Now Dunne Is Done Let’s Consider The Not So Grand Coalitions


Winston-Peters-hoardingPeter Dunne’s resignation, I will discuss the issue itself in the next blog , has catapulted the political prostitute role of Winston Peters back on to the centre of the stage.

Now he really is able to sell himself to whoever will give the most for his services. He is well-used to this role and he knows that both Labour and National really haven’t got a bottom line when dealing with him.

Both have already demonstrated that when Peters finds a target to denigrate – Chinese, Asians in general, Muslims, non- white immigrants, asylum lead the target groups so that he can get his 5 per cent – that they still have no principled objection to inviting him into a government. Thus National and New Zealand First joined hands in 1996, despite declared enmity and mutual loathing beforehand, and Labour invited Peters into government in 2005. The leopard has not changed its spots at any time.

I asked Labour’s Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter in 2005 why given his role he did not express his revulsion at Peters’ anti- immigrant rants and vicious and unsubstantiated attacks, using parliamentary privilege, on individual Iraqi migrants . His answer: we may need him to form the next government. The blatant racism used by Peters, and his reactionary baggage in general, was not enough to debar him from a coalition with Labour. And the dance with him has begun again at the 2014 election approaches , with Labour and the Greens avoiding criticism of their potential coalition partner.

Before the 2008 election when Peters’ stocks were at a low ebb with the public because of his dissembling over party funding , and National was lining up Act, United Future and the Maori Party and even flirting with the Greens , John Key was able to disown Peters and appear to be acting on principle by refusing to entertain a coalition with him.

How things have changed! Now with Banks headed for the proverbial dustbin of history and Dunne and the Maori Party looking as though they will be consigned there as well , John Key and “I will not accept the baubles of office” Peters are eying each other up. This will make Labour even more desperate to stay on his good side.

And the Greens? Although they know Peters’ has them in his sights because they are his competitor for Labour’s affections, they have sent signals before that they could work with a right wing party.

Thus at the 2011 election they would not rule out a coalition with National. This reflected the underlying philosophy of the Green Party that capitalism is a system that doesn’t need a fundamental transformation but can be prettied up by having capitalists forego the requirement of remorseless capital accumulation and by using ‘green technology” to somehow create a sustainable capitalist system. Thus by a wave of the coalition wand and platitudes about sustainability the Greens could have happily placed themselves in a government with a right-wing party committed to driving back progressive social ,economic and environmental gains achieved over decades.

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In the last 2 years John Key thought he didn’t need the Greens who had become locked in (seemingly) with Labour. And thus a war of words began. But as the 2014 t election looms both these parties which have no policies that in any way fundamentally challenge the social and economic system we live in, may rediscover that they can work together. Particularly if the price for Peters working with Labour is to shut out the Greens.

This coalition dancing between the parties demonstrates the fact that Labour and the Greens do not have a coherent set of progressive economic, social and environmental policies which will transform New Zealand and begin to redistribute wealth from the top to the bottom.

The Greens, however, still claim that they are neither left nor right and that of course leaves them nicely in the middle to p lay with both sides. At present though, their strongest bet is a coalition with Labour. But what to do if the price of that is also coalescing with New Zealand First? Are the Greens going to say here and now that they will not have a bar of a party which uses xenophobia as a key tool for votes and whose basic economic and social policies are reactionary to the core? Will they tell Labour that they do not want a coalition where right-wing parties can set the agenda and in which they become prisoners .

Dunne’s resignation as a prelude to his political demise in 2014 leaves National without an obvious coalition ally. Both Labour and the Greens need to tell progressive voters whether New Zealand First with all its reactionary baggage will be their coalition partner. If the answer is yes then they will not have my vote.


  1. well..i can answer the questions posed in yr second to last paragraph..

    ..turei was on telly the other day..(sorry..can’t remember which program..)

    ..where she was asked just those questions..

    ..and she smiled and joshed about peters in loveable/rogue-uncle mode..

    ..and made it clear that she/the greens have no bottom lines any more..

    ..from memory..her laughing dismissal of such an idea included the phrase..

    “..that is so 2005..we don’t do that any more..” that..and yr stated voting prohibitions..

    ..who will you vote for..?

    ..and silly me..!..from the headline i thought yr piece was about the possibilities of a labour/nat grand-coalition..

    ..something that is only really a matter of ‘when?’..

    phillip ure..

    • @ Phillip Ure
      It’ll be the TPPA ratification (or if Japan scuttle this one; the next imperial acronym) when the Labour moles will crawl out of their burrows, flex their backbones and desert to a grand coalition of the two parties. There’ll probably be some “terrorist” threat to justify it at the time, maybe even a proper war – depending how long the negotiations take. Some will maintain a desolate remnant Labour party stripped of even its own name (think; 1980s Jim Anderton, but in an MMP way). With this supermajority, the Nab coalition will be able to entrench legislation for all subsequent parliaments.

      I so hope I am wrong about this!

  2. My theory, for what it’s worth is that if Labour had a viable leader I do believe that the poll ratings would be very different and that maybe Labour wouldn’t have to consider N Z First as a coalition partner. I say this as a Labour Party member (I joined the day Rob Muldoon became leader of the National Party). At present I have no desire to become involved and may well be a non voter next year, which I have never considered before.

    • Agree completely with your analysis of Labour’s leadership woes.

      But you really, really should vote. National’s total votes are remarkably constant from election to election and it only wins elections when it’s opponents supporters don’t vote at all.

      So please vote for a party which will be a counter to the right wing (The Greens and Mana spring to mind). The alternative is another 3 years of Gerry Brownlee and his ilk.

  3. I’ve taken the liberty of editing one paragraph about the Greens:

    “Thus at the 2014 election they will not rule out a coalition with Labour. This reflected the underlying philosophy of the Green Party that capitalism is a system that doesn’t need a fundamental transformation but can be prettied up by having capitalists forego the requirement of remorseless capital accumulation and by using ‘green technology” to somehow create a sustainable capitalist system. Thus by a wave of the coalition wand and platitudes about sustainability the Greens could have happily placed themselves in a government with a right-wing party committed to managing the cuts to progressive social ,economic and environmental gains achieved over three decades.”

    I find myself agreeing with Philip Ure – when and if the Greens and Mana get strong enough to really push their policies through Parliament and out in the community, the grand coalition we’ll see to safeguard “sensible, centrist” New Zealand will involve National and a good part of the Labour MPs. Going into coalition with Key and Collins isn’t really a hell of a lot worse than with Jones, Tamihere, Hipkins, and Mallard.

  4. The Greens are not left or right.

    Does anyone on the same planet as me actually believe this?

  5. Provoking article. F*ck Winston, an example of the weaknesses across the board in New Zealand politics; only good for winding up storms to feather his own / party’s nest. And the Greens, I have seen their weaknesses coming before them, with observations of their media portrayal and the commentary from the Conference confirming same. Stale mate.

  6. Metiria Turei make it sparklingly clear during that interview, that she and the Greens found Peters’ racism abhorrent. She repeated her assertion several times. The Nation. Check it out.

      • Phil, that’s true, nor should she have. Coalition partners to the Greens don’t have to be as angelic as they themselves are 🙂
        How are you, btw? Well, I hope. Good to see your comments about the traps.

        • well..thanks robert..and thank you for yr good wishes..and back at you..

          ..and just on coalition matters..

          ..labour could cement peters into place by offering him a knighthood..

          ..and to take over from lockwood as the high commissoner to london..

          ..that’d hook and land him..

          ..(colour me realist..)

          ..and labour had better offer him that..because national will be..

          ..phillip ure..

  7. Does anybody in this discussion seriously believe that the Greens would ever have actually formed a coalition with National when the original crop of radical MPs (Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Nandor Tanczos, Sue B, Sue K, Keith Locke etc) were in parliament? They wouldn’t even consider a coalition with an unreformed neo-liberal Labour.

    Similarly, does anybody in this discussion seriously believe the supporters of the original Labour would have believed they would ever do most of what they’ve done (in government and in opposition) since 1984? Does anybody seriously believe that the Greens getting enough votes to form a goverment won’t have the same caustic effect it had on Labour, or that Mana getting up to a ‘medium party’ number of MPs won’t have the same caustic effect it’s having on the Greens, or had on the Alliance (remember them, Mr Robson?)

    “Progressives” mostly recognise these days that human behaviour does not take place in isolation, but is shaped in many ways by the cultural and social systems that people are embedded in, which is why we don’t support punishment based “tough on crime” policies which do nothing to change the social context is which offending takes place. I find it strange that the same “progressives” still believe that the behaviour of political parties takes place in isolation, blind to the way participating in the parliamentary-media-complex erodes their principles, and sloughs off their uncompromisingly principled representatives and supporters.

    It’s not the lack of principles (“left-wing” or otherwise) that’s the problem, it’s the natural selection built into the parliamentary system, and the corporate media system which surrounds it which punishes the principled, and elevates the unprincipled. Whoever you vote for, government wins.

  8. Nope, I don’t believe the Greens would end up in formal coalition with National. I think they flirted with the idea at the last election but it’s pretty clear it wouldn’t work, just based on their different approaches to, um, everything. Also, the experience of the Maori party must make left(ish) parties think thrice before going near the Nats – the MP has had to swallow an awful lot of dead rats. More likely they’d work something out regarding the Winston issue.

    It all depends on Labour being in a strong position to form said coalition, however – and that is far from probably given their current best-of-no-worlds leadership approach.

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