In To Win: Responding to Keith Locke’s Post on the Mt Albert By-Election.


KEITH LOCKE has mounted a robust defence of the Greens’ decision to field a candidate in the Mt Albert by-election. His argument divides neatly into three parts. His first contention is that, by standing, Julie Anne Genter will be able to demonstrate practically the merits of the Labour-Green Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). His second is that a rogue result in Mt Albert would not significantly alter the relationship between Labour and the Greens. And his third contention is that The Daily Blog Editor’s misgivings concerning Mt Albert arise out of a profound misunderstanding of the way the Green Party works.

But what if all three of Keith’s contentions are wrong?

Keith is by no means alone in arguing that the by-election constitutes a welcome opportunity to display the merits of the MoU. He sums up the case succinctly in just two sentences:

“The MOU was between ‘two separate parties’, able to run their own campaigns, but who would ‘articulate [their] differences in a respectful and collegial manner’. This was in a context where ‘many of our policies are compatible’ and the two parties would be ‘working cooperatively’ to achieve a ‘progressive alternative government’.”

In the best of all possible worlds this would be true. In a political environment driven more and more by sensationalism, conflict and “fake news”, however, how realistic is the hope that what takes place on the hustings in Mt Albert will be represented in the news media as “respectful and collegial”?

Is it not far more likely that “respectful and collegial” will be dismissed by news editors as “boring”, and that reporters will be told to expose and highlight the differences between the Labour and Green candidates? Are Keith and his party comrades really unable to imagine just how quickly an impression of conflict can be manufactured by political journalists under orders to make the contest more exciting?

Generals talk about the “fog of war” rendering the best-laid plans of the best military brains inoperative after just a few seconds of actual fighting. Political campaigning is no different. Jacinda Ardern and Julie Anne Genter may go into the contest determined to remain “respectful and collegial”, but the chances of them emerging from the smoke and fire of electoral combat unblackened and unburned are, sadly, remote.

This inability to control the evolution of battle leads us to Keith’s second contention: that a rogue result in Mt Albert would leave the Labour-Green relationship undamaged. This delusion is easily dispelled. Let’s consider just two possible scenarios.

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The first involves the National Party letting it be known that if its supporters are interested in inflicting the maximum damage on Labour, then they should hold their noses and vote for Julie Anne Genter.

As a strategy for inflicting maximum political disruption this has much to commend it. After all, the National Party won the Party Vote in Mt Albert at the last general election with 14,359 votes. Combine these with the Greens’ 8,005 votes and David Shearer’s Electorate Vote tally of 20,970 begins to look a lot less unassailable. Given the prospect of inflicting a serious wound on Labour, how realistic is it to expect National voters to simply sit this by-election out?

And what about TOP – The Opportunities Party? The Daily Blog Editor, Martyn Bradbury, is quite right to raise the possibility of TOP’s founder, Gareth Morgan, seizing the Mt Albert by-election as a heaven-sent opportunity to field-test the voter appeal of his party’s core policies.

Morgan’s aggressive style would blow the Ardern-Genter sororal seminar that Labour and Green strategists are attempting to organise clean out of the water. “Respectful and collegial” fall well short as accurate descriptions of TOP’s top-dog. Worse still, Morgan possesses the financial and communications heft to ensure TOP’s policy aggression becomes the defining element of the entire by-election campaign.

Either one of these scenarios is capable of producing a rogue result. Assuming the normal by-election turnout of around 40 percent, Genter could defeat Ardern with as few as 7,500 votes. In a spirited three-way contest, Morgan could take the seat with just 5,000 votes.

Keith argues that Martyn “does a disservice to Labour in portraying the party as vindictive if it didn’t do well in a democratic contest. All the evidence so far is that Labour figures, from Andrew Little down, are relaxed about the Greens running in Mt Albert.”

If Keith truly believes this, then Keith doesn’t know the Labour Party at all.

After Michael Wood’s runaway victory in Mt Roskill, anything other than a straightforward walkover in Mt Albert will be very bad news for Labour. Were Labour to lose, the party would be crucified in the news media and Andrew Little would come under renewed pressure to step aside. Labour’s caucus and the party membership would be beside themselves with fury at the Greens for costing them not only the Mt Albert seat, but in all probability the general election as well.

Keith’s ignorance of the Labour Party’s true feelings towards the Greens raises doubts about the accuracy of his third contention that: “The decision to run a Green candidate was made through the party’s normal democratic processes, with members like myself advocating for it. To portray it as the brainchild of some staffer in Wellington, as Martyn does, shows a lack of understanding of the internal workings of the Green Party.”

Or, does it?

The Greens make a fetish of their ultra-democratic credentials, but appearances can be deceptive. As is the case with all political parties, the Greens are actually governed by a self-selecting and self-replicating oligarchy. The party’s rules make it extremely difficult to over-rule this oligarchy. Partly this is due to the Greens’ consensus-based decision-making process – a system which allows a handful of hidden manipulators to thwart the will of the majority. The oligarchy’s ability to weed-out candidates whose green credentials are deemed to be inadequate before formal selection is also important.

About the only time a genuine majority of the Green Party membership gets to call the shots is when they are asked to choose a new co-leader. The last occasion for such a demonstration was when the party was required to replace Russel Norman. The congenial and highly-qualified Kevin Hague was expected to be elected Male Co-Leader, but to the audible surprise of many of the voting delegates present, the post went to James Shaw.

The election of Shaw spoke volumes about the direction in which a majority of the Greens would like their party to go. Keith ends his post by detailing the lack of support for the politically ecumenical Vernon Tava. What he neglected to say, however, was that by opting decisively for Shaw, the membership had no need of Tava.

Labour’s strategists should have had little difficulty in decoding the message delivered by the Green Party membership when it chose Shaw over Hague. Decoding the message wrapped up in Genter’s candidacy is equally straightforward. “Respectful and collegial” though the Greens’ pursuit of power may be, power is what they seek.

They are in the electoral game to win. With Labour, if possible. Without them, if necessary.


  1. I like what Keith said, I always do. But I could not shake that feeling he was being optimistic about the labour party. If anyone wants to see how the labour would react if they lost this election, just look at the democrat’s in the good ‘ol USA. They are so far in denial about how much people are over the turd they want to server us, they are willing to start a war over it. At least the labour party here may not be so extreme, they will just throw all their toys from the cot, and will lose another election.

    I’ve said it before and I know people don’t like it – but it needs being said again. Labour as a liberal party is nothing more than the boot on working peoples throats. The collective crap they keep offering up helps no one but middle class liberals get some sleep. Until we have alternatives, even a boring old social democratic alternative, we have nothing but this endless treadmill of slowing grinding of the middle and lower classes into a subjugated class of debt slaves.

    • Yup, too true mate.

      Labour has not been Labour since the 80s. It is grossly offensive that they continue to use such a name for a party that clearly has no interest at all in the working class or the poor. In spite of Laille Harre coming out strongly on their side and Bomber Bradbury wanting to see them in power I still see no point in voting for the new blue Labour.

      As for the Greens…

      I have always considered, and will always consider, the Greens as middle class wankers of the highest degree. They too have no interest in the working class or the poor.

      • JS Bark – re your last comment – if you look at the Greens’ policies that impact on our less privileged and our working classes, the opposite is actually the case as they more than any of the party in parliament have a raft of policies for better support for them – housing, minimum wage and benefit rises, feeding kids, etc etc, so I don’t see your comment qualified in that way. They appear middle class because generally speaking there is a very high standard of education among members – that does not mean they are economically middle class (I know a lot of members of different parties and theirs are less economically privileged than the other parties in parliament on the whole, anecdotally speaking). Their MP’s for instance own a lot less houses than other parties…

        • Mmm… yeah, but worrying about the “big” issues, climate change, filthy waterways, industrial chicken farming and drilling for oil, are exactly the kinds of issues the middle class can think about. The poor and the working class don’t really get beyond thinking about shelter, food and medicine…

          Take a look at the Greens’ web page

          What’s top of their concerns?

          Trains for the North Shore… (I live in ChCh, Greymouth, Invercargill etc)

          Country of origin food labelling… (okay if you can afford food in the first place – some of us would accept food from Mars if it meant we could eat)

          Swimmable rivers… (I think about that all the time when I’m begging on the streets)

          As I said, middle class wankers.

          But I did omit to say they are irrelevant…

  2. im just wondering how many intellectual swear words these two can throw at each other before the media start pulling there hair for them.

    Arden looks to the side a bit while talking with her eyes closed when frazzled. Genter has this mini death steer that comes with a cheeky smile or pucker lips when frazzled. These are poker tells but not the way sheerer plays poker in Mt Roskill (hope i got sheerer and roskill right, happy to be corrected) the labour party needs a good speaker that can go in and continually and constantly crack the media wall. Labour has never been able to replace Lange and dont even think its an issue. in fact all parties are shit at making candidates because all they want are blank slates so party flatterers can fill in the gaps with magnificence. Its revolting and ill credit the new girl Genter with the win or Garreth if hes able to build out a strategy in time.

  3. i said most of what you say (but using far less words) in my first comment @ keiths’ i agree with yr national/morgan evaluations/possible scenarios for a labour defeat..

    but yr reading of why shaw won the green party leadership is way off the mark..

    i actually supported hague at first in that contest – but switched to shaw based on his far superior to hague outings in the house/in the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate..

    hagues’ political credentials may have been fine – but that was where he fell the house..

    and i am sure i was not the only one to notice that..and that is why shaw won..

    and since winning he has not demonstrated these rightwing tendencies claimed by many who opposed him..(and still by you..)

    and he is smart enough to read the winds of change away from neoliberalism back to populism..

    and there is bad populism (trump)..and good populism..(reading the popular mood/desire for changes/fixes to what blights us/new zealand.).

    the most recent example of this being his publicly stated vow to fix the homeless problem..straightforward – and to the point

    on which we hear little from little..who is the actual rightwing-neoliberal in this movie..(with his continued adherence to arbeit macht frei!..and little else..)

    not shaw..who it seems has more his finger on the pulse of what many want – plugging into that (good) populism little cannot see..

    • Holy heck! Now the Greens are attacking good grammar and spelling?

      Sorry Phil but I really can’t make head or tail of your posting.

      • get someone to hold your hand..and walk you through it..

        totally baffled/thrown by the absence of capital

        i think there’s a name for that..(anal..?..much..?..)

  4. Genter is clearly the better candidate to represent this electorate. Knowing this she would be doing both herself and the electorate a disservice by not standing.

  5. Good points raised Chris, I have no idea how it will turn out but will be interesting to watch the debates when the candidates go head to head.

    There is no point the Greens participating in the by-election if they don’t go all in.

    The first stages might be cosy but if it gets close and there is a chance of a Green win that is when we , the public will get a good look at the new relationship between the Greens and Labour.

    If Gareth Morgan jumps in then that would really make things interesting.

  6. Since the mid-80s Labour has represented betrayal of the working people of NZ. There is absolutely no sign of that changing.

  7. Adern needs to side with Genter over opposing Deep Sea Oil Drilling.*

    Simple as that.

    This will keep the debate “collegial” and “respectful”. Coming from the same part of the political spectrum, both the Greens and Labour, pretty much agree on everything else.

    *(This is also the position of Gareth Morgan and TOP)

    Martyn if this debate can’t be had out in Mt Albert, then where could it be had out?

    • There could be little doubt a TOP party MP (or two) in our parliament would add their votes to the Green Party, when it came to environmental matters.

      In the unlikely event that Gareth Morgan does stand in Mt Albert, because TOP is also opposed to deep sea oil drilling, it is my opinion that the Green Party candidate would do well to endorse Morgan’s candidacy and call on Green Party supporters to consider giving thier vote to Morgan.
      This would be a win win for the Greens, giving them a badly needed evironmentally like minded ally in Parliament, strengthening the Green Party’s negotiating position with the bigger environmental BAU parties.

      • Where does TOP say they are opposed to deep sea drilling? They have just released their environment policy an I don’t see this in it. Please do clarify.

        • “Where does TOP say they are opposed to deep sea drilling?”

          It goes without saying. Gareth Morgan has written a book on climate change, and came down strongly on the side of cutting back fossil fuel use. Supporting UFF like deep sea oil drilling, is incompatible with that stance.

          Ergo any bill that the Greens put up to end deep sea oil drilling and exploration TOP MPs would support. This would put Labour in a very uncomfortable position as again, lineing up with the Nats, and big oil against the interests of the people.

  8. Hopefully Julie Ann Genter will focus most of her campaign on transport, which is her forte`. Transport continues to be a hot topic in Auckland, so she could just muster enough votes to prove her worth with this important issue and Jacinda Ardern could do well by listening what is being said about the fiasco which passes off as Auckland Transport! However, I suspect she will spout the same old neo lib Labour tripe.

    Although I have become disillusioned by the NZ Green Party since Russel Norman left, leaving his former co leader Meteria Turei foundering in the dark, if I was in the Mt Albert electorate, I’d definitely give Genter my vote, simply because of her depth of knowledge of transport systems.

    Now where is the Mana Movement? Seriously considering giving Hone my vote this year.

  9. In looking at Morgan’s policies, there are a number of flaws. His tax policy fails to consider generating enough revenue for social policies (he has no social policies – something to beware of). His environmental policies out today add nothing to what the Greens already offer. And, his refugee policy, while also looking promising to me fails to consider how do we support extra refugees on an ongoing basis and how do we support refugees much better than we do now? (This is a major shortfall in the policy). I’d beware of Morgan’s very pro-neoliberal fiscal philosophies (he’s long said the dream team in government would be National with the Green party), so I feel suspicious of that.
    Also, this whole by-election is a fiasco as National should be calling an early election – but what it wants to do is to have the opposition ware itself down, just as this blog site has the potential to do.
    I think good on the Greens for running in this. They have more progressive and environmental policies than Labour and the two parties have the potential to have some honest and constructive discussions. I really doubt Mt Albert will not vote for Ardern. I have lived in the electorate for years and there are a lot of Labour supporters who won’t vote otherwise no matter what.

    • how the hell is a universal basic income policy not a ‘social policy’..?

      that is a more ‘social policy’ than any other party has..

      and yr anti-refugee opinions kinda reek of nativism..

      maybe nz first wd be the best fit for you..?

      • Because the Berlin Wall came down and we weren’t impressed with what was on the other side and wanted to improve on socialism with out all the power plays

      • The only trouble with the current talk of a UBI is the high risk it’ll be hijacked by the right. Morgan’s concept of a UBI together with Labour’s half-arsed attempts to address “the future of work” that amount to nothing but hot air, are set to facilitate this. Add Labour’s recent track record on things to do with social welfare, beneficiaries and the poor and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster that fits nicely with Labour’s neo-liberalism and plays straight into a right wing agenda Morgan’s unlikely to jettison any time soon.

  10. “As is the case with all political parties, the Greens are actually governed by a self-selecting and self-replicating oligarchy.”

    I think it is a bit more organic than this. When you have a smallish party membership, like tends to attract like, and like minds tend to attract like minds. Hence a party tends to develop a character which is very hard to shake off or alter measurably.

  11. errr …. why would the good people of Mt Albert vote for their MP someone who is already an MP?

    Both Jacinda Adern and Julie-Anne Genter are already MPs.

    How about a really decisive protest vote against the rorts, ripoffs and corruption, which have helped transform New Zealand into a corrupt, polluted tax haven, and vote into the House the proven anti-corruption (and anti-privatisation) campaigner, who has ‘blown the whistle till her eyeballs bled’ (as it were), persistently and consistently for the last TEN years?

    I’m not an MP (yet).

    But what better way to help make a fuss about corruption than to vote Independent candidate Penny Bright MP for Mt Albert?

    I’m not a member of ANY political party.

    I’ll ‘hit the ground running’.

    No sitting in the House quietly ‘breathing in through my nose’.

    I’ll be breathing out through my nose.


    Parliament won’t know what the hell hit it 🙂

    Penny Bright

    Proven ‘anti-privatisation / anti-corruption campaigner’.

    2017 Independent candidate Mt Albert by-election.

  12. ‘Meh’. And, if you’ll permit me to say also write… ‘Yawn’.

    From what I can tell, all our political parties, all of them, range from Meh to Yawn on the ‘what ever ‘ scale. That feeling might have arisen from when Awkland started to call its grassy warts Mountains. Been to Aorangi National Park? Fiordland ?

    To think interminably boring political people are squawking while clawing their way up the Warts of Debt while blithely ignoring certain immutable facts causes, in this writer, a need to scratch at my balls just to relieve the itching the idiots cause.

    What a boring and tedious lot they are? There’s not one single frisson amongst them. Did they all do the same ” Boring as Shit” class at polytech?

    National? A ghastly lot of synthetic robots suffocating on the stink of their money and power. A vile plague on our Lands

    Labour? The worst of them, A knitted vest party of liars and deviants. Remember? They’re the ones who started this particular ball rolling and it’s a nasty, hairy, old ball at that. Labour still has roger douglas’s stench and skid marks all over it so why are that lot of horrible fuckers still enjoying your writing time.

    Act? See above. Welded at the wallet.
    David Seemore is a hideous bore. His scrawny little neck stuck out like a head-fucked chicken in a cage. All he can do is ” Be Gawk! “. He has a hapless and frankly embarrassing view of completely irrelevant objectives, none of which are stapled to reality. Unless you ask him where your money is. Then, I bet, he’ll be smart enough to shut the fuck up.

    Da Greens an’ shit et al
    A hollow sound coming out of that particular forest. A forest made up entirely of the sounds of one hand clapping. Do they lobby for a return to family, i.e. Sustainable farming once deloused of the Banksters? Nope. They do not. Therefore, this writer knows, most certainly, that they just like spending your money, like ACT and the other, even lesser fleas.

    There’s only one real place here in Gods Own Mate that’s passionately political and that’s here.TDB. Good people daring to expose their udders and nipples and testicles and penises to the Great Ghastly Godless and Greedy.

    The trouble is, I think, we’re an invisible army marching across an invisible landscape populated by the ghosts of good politicians long since passed. We are , in fact, a Mohican substrate with no real way of having our voices heard above the earmuffs the MSM have plopped over the tone deaf ear holes of the Great Unwashed.

    We need to socialise actually. The only one of you guys I’ve seen, but was too shy to lunge at, was you @ Mr Chris Trotter. You were at Ika and you were having fun and I certainly wasn’t about to interrupt you in that particular throw.
    Current NZ Politics is like going to a show to discover that the only interesting thing about that particular exercise is the audience.
    I say, lets turn our backs on the lot of the costly, boring idiots, demand our money back and create something new for ourselves?

      • The funny thing is, a quarter of Auckland residential property sit on agriculture zones and the council doesn’t won’t to know about there water problems.

        I think this one goes in the yawn end of the spectrum.

        I can appreciate your style of fundamental analysis. Nobody I know looks at it from that angle. My take away from it is voter participation will trend down maybe 3% fewer will vote than last time with labour being the biggest loser?

        I’v come to similar conclusions using Cliodynamic modelling which uses historical references as starting points to track trends over a timescale that spans about 1840 to 2037.

        And no Phill. I don’t smoke

    • Applause!

      Cheers Countryboy.

      A bit downbeat but definitely how a number of us feel about the system we have and the so-called “choices” we have… 🙂

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