GUEST BLOG: Miriam Pierard – Cunliffe coalition deal no deal



This happened yesterday, just as I was finally beginning to warm to David Cunliffe. Just as I was beginning to feel really hopeful about the potential outcome of this election.

I confess that I leaped to “Nooo! WTF!?” type conclusions immediately upon reading only the headline of the 3News piece. However, after watching it and talking about it my shock and dismay subsided. I realized that it was just poor journalism and that the media had spun it to make the disagreement look worse than it really was (duh, sensationalism is their game after all).

But not everyone will have watched the video as I did. Not everyone will have engaged in the debates and conversations about it as I did. All they will feel is that shock and dismay if they want a change in government, or a very smug comfort if they do not.

Labour has to realise the influence of the statements they make and the actions they take on the decision making process of their possible supporters. They should know by now that the mainstream media is not their friend. They should be better at working it. They must, or this election is only theirs to lose. And if they lose, we all lose.

But it’s okay guys. Labour rejecting the Green coalition last night is not actually bad news, and here’s why. Labour and the Greens formalising a coalition at this stage could open them up to more attacks and lose their more centrist supporters to the right, potentially costing us the election. Looking at the math, Labour will not be able to form a government if it does not work with the Greens, so they must. A formal coalition is not their only option for alliance however. The two parties have been in a confidence and supply agreement since 2005 and they will undoubtedly continue with this. A C&S agreement is in many ways more truly democratic than a formal coalition agreement, as it allows for more flexibility on single issues. For example, it would allow the Green Party the autonomy to distance itself and speak out with its own voice on Labour’s less environmentally friendly policies. They will work together on their common ground.

They will team up. There’s no doubt about that…is there?

Well actually, there is still doubt. Many people will feel doubtful after this piece of news. Many would-be Labour supporters will have lost confidence in their party and leader’s ability to lead a progressive government now.

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Division on the left, even if it’s only perceived, has always been our kryptonite.

Like it or hate it, people often tend to vote based on personalities and not purely on policies. 

David Cunliffe has already had a hard enough time winning over Labour supporters, new and old. The leadership struggle divided the Labour Party and those wounds are still raw. He has made some poor choices and been slammed for them already this year. Even though he may turn out to be the best man for the job, Cunliffe’s coup automatically branded him with a visage of arrogance. Yesterday’s rejection of a Green coalition offer only adds to this. I suspect that he is actually far less arrogant than John Key, but he lacks the normal kiwi blokiness that Key plays up for the voters. Cunliffe has to work very hard to remove this popular assessment of him by engaging more not only with his own members and supporters, but also with the other progressive political parties.

New Zealand’s political landscape has changed significantly over the last decade. The democratic potential of MMP is becoming realised and we are learning how to vote more strategically to ensure that the diverse groups in our country are more fairly represented.

We are no longer a two-party system, but sometimes it seems that Labour has forgotten this.

Cunliffe was probably just making an effort to frame Labour as independent and strong enough to lead. Perhaps he was banking on staunch Labourites to jump for joy at his dismissal of the Greens’ proposal.

Sadly, it might have had the opposite effect.

I often look to my mother as a litmus test in situations like this. She is undeniably left-leaning and passionate about key progressive issues such as poverty, education and the environment. She has voted Labour–Green for most of her life. She is well-educated, empathetic and committed to a better world for all. My mother was pissed off about this news. She was dismayed by what she heard from Cunliffe and is now struggling to remain hopeful about a change of government. I have heard from a number of other people today who are also despairing at this announcement. If they are feeling this way, then I can only imagine how many others will be feeling similarly.

It is all very well for me to write this and for you to read this. If you are a reader of The Daily Blog then you are probably interested and somewhat knowledgeable about how our political system works. But you and I are not the only voters.

This is what needs to happen.

A united front is the only thing that can defeat our current government.

Our differences are something wonderful about the Left. We should be celebrating them because they create thoughtful debate and promote the consideration of other perspectives. This is especially important in a country as diverse and colourful as ours. However, the values and policies that we share and can build on together is what we need to focus on right now.

We have a good chance to win this. The latest Roy Morgan poll shows a Labour/Green alliance at 45 percent, 2 percent ahead of National. NZ First is over 5 percent and Mana and the Internet Party are both on 0.5. Together, that puts us at 51.5 percent. Absolutely workable. The poll shows a clear split between the two largest parties, which means that the minor parties will have a significant role to play in deciding how our next government is formed. We have to do this together, and we have to be seen to be doing this together.

It is not enough to assume that the people know that Labour and the Greens will work together, in or out of a coalition.

The progressive parties have to prove to the voters that they can work together. It is baffling that they still do not understand this. If they cannot provide that confidence for the people, then we will lose to National, Act and the Conservatives. Heaven help us all through another three years of that.

Labour, Greens, Mana, Internet and NZ First need to get together and publicly present us with some ideas about how their government might look if we vote them in. They need to explain very clearly the way it might work, and what the difference is between mergers, coalitions and supply and confidence agreements. They need to put aside the disagreements that they have and state what commonalities they share. They need to ask us what they need to do for us to vote for them. They need to give us the confidence to support them, so that 800,000 eligible voters don’t throw their hands up in the air and go “meh” this election.
Of the “missing million” who didn’t vote last year, how many of them would have voted Left if they had seen us as a viable alternative to the circus currently in government?

Labour’s rejection of the Green Party’s offer of coalition may only be a storm in a teacup, but it may prove to be one hell of a tempest come September.


  1. Nice article. I am despairing of the reports from the mainstream media today that are increasingly becoming virulent propaganda for the right. I was flummoxed earlier in the week where I watched a David Cunliffe morning interview where he indicated that the possibility of a New Zealand republic was a “conversation for another day” not during a Royal visit and that the visit should not be used for electioneering purposes. A reserved and considered response. By the evening news this had morphed and was reported as a pro-republican stance and an ill thought out attack on the PM. In addition to this, they were of the opinion that his intended conversation with Prince William would be a “boring yawnfest” – not very objective.
    I also notice that parliamentary reporters always refer to the PM as Mr. Key or John Key but often refer to David Cunliffe as just “Cunliffe” with an often derisive inflection. The days of a true Fourth Estate are over for the MSM I’m afraid. I am all for critical analysis of all political figures, parties and ideologies in the media as long as everyone is subject to the same level of scrutiny.

    • “I also notice that parliamentary reporters always refer to the PM as Mr. Key or John Key but often refer to David Cunliffe as just “Cunliffe” with an often derisive inflection.” Wow, you hit the nail on the head there. It’s something subliminal, and I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but you are so right………it is very often said derisively! Paddy Gower is very guilty in this regard. He often snarls about David Cunliffe, with great relish, imo.

  2. Cunliffe’s coup automatically branded him with a visage of arrogance.

    You are buying into Gower’s narrative. There was no coup.

    An ineffective leader stood down, and a democratic process was followed.

    • Hi Richard, you’re right. In retrospect I should have said “coup” as my use of it was intentional – the way the media frames these things is the way that we end up thinking about them, which is the point of the blog really. I only ever hear about that leadership change in those terms, from the media and therefore from the public who talk about it. I should have made my intention clear there, thanks for picking it up.

      • Agree with Richard, and in retrospect maybe you shouldn’t have used the word coup at all, whether it be with quotation marks or not, as it is entirely incorrect. All I read here was yet another tedious David Cunliffe beat up, that you are contributing to Miriam.

  3. If he can rise above NZ’s provincial, self-important mainstream media’s punches, David Cunliffe is going to be the best thing that has happened to this country in a long time.

  4. (i am actually welcoming the end of this gentle stroll by some greens to the garage housing the ministerial bmws..

    ..and made this comment this morn..)

    the reasons i am glad are mainly around the fact that post-election i want labour to form a negotiating-block with mana/internet party –

    – to get some major gains/changes from labour..

    ..i am also pleased because the greens seem to have almost developed an embarrassing attachment/dependence-issue..

    ..seemingly wanting to walk into the election holding labours’ handbag for them..

    ..with their twin themes being:..’we have no bottom-lines’..

    ..and..pointing at/to labour:..’we’re with them!’..

    ..that ain’t enough..

    .and the greens need to focus more on what they are there for..

    ..and who they are meant to be representing/fighting for..

    ..instead of the/this no bottom lines/’we’re a govt in waiting!’ bullshit..

    .who knows..?..a period on their own..

    ..may even help them to find some bottom-lines again.. re-grow a set of balls..?

    ..we live in hope..

    • Philip you have simply believed some stuff you have seen on TV news, I saw the interview with Russel Norman he did not at anytime say there were no bottom lines. The interviewer tried to get him to say that, and he kept saying we have a ranked list of negotiating points. That was all. Spin it is what the MSM is all about. They have huge responsibilities for reporting the facts and this is what they do, distort them. To suggest that Mana (who I won’t vote for but do support many of their policies) and Labour can make it alone is downright stupid. The Greens are the 3rd biggest party and Labour needs to pull their head in if they really want to govern.

      Winston likes holding everyone to ransom, it is the Winston party we all know that, the guy is a self important wanker.

      • i’m sorry are factually incorrect..

        ..this ‘no bottom lines’ is a fact..

        ..the only time the green party has ever had a bottom-line..

        ..was around genetic-engineering..

        since then..not a bottom line to be seen..

        ..(probably tucked away in that same bottom-drawer as the cannabis policy..?..perchance..?..)

        ..and norman did say there were no bottom lines..

        “..To suggest that Mana (who I won’t vote for but do support many of their policies) and Labour can make it alone is downright stupid..”

        i don’t recall ever saying/advocating that..

        ..what i advocate is the complete opposite to that..

        ..i want the greens to stop their blushing middle-class bride routine..

        ,..and to don some black skinny jeans and sunnies..

        ..and to hook up with the bad boys..

        ..the mana/internet-crew..

        ..(there they will get some respect..)

        ..and for them to all gang-up on those pussies in labour.. i see it..that’s the only way we’ll get some real/meaningful change..

        ..and as for peters..if you are at all left/socialist/progressive.. have to give credit where credit is due..

        ..because peters was the one who stood against the high-tide of neo-liberalism/fuck-the-poor-policies of both national and labour..

        ..and it was he who turned that tide.. the act of getting free health care for under six year olds..

        ..(then there was none..that was how bad it got..)

        ..and he attained that from coalition-negotiations..

        ..and ya can’t take that away from him..

        ..then there is the gold card..

        ..and..(much as it irks me to say it)..if there is a politician who has got the most for those who voted for him..’d have to be peters..

        ..and the party that has got the least..? date..?

        ..regrettably that dubious honour/gong goes to the greens..

        ..and sorry..i don’t see the greens holding hands with labour all the way to the alter..

        ..with their ministerial-presents about all they get..

        , doing that much to improve that record..

        ..(why can’t they be ministers outside cabinet..?..

        ..have they learnt nothing from the other parties that have been eaten by their dominant coalition partners..?..)

        ..the greens becoming lap-dogs to labour..and silenced by the laws/rules of being ministers..

        ..will see them decimated in the ’17 election.. hopes they are thinking beyond three years..

  5. I can’t see Winston in any coalition that includes the Greens or Mana. I also can’t see him joining a National Government, therefore I think he will sit on the cross benches and give confidence and supply to the right because this is where he came from and he will regard them as the lesser of two evils.

    • Unfortunately Labour may not be able to form a coalition without Winston unless their popularity rises considerably. I am still hopeful that this could happen, but news like this keeps Labour’s support too low to make up the numbers needed.

      • It won’t happen Miriam. Cunliffe is inconsistent (and that’s being kind) in what he says, he is not particularly eloquent, and has none of the ‘ordinary bloke’ appeal of Key. Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if Labour get absolutely flogged in September.

        • Yes, but you’re a troll IV – if Cunliffe descended from heaven on a pillar of fire you’d still be whining.

          Luckily, the Gnats are imploding: Simon Bridges is out of his beautiful mind, and Judith Collins is starting to moan that Key’s mistakes set her up for a fall: “One day that member might learn that Prime Ministers are always right.”

          I’d be interested to hear what value Winston is proposing to bring to the coalition – because if he has none expediency should not be enough to get him in.

          • JK probably has dumb ministers like Bridges et al to make himself look good. That’s the only reason I see for him, to time and again, ignore or support the dumb things they say and do. But yeah I guess JK is just an ordinary bloke who got where he is today with a little help from his ‘friends.’ I mean someone who is ‘intuitive’ as JK can’t be all bad, right?

  6. To misquote Princess Diana – “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded – the government, the opposition and the mainstream media”

  7. “A united front is the only thing that can defeat our current government. Our differences are something wonderful about the Left. We should be celebrating them because they create thoughtful debate and promote the consideration of other perspectives. This is especially important in a country as diverse and colourful as ours. However, the values and policies that we share and can build on together is what we need to focus on right now. – See more at:
    That’s what our citizens aren’t getting at the moment, we have spent the last 6 years having our democracy, our ability to think and debate critically undermined. We are trained to believe that the Government -one man actually, makes our decisions because he is wise and we’ve ‘given him the mandate’. That’s what the news tell us and we believe it. By allowing the parties on the Left, to maintain their independence and promote their respective policies, their commonalities and to openly debate their differences, we get a taste of what a new Government can look like and how a democratic country works. Our Parties have to stop allowing the media to determine outcome. Particularly when the Prime Ministers campaign manager sits on the Board of TVNZ and none of them can see a problem with that.

  8. There is an old saying (I think it came from the legal profession) that goes something like ‘don’t ask a question you don;t know the answer to’. Why on earth did the Green’s put this out there in the public without checking with labour first?

  9. This is a smart political move that will reassure traditional labour voters who view the greens with suspicion. Ultimately it will make no difference to the make up of the next MMP coalition goverment which will almost certainly see labs and greens together if they can get the numbers. Total storm in a teacup.

  10. Isn’t it weird that when the Nats are talking about their potential coalition partners, it’s all hunky-dory. But if the Left does it, it causes earth-shattering dissension and media hyperbole.

    So it’s fine for Key to contemplate a five headed hydra monster (National, Act, Conservatives, Dunne, Maori Party), but if two parties on the left want to get together, it’s a drama?

    Only in New Zealand.

    • Excellent point, Priss, and I think it is really important for the two main parties on the left to express their differences and stand by what they really value, and in the end I believe that the compromises reached will mean that we end up with a great left-leaning government.

  11. The two parties have been in a confidence and supply agreement since 2005 and they will undoubtedly continue with this

    This is untrue.

    The Greens did have a C & S agreement with Labour in both 1999 and 2002.
    However in 2005 Labour formed a coalition with the Progressive Party (Jim Anderton), and got C & S from New Zealand First and United Future. The price Peters demanded from Labour was for them to very publicly kick the Greens in the teeth.
    The Greens ended up signing an agreement to abstain on votes of confidence.

    In order to defeat National, New Zealand First and the Greens will have to have a chat and see if Peters is willing to work constructively with them.

  12. There always will be division on the left because the left is made up of different parties. Different parties have different views about how things should be done – that’s why there are different parties. We have to accept that this will always occur. And conflict is fine, it’s how parties deal with conflict that matters. The left parties need to work to their strengths and have mana over those areas. Negotiation rather than compromise if change is wanted by others. The left have to think differently and the more entrenched parties need to be willing to change. The left cannot govern if they can’t work together or more importantly look as if they can. Labour led government? Labour Green government? I know which one I prefer. The Greens and Mana need to be prominent in the scheme of things to keep Labour honest, if Labour want my vote that is (and those I hold sway over).

  13. Look, this is yet another straw grasping beat up by the right wing biased msm, who are making an issue out of a non event as usual, nothing has changed, labour and the Greens will still work together and making deals AFTER the election is far more prudent than prior. And who said the polls are true? They were certainly wrong last time and what makes anyone think that national, after all the wrong doings that they have done is even going to get the numbers they need to form a government anyway? Bogus polls? Why do those within the media disregard the huge negative impact of national’s line of policy? the media never play it up about national’s lack of partners, the Maori party, Act and Dunne are basically finished….. So who is left, colin craig?????? Notice the msm steer well away from that one which could potentially lose national votes as well. I dont see the media telling NZ that national and colin craig have done a deal do you? But when it comes to labour the rules suddenly change. I would bet that the numbers of national supporters who didn’t vote last time will increase this time round.

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