Liam Hehir on the Red/Green MOU

Liam Hehir discusses the impact of the MOU…and it isn’t much of one.

Labour and the Greens have signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” ostensibly committing both to cooperation in the service of changing the Government.

As the news buzzed around social media, you could be forgiven for thinking the Treaty of Waitangi had just been signed. That very night, Simon Dallow declaimed on the 6pm news that this “joint party power play is already changing the political landscape”. According to some cheerleaders of the Left, John Key’s fate is now all but sealed.

The thinking seems to be that Labour and the Greens are like Ross and Rachel, with the great voting public waiting eagerly for the resolution of the “will they or won’t they?” storyline. Now that Labour has finally committed to the nice guy Greens, a delighted electorate will finally be ready to make their own commitment to changing the Government.

Others think the agreement is a potentially serious blunder. In this narrative, the relationship upgrade with the Greens is an effective spurning by Labour of bad-boy Winston Peters. Because it’s generally considered that Labour won’t be able to govern without Peters’ support, the party’s decision to go with its heart and not its head may cost it dearly.

And in fact, Winston Peters does not seem particularly impressed with what Labour and the Greens have done, grumbling that his party doesn’t “like jack-ups or rigged arrangements behind the people’s back”.

As an aside, this argument is incoherent. By publicly announcing an intention to work together, Labour and the Greens are doing the opposite of going behind the people’s backs. What they are doing is arguably a lot more transparent than the standard New Zealand First method of refusing to state a preference until all the votes are cast and the backroom baubles auction is completed.

Winston is slightly wonky in his outrage. But the reality is the MOU isn’t a deal at all. It is a flimsy piece of paper that makes no promises and delivers even less.

So has Labour saved or doomed itself? Actually, the safer money is on the Memorandum of Understanding itself making zero to little difference one way or the other.

While the journalists, activists and bloggers who occupy the Twittersphere fight it out over what they think the deal’s entrails portend, it is very unlikely that the goings on will disturb the consciousness of the wider public.

If the last half-decade or so has taught us anything, it’s that voters are about as indifferent to political minutiae as commentators are obsessed with it. As if to confirm this, the Greens themselves hailed the agreement as a “game changer” – a prediction that’s been wrongly affixed to any number of events and happenings since 2008 that were supposed to, but didn’t, bring about the end of the John Key era.

Even assuming some non-trivial voters to take note of the news, what will they make of it? As pollster and blogger David Farrar has noted, the actual content of the memorandum consists mostly of vague and non-specific promises to cooperate to change the government. The fact is that most people with a casual interest in politics will have expected that to have been happening already.

The Greens and Labour prefer each other to National? Film at eleven!

Already left-wing pundits are claiming victory from one poll, with split results about the MOU. Personally I think the voters simply won’t care about a stupid MOU. They care about Health, Crime, Education, Employment etc.

And the claims that the Colmar Brunton poll delivers hope for the left? Not so much says NZ’s best pollster.

What is interesting is they polled before and after the Labour-Green MOU was announced. Here’s how the seat allocation changed:

  • CR – 59 before and 62 after
  • CL – 49 before and 52 after
  • C – 14 before and 9 after

Before the MOU was announced National could not form a CR Government without NZ First. After the MOU polling showed they would be able to.



Fairfax, Kiwiblog

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

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. 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 who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

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

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.