wording correct ,Labour should know they`ve had enough experience,that if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas.
    And we all know a Green infestation is harder to get rid of.

  • boristhefrog

    Sucks to be green…. sucks to be Labour…. Oh well never mind….

  • JeffW2

    Note the subtle propaganda:

    “It has long been assumed that should the next election deliver the
    requisite number of seats, Labour and the Greens would bury their
    differences and form a centre-left government.”

    Labour and Greens would form a far-left government. National is a centre-left government.

  • OT Richter

    Not many know that Parker is Labour’s finance minister, and even less know what his policies are. I suspect if the poll was for Shearer/Parker then the labour % would have been substantially less.

  • Bryan

    well when you look where half the Green leadership were 4 years ago we need to clearly re brand them as Liberal Labour because that is what they are and to compare key to muldoon they are folowing the old Labour mantra ,
    “when you have no answer to policy attack the person”

    they are scraping the bottom of the barrel