Hooton on the dirty deal in Ohariu

Matthew Hooton writes about the dirty deal between the Greens and Labour in Ohariu:

Don’t be fooled by the Greens’ declarations of undying fidelity to their memorandum of understanding with Labour: Their decision not to stand a candidate against Peter Dunne in Ohariu is entirely self-interested.

Mr Dunne’s hold on Ohariu remains important, mainly because his so-called United Future Party, which won 6.7% of the vote a political generation ago in 2002, is now little more than a legal fiction. Although it can apparently still meet the Electoral Act’s test of having 500 financial members to remain a registered political party, United Future received just 5286 party votes nationwide at the last election, less than half that of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and barely a seventh of those won by Kim Dotcom and Hone Harawira’s outfit. Even in its stronghold of Mr Dunne’s Ohariu electorate, United Future managed a mere 273 party votes, just 15 more than Mr Dotcom and Mr Harawira’s bizarre coalition.  

Paradoxically, though, it is United Future’s non-existence as a genuine party that makes Mr Dunne more important than he might otherwise be. Unlike Act, which gets just enough party votes to justify one MP, Mr Dunne’s hold on Ohariu creates an overhang in Parliament. An overhang can mean a government needs one more MP to achieve the confidence of Parliament than otherwise – and, given his centrist position, that one extra MP can end up being Mr Dunne himself.

It’s a tidy little arrangement which, since Mr Dunne formed his first little party in the 1990s, has secured him a minister’s salary, status and perks under four prime ministers: Jim Bolger, Helen Clark, John Key and now Bill English. Don’t you just love MMP.

Dunne’s time is up. He’s a waste of space and his grandstanding is now annoying. National supporters talk about Dunne’s loyalty but he has been a minister in every government since 1990, including Clark’s. He’s a political whore whose one seat is a buffer to get across the line.

Thus, to the horror of Labour’s liberal luvvies, former police union boss Greg O’Connor is to be affixed to a red rosette and sent to the rotary clubs and plunket rooms of Ngaio, Khandallah, Johnsonville and Newlands.  With his record of being tough on crime, support for arming the police and generally socially conservative persona, Mr O’Connor is judged capable of eliminating Mr Dunne’s small 710 majority.

Apparently as an act of charity to their Labour allies, the Greens have magnanimously decided to help by announcing unilaterally they will not run a candidate in the seat. That should be enough to bring Mr Dunne’s career to an end unless National decides to pull its candidate to create a straight Dunne v O’Connor race. By making such an apparently selfless gesture, the Greens are also applying pressure on Labour to repay the favour elsewhere to provide them with the long-term insurance of an electorate seat.

Greg O’Connor is preferable to Peter Dunne in my book. The only thing that concerns me is his willingness to recant on his long-held professional beliefs as boss of the Police Association.

But I’m not sure the strategy from Labour is right and neither is Matthew Hooton.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Labour has misread the strategic situation nor that the Greens are the more cunningly disingenuous.

It is true that taking out Mr Dunne makes the re-election of a National-Act-Maori Party-United Future government all but impossible, giving Winston Peters the clear balance of power.  But the chances of the government being re-elected in its current form have always been miniscule.

My pick is still a National-NZ First government without any hangers on.

Far more important to the Greens, Mr Dunne’s defeat would make impossible a Labour-NZ First-United Future government, which is a far more plausible combination and exactly the deal that kept the Greens out of power in 2005 when Ms Clark secured her third term by turning her back on her green friends and appointing Mr Dunne and Winston Peters the first ever “ministers outside the government.” What’s more, that government operated perfectly adequately and would most likely been re-elected had Ms Clark not gone mad and tried to silence dissent against her government with her Electoral Finance Bill and Mr Peters not misled the public during the Owen Glenn donations controversy.

The Greens are very flexible, especially when bent over a political table waiting for a dry root from Labour.

By helping Labour defeat Mr Dunne, the Greens remove one more option for Mr Little in any post-election scramble to get the numbers to form a government. They make a Labour-Green-NZ First government his only realistic option, securing them their first-ever turn in government since they formed their original Values Party 45 years ago.

Not. Going. To. Happen. If you think Winston Peters will form a government with the insane Green party then you haven’t been listening to Winston Peters.

National is reasonably well hedged on the Ohariu matter, and Mr English knows it every bit as well as his investment-banker predecessor.  Sometime between now and the election, Mr English can pull out his Ohariu candidate, citing the need for an honest fight between Mr Dunne and Mr O’Connor and buy himself whatever Mr Dunne’s gratitude is worth. Or he can leave National on the Ohariu ballot and claim the moral high ground against the Labour-Green “dirty deal,” thereby sealing Mr Dunne’s doom.

At this stage, bet on the latter: Mr English knows that given a three-way choice between National-NZ First, Labour-NZ First-United Future and Labour-NZ First-Green, Mr Peters might just choose the middle card.  Faced with just the two cards on the edges, Mr Peters is almost certain to choose the former.  Once again, it’s poor old Mr Little who’s the loser.

Labour are convinced it is their turn again. The electorate still aren’t buying it though.

 

– NBR

 


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