GUEST BLOG: Sam Gribben – Labour Greens announcement paves the way to victory



Huddled around one computer in our office, my colleagues and I clapped and cheered as we watched via livestream the leadership of Labour and the Greens announce that finally, the two biggest Opposition parties will be formally working together to change the Government.

Some of us are members of the parties, and such a group could easily disagree on political strategy. But today we were united in believing that this was a good step, and an important step. It’s what we have been waiting for.

A few commentators have already said that it doesn’t mean much, that it’s not a coalition agreement so it doesn’t change what might happen on election night. But for me and plenty of lefties it’s very important symbolically.

There was at least a perception of some serious tensions between Labour and the Greens in the lead up to the last election. Early in 2014 we learnt that Labour rejected a Green Party proposal to campaign together. One of the last big news items about the Greens before Election Day was a reminder of their position to not rule out working with National in some capacity. Both parties were ripping on Internet Mana. The left was divided.

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But yesterday the renewed leadership of both Labour and the Greens gave a clear message that their relationship is in better shape than ever and they don’t want to make the same mistakes again. I will never forget National’s diabolically effective ad from the last election campaign – the one with the Opposition depicted in an old dinghy, rowing in different directions. Yesterday’s announcement tells Aotearoa that Labour and the Greens are now officially on the same course.

This also strengthens the Opposition’s ability to change the current Government’s agenda. We know that National crafts not just messaging but sometimes actual policy by popular opinion. With a year and a half of a united Labour Green voice holding the Government to account, we can hope for more small but important victories, like the temporary rise in the refugee quota and the Government’s back-down on entrenching zero-hour contracts into employment legislation.

It was disappointing to watch the Q&A after the announcement, as many journalists chose to focus on Winston Peters, instead of the Memorandum of Understanding at hand. Sure, current polls show that NZ First would be needed to change the Government.

But none of that changed yesterday. Peters’ position remains exactly the same – we have no idea what he will do. It might be an important element in the wider conversation about what an alternative Government looks like. But it is not the key factor in yesterday’s news. The key factor is that the only two parties in parliament that are actually committed to a change of Government have now also committed to each other.

And let’s not forget that Peters has massively toned down his anti-Greens rhetoric. It’s not surprising – the Greens have become slick, and looking after the environment is absolutely a mainstream issue now. While NZ First voters still might not like hippies, they do want their country to have clean rivers and to play our part in solving climate change.

That’s why it’s annoying that so much of the political analysis yesterday was focused on a ‘what if’ based both on a hypothetical election result and what the most unpredictable MP we have did ten years ago, in a completely different political environment.

When the livestream finished I had to do a reality-check. As much as this feels like real progress, the move alone might not win Labour or the Greens a single vote. But what it does do is pave the way for the sort of cooperation and coherence that will be vital in presenting an alternative Government in 2017. It shows that the past is the past, and that a Labour Green Government can be the future. To me, that’s a pretty big deal.


Sam Gribben is a Wellington based political activist


      • Dave said; “The Greens have now said they would consider working with the nats!”

        Dave we’ve all moved a long way down the track since 2014, so all that was said then is gone.

        NatZ have sold off to much to keep any party of the the opposition on their side including NZ First, with almost anything mate so forget that.

      • And it wasn’t in support of National either, it was about working on projects like insulating houses etc. The Greens would never prop up a National government like the Maori Party does.

  1. If you look carefully at the National advert from the last election (the one where they stole Eminem’s Song “Lose yourself”), the boat they are rowing has also been modified by the US – National’s boat is nuclear powered.

    Do we want National Party nuclear-powered boats in our waterways?

    Nuck off Fational – and take your nuclear-powered boats with you when you go!

  2. For someone who was disappointed with the focus on NZF, you certainly spent a lit of time focusing on NZF, and managed a few not so subtle stabs too, which is hardly conducive to a happy progressive coalition. I’m not a NZF cheerleader, but to suggest that the only two parties that want a change in govt are Labour and Greens is insulting and ludicrous. It’s just that sort of silo’d small minded party political sniping and bitching that has kept progressive parties at each other’s throats. Two parties ain’t gonna cut the mustard, so remaining respectful to the third would seem to be a common sense strategy, especially given Andrew Little’s propensity to flip flip and poll dance.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Tim.

      NZ First are NOT committed to a change of governemnt. They are committed to NZ First being in governemnt, but you know as well as I do that Peters has not even indicated a preference on whether National or Labour lead the government he is a part of. It is a core part of Peters’ strategy to avoid the sort of commitment that Greens made to Labour on Tuesday.

      My focus on NZ First in this blog was media analysis. I do not think the mainstream media focus on Peters was appropriate. This blog is not my entire summary of the Green Labour relationship. It is my personal feelings about both the announcement and the media response, and in one part I decided to focus on what I thought shouldn’t have been focused on. I could have written much more about Peters’ stupid response (he said that this was a deal behind the public’s back… it was a media conference, lol). But instead I have tried to explain why Peters is not the story, here.

      If you think it’s disrespectful to Peters to point out that he is not part of this agreement and will not commit to changing the government, then I’ll have to disagree. I reject that all lefties have to be nice to Peters (if that’s what you mean), and in fact I think the public should put much more pressure on him to tell us whose side he is actually on before and election – but that is for another blog!

      If Winston Peters is going to dismiss such a positive agreement on the left as ‘mathematical crap’ and will continue to not tell us literally until after the last vote is cast whether NZ First votes will go to John Key’s government or not, well, I could be much more disrespectful about that.


      • Winnie will go with the largest party, he has maintained this position for many years, Labour/Greens are fucked (he hates the Greens) and Key will offer him the foreign policy portfolio, the ambassador to UK/USA and he leaves his colleagues back in NZ, he will be 72 next year!

        • So, what’s age got to do with anything? As long as he is in good shape health wise, which he is, age is irrelevant.

          During the 2014 general election Winston Peters was approached and asked if he would consider supporting National if John key was no longer around, even then Winston wouldnt support National. So National can offer all they like, Winston, who doesn’t hate the Greens, won’t support National with or without John key.

      • Aye to all of that, and thanks for to the post.
        I personally think Peter’s has made a mockery of MMP and allowed Nats to stay in when the “vast majority of NZers” do not want them governing us.He thinks it’s all a big joke, which is utterly appalling.I am cheering too, now Labour and Greens have united and can get on with changing the government, thank goodness some MP’s actually care

    • ??!!

      I don’t see Sam being snipey or bitchy in his analysis at all. He’s completely right that we cannot trust what NZF will do.

      Winston prides himself on being the “Kingmaker”. Even though a number of people in NZF would rather work with Labour and Greens, their education spokesperson Tracey Martin for instance is often in agreement with L&G ed policy, there are also a number who would rather work with National. That’s why they see themselves in the middle. Last election they never talked about changing the government and always kept their options open about working with either major party.

      Remember 1996? That election NZF had talked about coalition deals with both Nat and Labour and definitely seemed to be heading towards working with Labour to change the government, and Peters had attacked a lot of National MPs and policy during the campaign. Most NZF voters seem to have voted for them with this in mind. But to everyone’s surprise and many people’s disappointment he ended up going WITH National and gave them a third term in doing so.

      Also more recently in 2014, Peters was a major reason why Labour and Greens didn’t have an MOU or similar – his animosity towards the Green Party made it too difficult for this because of Labour’s potential need to rely on NZF to form a government. This meant that the public couldn’t rely on a Labour-led coalition functioning and chose to stick with the devil they knew.

      NZF have every right to stand in the middle and say they will work with either party to form a government, but to trust Peters’ word that he wants to change the government (I’ve never seen this from NZF but do correct me if I’m wrong) is naive. With all due respect, Peters says a lot to get votes, but will do what he wants to in the end.

      I hope that NZF will get behind this move, but Sam’s annoyance that so much focus was given to what NZF will do is far less of a threat to a cohesive and cooperative progressive campaign than NZF itself.

    • You know as well as I know Tim that Andrew Little’s propensity to flip flip and poll dance is only a mirror to that of Key. The term flip flop came from Keys turnaround on most things. However Key no longer cares(if he ever did to begin with). The evolution of his dictatorship is complete with his demands on Auckland council even though those with more intellect have stated Auckland housing will crash and burn like the share market crash of 1986.

    • That’s rubbish. Did we read the same article? because that’s not what I read at all. For John key its all about poll dancing. You sound like you are sucking on some sour grapes there Tim.

  3. The MOU per se , is totally meaningless unless it contains a firm [ if unstated] commitment not to vote split in marginal geographical seats .
    eg Ohariu, Auckland Central, wellington central, maungakiekie, etc etc.
    The position of NZF will become clear when the final electoral candidacy is settled.
    I suspect/hope that there will be a similar accord’ re- Northland and some of the Maori seats and of course Epsom.

    If this takes place , there is unlikely to be any vacillation over where NZF goes especially as their policies[ I’ve read them ] are far more progressive in most areas than they are given credit for.

    • You have tripped over yourself with the “unless it contains a firm [ if unstated] commitment” So, if it is unstated how do you know the MOU is meaningless then? Labour and the Greens could have already discussed that but have not publicly acknowledged it for all the obvious reasons that have completely eluded some people. I mean, they wouldnt want the right wingers to accuse them of foul play 16 months out from a general election, would they? Why does Labour and the Greens have to show all their cards to the enemy so far out from the election to please nay sayers like you? I don’t know why, but people like you Shona have missed the point entirely on the MOU, did you not listen to what Andrew Little and Metiria Turei said?

      • Without clear agreements on policies( in at least 3 areas the public can grasp and digest)and not standing candidates against each other in key strategic electorates it is an irrelevant and meaningless understanding.Got it Words?????????????????? You have a lot of words and sweet FA in understanding the long game and big picture. Less talk and more in depth analysis would make your opinions possible worth considering sometime in a future world where you grow up into an adult.Not that I’m holding my breath on that.

  4. I admire Winston Peters and believe he is an honest politician in Parliament. John Key is the opposite. A few of Winston’s MPs like Fletcher Tabuteau are very credible. The only issue for me is the possibility he will sign with National. That alone prevents me from ever voting for his party.

    If he was to put into writing that he would stay on the cross-benches and keep all sides honest, I would reconsider.

    But, Labour/Greens – finally a match that would provide the leadership, NZ needs to progress to egalitarianism for all. Labour, Greens and NZ First – winning trifecta.
    I suggest Winston notes that and never allows National and Act into government again; they are toxic to NZ’s health.

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