Labour and Green’s MOU date night – the morning after


Once the honeymoon period is over, the agreement will come head-to-head with reality.

The reality is the two parties are still vying for the same votes. The agreement simply means they have to be more polite about it. That is where things could get tricky. Labour still needs to grow its vote well above the mid-30s to give voters assurance it will not be a weak leader in any coalition Government. The Greens also want to grow their vote to ensure they outweigh NZ First and are Labour’s first choice. But if the agreement simply means the existing votes move around between the Greens and Labour, it will be useless.

In 2014, the Green Party was the least of Labour’s problems. It was the random collection of others a low-polling Labour would have needed to form a Government – from New Zealand First to the ill-fated Internet-Mana alliance. Things started to look a bit like the Addams Family. And for some reason, voters were put off by the prospect of the Addams Family running the country.

For some reason?  I hope Red Claire is being sarcastic there. 

The deal has at least demonstrated Little’s grip on his caucus. There is a chunk in that caucus which despises the Greens. Some even call them mean names like “our furry friends”.

Yet Little has got things to the stage where even Damien O’Connor – whose nickname is “Chainsaw” because of his advocacy for logging on the West Coast – managed to use the word “positive” to describe the development. That was done through gritted teeth, but it was still done.

Little has managed to drive it home that the ultimate goal is winning and Labour will have do whatever that takes. In that respect he has learned from Key, who swallowed an entire degustation menu of dead rats in the lead-up to the 2008 election, from Working for Families, the nuclear-free policy, the Maori seats and interest-free student loans.

Encouragingly for Labour, there are signs the Greens have accepted this as well. How else to explain Metiria Turei’s sudden embrace of doing “dirty deals” in electorates to help a Labour candidate win or try to stave off National’s partner, United Future leader Peter Dunne?

Labour has already started muttering about a deal in Auckland Central, where National’s Nikki Kaye won by 600 votes in 2014 over Labour’s Jacinda Ardern. Ardern only came within coo-ee of Kaye because 70 per cent of Green Party voters in the electorate gave her their tick. That was no small number – the Green Party got 100 more party votes in Auckland Central than Labour.

Pulling Denise Roche off the ballot paper might make sense for Labour. But if the Greens do not have a candidate they cannot take part in public debates and that makes it harder to get the Green message out.

It is an even starker story in Wellington Central, where Green co-leader James Shaw stood in 2014. Labour’s Grant Robertson took the seat – again courtesy of Green Party voters. The Greens got 11,000 party votes there – 2000 more than Labour. If they wanted to be mischievous the Greens could argue it should be Robertson who stands aside to give their co-leader an electorate. The Greens will not do that, but they will be very reluctant to give up standing in either of those electorates.

That said, the Green Party cannot refuse to put any flesh of its own on the line. The deal delivered far less than the Greens wanted. The party has not even secured any “right of first refusal” clause on post-coalition talks. But it was the Green Party which pushed for the agreement and did so fairly aggressively.

The best thing about this arrangement is that it will come to tears.  For no other reason than one of the partners will be getting a better deal out of it, and the internal stresses will be such that something will have to give.   We have a good year and a half of mocking this civil union and watching it fall apart.  If it lasts that long.


– Claire Trevett, NZ Herald

Do you want:

  • ad-free access?
  • access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • access to Incite Politics magazine articles?

Silver subscriptions and above go in the draw to win a $500 prize to be drawn at the end of March.

Not yet one of our awesome subscribers? Click Here and join us.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.