Time for the Greens to stay cool – Cunliffe’s best shot at being PM is to unify the opposition



Labour rebuffs Greens plans to get closer
Labour yesterday rebuffed a proposal by the Green Party to present both parties as a coalition Government in waiting during in the run-up to the September 20 election.

The mainstream media headlines are nonsense. This is about language, from Labour-Green Government to Labour-led Government.

Labour led Government means a Government led by Labour that includes NZ First and the Greens with support from MANA (including any possible alliance with the Internet Party). What Labour are aiming for here is a win and the second political journalists start doing the Parliamentary math, they’ll soon click that the election is vastly closer than their opinion polls are proclaiming and appreciate that there could well be a change of Government in September.

The real possibility of Winston dealing with Labour is due to Matt McCarten’s personal relationship with Winston. At heart is what Winston wants. National and Labour will offer him baubles, my suspicion is that at 69, Winston wants legacy. The current debate over universal super fund that could offer billions in investment could easily be morphed into a fund that Winston launches to buy back NZs assets. That would be legacy. The billions could also be used to convert those assets as best as they can to the green economy the Greens want as well. It is the need for the Greens to reach out and make peace with Winston that is required if a serious attempt at replacing Key is to be contemplated.

So goes the strategy. But how the Greens will react to Labour’s clear positioning to include NZ First is the question. This strategic move is a reminder to the Greens of how badly Cunliffe really wants to win. The problem for the Greens is that this is starting to feel like their dreaded 2005, where NZ First negotiated a deal that locked them out of Government. The being outplayed by the more cunning has left the party with a little brother chip on their shoulder that could tip them over for a big fight. If the Greens start a war with Labour and MANA, it will embitter and fracture the political left in a way that will cost this election and possibly the next. Social media can become an unpredictable battlefront and much damage can be caused.

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How should the Greens react? Their activist base and more aggressive supporters in the social media realms are itching to start fights and the temptation could be to do just that with all the resulting carnage that will cause. I hope that won’t be the case because the Greens are actually in a far stronger position than this looks and if calmer heads prevail a far better outcome can be achieved.

Labour has no choice but to include the Greens in Cabinet for a number of reasons. The first is that the Greens will have earned it as the third largest party and even Winston would concede keeping the Greens out of Government would simply be undemocratic. The second is that Labour’s Caucus is talent pool shallow when you are looking for Ministers. The Green MPs have the intellectual grunt and can argue convincingly that they deserve a higher proportional percentage of the Cabinet, especially if NZ First will be in the mix because sweet baby Jesus no one wants to see that cavalcade of political circus freaks anywhere near the leavers of power. Except that nice Tracy Martin. The third is the long game. NZ First past Winston won’t be around forever, the Greens will be.

What has to happen now is that the Green strategists need to start including the possibility of NZ First in the mix. If the Greens are serious about changing the Government, can they work with Winston and can they build some personal relationships with him before the election?

If they can, the Greens will still be in a position to implement serious green policy and build their ability in office.

Russel says  referring to a Labour-Green Government will look like a Government in waiting and by not choosing to use the term means it doesn’t. That doesn’t need to be the case at all, it can look like a Government in waiting but with more political parties.

Cunliffe’s best shot at being PM is to unify the opposition. The Greens don’t need to resent this decision, it is the best shot at replacing Key.



  1. Is New Zealand First with the people and the planet? or are they with polluters and the plutocrats?

    Increasingly the definitive dividing line between political parties is where they stand on climate change.

    This is related to two opposing pressures,

    1 The increasingly obvious looming reality of the extinction level threat posed by climate change.

    2 The entrenched power and influence of the fossil fuel lobby.

    Conservative business friendly (ie Right parties) are therefore likely to come down on the side of option 2 and this where they will seek alliances. Included in this category are National, ACT, Progressives, and significantly New Zealand First.*

    Traditionally New Zealand First have been a climate change denying party. Admittedly that has changed as a result of the increasingly apparent reality. (In fact no major political parliamentary dismisses the reality of climate change apart from the extreme Right ACT and Conservatives, reflecting their slavish allegiance to big business, the corporates and the 1 percenters.)

    Currently New Zealand First refuse to be drawn on the issue of where they stand on climate change, other than saying they will seek a repeal of the ETS, a policy position they share with ACT.

    New Zealand First need to be made to come clean on where they stand on climate change, which will then tell us who they will go into coalition with.

    If New Zealand First holds the balance of power, (which looks highly likely on current polling)

    Going on what we can guess about where NZF stand and using the above calculation gives a clear indication of where New Zealand First will give their support.

    How could this be changed?

    The first thing that needs to be changed is that Climate Change needs to be front and centre as an election issue, so that every party’s position on this subject is crystal clear to the voters, so that they can make an informed choice.

    No more of THIS

    The questions asked in the debates need to be; Does your party support the exploitation of unconventional fossil fuel technologies like fracking, deep sea oil drilling, shale oil etc?

    Would you support a moratorium on all deep sea oil drilling?

    On coal the most dangerous fossil fuel of all, where does your party stand.

    Would your party support a moratorium on all new coal mines?

    On fossil fuel subsidies.

    Would your party support the cancellation of all fossil fuel subsidies and the transfer of these government subsidies to the renewable energy sector?

    On how they answer these questions is how we will know where these parties will give their support.

    * Labour too could fall into this category, making Labour likely to seek an alliance with NZF even at the expense of excluding the Greens.

    • While I agree with most of the comments here the adamant tone is exactly the problem Martin is talking about.

      For starters politics is much way more messy than that but there’s also a monstrous amount of pressure on resources at the moment. The elites know that the economic system is dependent on a steady flow of oil, and with peak oil being a very obvious reality these days they’re desperate to squeeze every available drop out of the planet and keep the economy trucking along – hence the whole Anadarko thing we’ve just gone through.

      I fully expect a Labour led government will come under immense pressure to go with the flow on this one. And remember, all it took to get the last Labour government to behave was a few scare stories in the business press.

      The only thing that will stop any government in this country from committing to resource plundering is a militant population and for that to happen it will require green activists to reach out to a population many of them are disdainful of.

      To be clear there are a lot of green activists who work hard and can see the big picture but there’s also a lot who’ve wrapped their identity around these issues and are ready to fight at the drop of a hat.

      Yeah, I’d be worried too

  2. Thanks for sharing. I really do hope your optimistic view of things works out.

    Sadly main stream politics and politicians, Labour/NZ First included, has never failed to disappoint, even when doing so was just blatantly stupid.

    My concern is not with the Greens making bad decisions based on bad ideology, but with the so call main stream parties continuing their past mistakes based on clearly debunked ‘free market’ ideology.

  3. I think over half the animosity is from NZ First. I do think there should be some sort of warming of relationships but NZ First seem way more hostile than the Greens to me. Perhaps you should aim your criticism at them Martyn instead of regularly pointing the finger at the Greens. The Greens and NZ Firsts economic policies are more similar than any other parties and they are scrapping over similar territory. This is quite predictable and not does not present a particularly united front approaching the election. It is hard for the Greens to be open armed in the face of Winston’s stone faced hostility. It is every man (person) for himself at this point. I think it will be alright. It is up to the media (including yourself Martyn) to sweet talk them all round, not put the boot in. Paint a picture for us of a vibrant strong left govt, which is what we are going to get.

  4. There are still enough people in Labour who resent that the Greens exist, bigger than in 2005, and still growing, and that many of Green voters used to be theirs. These people don’t ask why that is, they just dislike the Greens for it.

    They still haven’t accepted that Labour is stuck at 30ish% and that they will need an other medium size party to govern.

    Labour is the problem, not NZF or the Greens, or lack of strategy or perception. It is foremost Labours job to line up their alternative coalition and present it to the voter.

    That is very difficult to do with Peters because, as he never gives straight answers, nobody ever knows what he is going to do next.

    • MARTINO –

      “Labour is the problem, not NZF or the Greens, or lack of strategy or perception.”

      I am afraid, you are correct!

  5. “What has to happen now is that the Green strategists need to start including the possibility of NZ First in the mix. “

    I don’t get this, Martyn.

    One of the points of that agreement cited by One News and Gordon Campbell’s article was to seek ‘ a common strategy on how to work together with New Zealand First.’ (Gordon Campbell) ergo the Green strategists are already including the possibility of NZ First in the mix.

    Like others have already mentioned – I don’t think any failure to present a united left is coming from the Greens or the Green strategists – any disunity has been coming from Labour making snitchy noises toward the Greens and not the other way around. (There was some criticism from the Green toward Labour’s stance on drilling – which stands to reason due to policy differences – not strange justifications re precluding Peters or muttering about a nebulous ‘centrist voter’.)

    This stance Labour is taking toward the Greens reminds me of school kids who have decided that ‘the Green kid’ is unpopular and therefore don’t want to be seen with them. This is strange because the Greens appear to be sitting around the 14% mark whereas NZ First are around 6%.

    It would appear that any weakness being displayed is in the Labour strategists camp – not the Green one; who rarely appear to put a foot wrong.

  6. I think that with this announcement Labour has missed a great opportunity to look like a government -in-waiting. Cunliffe could have looked like a magnanimous, lets-forget-what-went-on-before-I-came-along unifying kind of leader. Instead, they have have blown it. We get more factionism, more of the same “we don’t want those pesky Greens spoiling our fun” bs which has made Labour look so bad in the past. I was thinking about party vote Green, as of today that’s definitely where my vote is going (although I reserve the right to change my mind!)

    • Cunliffe and magnanimous in the same sentance !!! – or the same room – never.
      Thats why so many cant stand him and will never vote for him. He doesnt undertand the concept of humility.

  7. Labour has much to do – but if they have chosen to do what they need to win that would be good. I’m not sure myself that an early accomodation with Winston is wise because it reduces the clarity of the Labour offering.

    The Greens will probably keep their tempers – after all they will benefit electorally from any perceived shirking on the part of Labour, as will Mana.

    I hope that the Labour roll-out includes some significant reversals of the failed neo-liberal norms soon. A buy-back or seizure of stolen assets might be a good starting point, and a nuanced but nevertheless locally focused set of policies around immigration, foreign purchases of property, and the granting of work permits should appeal to Winston’s support base and be in the national interest.

    National’s beneficiary bashing has reached unimaginable levels of dysfunction. Labour needs to commit to sacking the entire current staff of WINZ, and replacing it with a minimum contact organisation. People will work when it makes sense to do so, a CV paperchase serves no-one.

    The Greens and Labour might want to come up with a community subsistence model as a fall back in areas with not so many jobs. No shame in growing your own food, especially in a country with massive underemployment.

  8. One more comment from me on the topic and directly to Labour:

    Dear Labour,
    Did you know that about 30% of National voters at the last election were polled to prefer a coalition with the Greens?

    These 30% got MMP over the line three years ago for the obvious reason.

    A good portion of these 30% are probably by now disillusioned and worried about National’s environmental attitude and track record.

    If you were to be seen planing with the Greens – THEY COULD VOTE FOR YOU. If not some probably vote Green and others just close their eyes, cross fingers and stick with National.

  9. I’ll jump right in here and say I think Russell Norman should be the next Prime Minister of New Zealand .

  10. Some Labourites see the Greens as not really of the left as they see it; representing aesthetic politics rather than standing up for those who are truly disadvantaged.

    Some Green people see Labour as a ‘Green Party delivery vehicle’ and will be bitterly bitterly disappointed at the “compromises” that will happen.

    The vast majority of those who actively support both parties however see the neccesity and, above all, the value of working together in coalition. However, because they are distinct parties they should campaign as distinct parties: they have differences and not to acknowledge this may be effective I say “may be”, no one has adequately shown me how…) but it would be dishonest.

  11. I’m not really reassured by Cullen’s comments today. Part of the attraction for voting For Labour is that the they seemed to have their act together with the Green Party and I knew what I’d be getting for my Labour vote. If Cullen is considering going with Winston Peters then I might as well stay with voting National. Honestly, I can’t see the difference.

  12. I think the Greens made a strategic mistake by putting Labour on the spot at this point in time.

    Think of it as a situation where a boy from the wrong side of the tracks asks a girl from a conservative background out in front of her friends. Even though the girl may be interested, she feels obliged by peer pressure to profess that she isn’t interested in the boy.

    PS is it me or are the AntiSpam Security Test maths getting harder and harder? I’m already having to use my calculator – next I will have to go out and buy a slide rule.

  13. “Cunliffe’s best shot at being PM is to unify the opposition”

    Nah, that’s his second best shot. His best option is through having policy that reflects his rhetoric.

    Cunliffe’s policies are pretty much the same as Shearer’s and Goff’s. Perhaps we need to focus on policy and stop talking about who’s playing footsies with who.
    If Labour are continuing with third-way neoliberalism, then they should have kept Shearer, since Shearer is much more likable.
    This election should have been an easy win for Labour + Greens…

    • “Cunliffe’s best shot at being PM is to unify the opposition”

      Nah, that’s his second best shot. His best option is through having policy that reflects his rhetoric.
      Cunliffe’s policies are pretty much the same as Shearer’s and Goff’s


      I would go further and say that on environmental issues (the Greens Forté and Raison d’être) Labour’s policies are close to National’s.

      But don’t take my word for it, here is the Labour deputy leader on the matter:

      Labour says views on mining close to Govt’s
      NZ Herald July 27, 2012

      Labour’s finance spokesman, David Parker, says his party’s policies on oil, gas and mineral extraction are close to those of the Government.

      “I don’t think we are much different from National,” Parker said. “They’ve continued on with the programme that we started in respect to oil and gas,”

      And this is why Labour are dissing the Greens, and looking favourably to Winston Peters, who has expressed a deep hatred of the Green’s environmental policies, views very similar to those of his close friend and vicious anti-Green politician, senior Labour MP Shane Jones.

  14. I don’t think the Greens will have a tantrum.

    We are used to Labour kicking us in the teeth.

    In the mean time we will continue consensus building, creating evidence based best practice policy, advocating for democracy and good governance while also calling out destructive behaviours and policy on their merits.

    We will also continue to work with community groups, activists groups and businesses, in fact anyone who shares our aspirations

    If you look at New Zealand First’s Fifteen Principles there is only the first part of number 7 works with National, all the rest conform to either Labour or Greens positions.

    The issue many Green and Labour voters have (that I’ve spoken to) with Peters is that he’s shown in the past he will turf his party’s principles policies and principles for a few baubles.

    • That should read: “We are used to the Labour caucus kicking us in the teeth.
      And additionally: “We’re here for the long term and know that over time Labours caucus will eventually start to represent their membership.

      That said, given that we can be reasonably sure that a third term National government will mean the end of the New Zealand education system being considered world class, the end of the Clean Green image (and associated billions of year it’s worth), and the bedding in of all the other anti-democratic legislation that National have been ramming through in this last term, it’d be really, really cool if Labour got their shit together.

  15. I get a bit sick of reading what the Greens have to do. What about what Labour has to do? For a start, they could get down on their knees and apologise for being missing in action for years and leaving the Greens to be the parliamentary opposition. I don’t even bother watching Labour of parliament tv any more. All you ever get is some rubbish about how they wish the latest benny bashing bill were a bit different, but they’ll vote for it anyway. I’m sick of it, and now they’re wanting to drag Winston First in and push the Greens even further away? Wow, who’s been promised a ride in an Anadarko helicopter?

  16. We’re through the looking glass here Bomber. Gordon Campbell’s analysis is bang on. Yours sounds barmy – a left wing government with Peters’s support? Cunliffe has just alienated a whole load of activists that gave him the benefit of the doubt in the spring. Unify the left? And get into bed with Peters? Come on…

  17. So, here’s why I won’t be voting Labour: “We’re 100 years old, we’re incredibly proud of our Labour heritage and we’re going to be campaigning for the maximum number of Labour party votes.”

    Cunliffe is even more of a disappointment than I had feared he would be; age alone doesn’t confer esteem and very little that Labour’s done over the past 30-odd years will be judged by history to have contributed to a proud heritage.

    Cunliffe’s a well educated and bright guy and will have encountered the concept of co-opetition at some point in his corporate career; campaigning for the maximum number of Labour party votes in an environment of competition with your opposition allies instead of co-operating with them to collectively gain a bigger share of the overall pie is an exercise in hubris and just so much puffed-up folly.

  18. “What has to happen now is that the Green strategists need to start including the possibility of NZ First in the mix.”
    Martyn Bradbury

    I cannot believe that you are advocating this Martyn.

    Until New Zealand First come clean on where they stand on climate change they cannot be considered any part of the mix.

    This is the defining issue of our age.

    The future of our world, even the continued existence of humanity hang in the balance.

    The stakes are that high.

    You say Martyn that the Greens should keep their cool. In my opinion the Greens have every right to be white hot with fury that Labour is even considering working with NZ First, when the only possible reason for doing so is to exclude, or counter the Greens advocacy for the climate in government.

    Not only that….

    But New Zealand First will only go with Labour, if Labour and the Greens outnumber any possible National New Zealand First coalition.

    The principled position is for both the Greens and Labour to jointly declare that a vote for Winston is a vote for Key.

    This will have the effect of removing any chance of New Zealand First becoming the king maker.

    A vote for Winston is a vote for Key

    Let him deny it!

  19. Class awareness is knowing which side of the fence you are on. Class consciousness is knowing who is there with you.
    Bertolt Brecht

  20. “If the Greens start a war with Labour and Mana…” putting aside the ridiculous unlikelihood of that, why are you constantly lumping Labour and Mana in together like that? Sure Mana would never go with National, but they’re also a fiercely independent party with very different goals to Labour. Lumping them together is strange. Also, the Greens don’t have any problem with Mana so why would they start a fight? I still can’t see how your odd ramblings, which are often a few days behind the rest of the media, ever count as “news”

  21. On the right, National’s policies are ideologically aligned with both United Future and ACT, with ACT serving as the more extreme viewpoint. On the left much the same can be said of Labour and Mana/Greens.

    It makes absolute sense in a principled sense for Labour and the Greens to be presenting a united front, but Labour won’t do that, pure and simple. Warranted or not, Labour’s view is that a close association with the Greens would be electoral suicide, because of the mainstream public’s view of the Greens as wacky.

    • In spite of Key’s desperation to paint “the mainstream public’s view of the Greens as wacky” the Greens are proving to be as perennial as House Tyrell – stronger with every election.

      They achieve this by good manners, democratic processes, and being better informed on the issues than everyone else. Mud that would stick if flung at Labour only helps the Greens build biomass.

      Ultimately the Greens and Mana will subsume Labour if it doesn’t return to its principles. But that may take another couple of terms, and another couple of terms of the corrupt right’s gross economic mismanagement will probably end in civil unrest.

      Much as the prospect of public executions of certain miscreants appeals, that would be an unfortunate constitutional precedent.

  22. In comments above, “miltitant population” and “civil unrest” are suggested as a factor for change, and a consequence of the status quo, respectively. There seems some inevitability to it. What logic, I wonder, are political strategists applying?!

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