Sweet Moderation.


THE PROBLEM FACING EVERY LEFTIST on 14 October is whether any vote they cast will bring anything resembling progressive change. Gaming it out, the radical voter always loses. There is no combination, short of an absolute majority for either the Greens or Te Pāti Māori (TPM) that holds out the slightest hope of delivering genuine transformational change. And, let’s be honest, the chances of either the Greens or TPM claiming an absolute majority of the Party Vote is as close to zero as makes no difference.

Let’s embrace the most wildly optimistic scenario. Labour, after a surprisingly effective campaign, takes 35 percent of the Party Vote. Somehow, the Greens do enough to hold on to their 2020 Party Vote of around 8 percent. TPM, to the shock and surprise of the pundits, proves the Roy Morgan pollsters right by winning 7 percent of the Party Vote.

On paper, that’s a pretty creditable victory for the Left. Labour with 45 seats, the Greens with 10 seats, TPM with 9 seats: together they command 64 seats – more than enough for an effective coalition to govern. But, honestly, what are the chances of cobbling together a radical programme out of the policies of these three very different political parties? The truthful answer is: Not Good.

With more than twice the number of seats than the Greens and TPM combined, Labour will see no reason why it should not call the shots on all serious policy issues. Having ruled out a whole swag of radical Green and TPM policies in the run-up to the election, Labour’s negotiators would present their plurality of the Party Votes cast as a clear endorsement of the Government’s moderation. Wealth and windfall taxes would be off the table. GST would remain on food. There would be no state-owned supermarket chain supplied by iwi growers.

In staking out this ground, Labour would receive the near unanimous backing of the business community, the mainstream news media, and (from behind the scenes) the public service. After all, the defenders of the status quo would argue, the combined Party Votes for Labour and National account for more than two-thirds of the electorate. Moderation, they would say, won the election – not radicalism. The radical parties of the Left must, therefore, accept that on all important matters the will of the Labour Party must prevail. Had National and Act secured the majority, Act’s radicalism would have had to be similarly curtailed.

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Okay, okay, we know: there is no way the Greens and TPM are about to let themselves be thrust back in their boxes – not this time. This time they’re going to play hard ball: no substantive concessions – no votes. This time, from the cross-benches, the Greens and TPM fully intend to control the flow of events. After all, Labour cannot govern without them. So, this time, it’s Labour that will have to bend.

But taihoa, comrades, you’re not thinking this through! There are no cross-benches for you to sit on – not yet. The summoning of Parliament is one of the very few powers reserved to King Charles III, or his representative (in this case the Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro) and constitutional convention requires that the Crown be satisfied that one or more of the parties elected is in a position to govern the Realm. And, when the Crown says “govern” it means run the country effectively, efficiently, and reliablyfor three years. Not precariously, from vote to vote, at the whim of one or more of the minor parties.

And, don’t forget, the person advising the Governor-General through this fraught process will be Chris Hipkins. Sure, he will only be a “caretaker” prime minister, but constitutionally he remains the politician Dame Cindy must turn to first. It will be Chippy who keeps her up-to-speed with the state-of-play, vis-à-vis the Greens and TPM, right up to the moment he and his colleagues decide it is time to inform the Governor-General that Labour’s negotiations with the Greens and TPM have reached an impasse.

At that point, Dame Cindy will pick up the phone and direct a few well-chosen questions to James Shaw and Marama Davidson. Will their party allow Chris Hipkins to form a strong and stable administration? Will he be able to rely upon the Greens to refrain from turning every important policy decision into a battle of political wills?

What are the chances, really, of James and Marama saying anything other than “Yes”? And then, what are the chances of the designated representatives of the Green membership tipping New Zealand into a constitutional crisis by refusing to back their leaders?

Not that such a refusal would stop the step-by-step Vice-Regal advance towards a resolution of the developing crisis. Dame Cindy’s next move would be to pick up the phone and direct the same questions to Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa Packer. And their response, almost certainly,  would be to put off answering Dame Cindy until the TPM President, John Tamihere, had had a brass-knuckle discussion with Chris Hipkins and Willie Jackson about what Labour needed to do to secure TPM’s unswerving backing.

Were Chippy and Willie to promise moving the constitutional/Te Tiriti debate to the next level, while pouring a truly outrageous amount of money into Whanau Ora, would John, Rawiri and Debbie say “Yes”? Almost certainly, they would. The TPM call to Government House would be made.

All eyes would now be on the Greens – assuming they hadn’t already caved. Once again the phone would ring. This time Dame Cindy would let them know that if they continued to withhold the votes Mr Hipkins needs, then her next call will be to Mr Luxon.

And if that call was made, to whom would Christopher Luxon speak next? Chris Hipkins? Definitely. John Tamihere? Possibly. David Seymour? Not if he’s got any sense. You see where this is going, don’t you?

Certainly, both James Shaw and Marama Davidson are quite intelligent enough to know who will end up getting blamed if New Zealand, driven by their intransigence, moves inexorably towards a Grand Coalition. That’s why, after securing Chippy’s promise of four Green seats at the Cabinet Table, the reply to the Governor-General will be “Yes.”

Because, it is utterly unrealistic to believe that the National Party will keep baling a left-wing government out of its multiplying parliamentary difficulties by ponying-up with the needed votes whenever the PM calls. If that’s the way of things, then why not demand the Deputy-Prime Ministership for Luxon? Why not secure multiple National Party seats at the Cabinet Table? In other words: why not go all-in for a Grand Coalition? Either that, or force a new election.

It just isn’t that easy to hold a whole country to ransom – especially when your party, or parties, emerged from the election with 15 percent of the Party Vote. In the end, a democratically-governed state simply will not attempt to rule in defiance of public opinion. If a clear majority of the electorate declines to vote for the revolutionary option, then – one way or the other – the policies of sweet moderation will prevail.


  1. A Grand Coalition would suit Labour much more in the long-term than being dragged into the madness of the Greens and TPM.

        • The Westminster System has run its course. It is no longer fit for purpose.

          Since the Crown never fulfilled its obligations to Maori in Te Tiriti and the system has been gamed since its outset by white cis European males to assert and maintain their cultural dominance through the executive, legislative and judicial arms it needs to be scrapped.

          As a proxy for the British sovereign who no longer holds any significant relevance to Aotearoa/NZ society the Westminster system needs to be recognized for what it is. A rundown and obsolete 19th century relic of a colonial empire long since faded.

          It’s only purpose now is to fulfill the obligations of the Crown in honoring the principles of Te Tiriti and then to decolonize itself out of existence.

          Whatever comes next needs to be decided by the citizens of Aotearoa/New Zealand in partnership with Maori on the understanding that Equality of Suffrage need not apply. If you don’t like it. Go back from whence your ancestors came.

          In the meantime I advocate abstaining from voting in the farce and theatre elections have become. Winning a popularity contest decided by who spent the most money promoting themselves or who can promise the most and then renege once in power won’t cut it anymore.

          Welcome to the Awokening.

          You can’t lose if you don’t play. The greatest majority being those who didn’t vote would thereby eliminate the mandate any ruling party would have.

          And don’t bother regaling me with the with the left wing myth alternative of a Commie utopia either. Thats more of the same 19th century whiteman bullshit designed to distract and maintain the status quo.

          Im not advocating revolution, with mass protests, curfews and guns on the street, but if that’s what it leads to then that’s what’s needed.

          I am advocating for a peaceful re-evolution that takes into account traditional Pasifikan models of governance that existed in pre colonial times.

          Models based on the Mana of an individual working for their family, the families forming communities. Communities allowing to become society at large. A bottom up model in contrast to the top down Westminster system that favours coalitions of self serving individuals to exploit society at the expense of family values.

          Fuck the Crown, Fuck the system. Fight the Power…Long live the family and the rights of indigenous peoples !!!

  2. “But, honestly, what are the chances of cobbling together a radical programme out of the policies of these three very different political parties?”

    Doesn’t sound too hard at all. LINO, Rainbow Party and TMP all support the Maaori ethnostate agenda (“co-governance”). And do they not all believe that maatauranga Maaori is “co-equal” with so-called “Western science”? And there’s good reason to believe TMP is onboard with the so-called “Disinformation Project” and the government’s plans to restrict online expression of everyone except Maaori (“The Crown must protect the rights of Māori to express themselves freely”).

    Our current trajectory doesn’t look like “Sweet Moderation” to me.

    • See, right there we have a stable transformative government.
      Where has Chris Trotter been for the last 50 odd years?

  3. “…refrain from turning every important policy decision into a battle of political wills?”

    On the performance of the last 3 years when Jacinda lost control of her Govt allowing her Maori / Green caucus colleagues to wilfully abrogate NZs democracy, there is no possibility of anyone with any sense trusting Labour/ Greens/ TPM with the keys to the kingdom again.

    Time for the adults to send the kids back to school

  4. Isn’t this the reason why there needs to be a new left-wing party AND a new right-wing party? Old Labour Mk. II & Post-War Moderate Tory 2.0? Both Atlee and Macmillan, or Corbyn and Farage? Trump as well as Bernie (or R.F.K. Jr./Cornel)?

    The old parties don’t really represent popular opinion. Unfortunately for the political establishment and Wall Street, all those “dangerous populists” are all saying exactly what the general public is thinking.

    Once this happens, the gloves are finally off. Then there a chance that the cosy political cartel, whose “opposing” parties are barely discernable from one another, might not only be broken — it might collapse entirely.

    Suddenly the grand coalition options could be between the two major parties of Mélenchon and Le Pen. Or Conte and Meloni, or maybe one day Sahra Wagenknecht and Alice Weidel.

  5. Two points, Chris: you say “In the end, a democratically-governed state simply will not attempt to rule in defiance of public opinion.” I say, sure they would, they’ve been doing it for nearly 3 years now. Which of Labour’s policies do a majority of the people support? And when it comes to Covid “Saint Cindy” and her henchmen, er, uh, henchpeople, ruled by lying and manipulating public opinion.
    The answer — a government that will will foster unity, equality and national/regional development not woke window dressing, a government with a pragmatic problem solving approach, a government that puts New Zealand First. And what would that look like? In short, what it needs is a government in which NZ First plays a significant role.

    • Correction, mjh.
      Against “Saint Cindy”, as you insultingly and wrongly call her, you and your own ‘henchmen’ were always a minority, despite your rabidly wishful thinking.
      Get real.

  6. Lets be honest, Labour are going to be lucky not to implode in the next 80 odd days. There will be no buggering around with cross benches and deals. They are simply woeful and have a track record of exposing this nation to the unintended consequences of their good middle class university tempered intents.

    Yesterday’s horror story at 1 Queen St only highlighted those consequences resulting from one of their, and I repeat, their, not ours, few “success” stories, emptying prisons.

    And Chippy knew it was all over, right there and then!

    • XRAY, remember when the killer down south in Ashburton ‘Russell John Tully’ shot & killed 2 WINZ employee’s and wounded others in 2014? Guess who was the govt at the time? They also had 3 strikes policies tough on crime rhetoric but that never stop this fool from murdering innocent civilians. It doesn’t matter who’s in govt and what policies are implemented crime like this will still occur because you can’t legislate the feelings of people not to commit heinous acts life doesn’t work like that!!

      • You missed the point Stephen. Fair enough if Labour were doing a good job of law and order but they are doing the direct opposite. They were on very thin ice with jail emptying and the risk that exposes the public to, so this I’m betting will be the final straw!

  7. We should force grand coalition. Change the rules on govt creation, grant the second largest party first right of refusal to join. After all this is a representative democracy, it should represent the most votes and force parties into compromise – whether the parties like it or not.

    Lab and Nat will hate it, because people will see how similar they really are, and fake differences are all they have going to sell their respective brands. Tough.

  8. Fortunately we don’t have to worry about this. Hopefully Labour will use their time in opposition to consider the errors of their ways. A commanding majority, delivering nothing of substantive meaning, no uplifting change, only a doubling down on making things considerably worse. True failure, with no excuses.

    • This is all true, but we also need to add the fact that under the other mob, things would be even worse. The other mob consistently gets in because we always forget this fact. Bigger point being, when we have the broken political system that we (and the entire Western world) has, then change only heads in one direction – towards those that have broke the system – the billionaire class. After implementing the dictates of the billionaire class, (dictates that are handed down to the entire West, not just us alone) mitigating the consequences of this change is all that separates the two political sides. And this is the area that we largely focus on. Pathetic. The true failure is in us believing that politicians work exclusively for the voter. As if…

      • “The true failure is in us believing that politicians work exclusively for the voter.”

        True, the game is definitely rigged and as always Neo-liberalism is always (since 1984) the winner on the day. I had higher hopes for Labour & the Greens, but I wasn’t surprised. How we get to see how ACT will turn things around.

  9. I shudder at the thought!

    TPMs “transformational change” would deliver us a race-based government and society, a massive theft of assets by racist grifters, the exit of large numbers of our most talented and the country in ruin.

    The Greens “transformational change” would deliver us economic collapse, widespread poverty and the country in ruin.

    Have you considered that in such a constitutional crisis, National might step in and do a deal to prevent the loonies wagging the dog?

  10. Labour currently are a vote saving reactionary government. By not doing things they say they are doing things. A shame – they had a mandate for so much especially a CGT. But other than the Ministry for Disabled People I’m struggling to be enlightened.

  11. “There is no combination, short of an absolute majority for either the Greens or Te Pāti Māori (TPM) that holds out the slightest hope of delivering genuine transformational change.” CHRIS TROTTER

    In 1984 The Labour Party despite being in opposition, put up a members bill to ban nuclear ship visits, that would have been carried if the ruling National government didn’t call a snap election.

    The lesson here is that an absolute majority is not necessary to delivering transformational change.

    The key for achieving transformational change from a minority position, is that parliamentary activism must be allied with extra-parliamentary mass public activism and protest.

    • The key for achieving transformational change from a minority position, is that parliamentary activism must be allied with extra-parliamentary mass public activism and protest.

      The anti-nuclear movement allied with opposition Labour politicians was not the only example of transformational change achieved from a parliamentary minority position. Rod Donald was a skilled activist and parliamentarian who led a mass action public campaign that wrung MMP electoral reform from a reluctant Bolger National government.
      Green MP and activist Sue Bradford holds the record for the highest number of parliamentary private members bills successfully enacted by a minority party MP.
      Compare this to the latest crop of Green MPs who have not managed to get any of their private member bills passed.

  12. We don’t need any more progressive change thanks.
    We need to get back to a time where the working class was valued, supported and enabled to prosper.
    Housing, jobs, food security and community safety.

  13. TBH a grand coalition is exactly what this country needs to mature.

    And what I mean by that, is that following a grand coalition, it’s hard to see Natbour in the following elections continuing to capture so much of the vote. A lot of that comes from this rusted on base that views the other side as the ‘enemy’ and the whole thing as a two party race. A Grand Coalition would shatter those fantasies, and allow us to truly embrace MMP in the same way the Germans have.

  14. Ah…the sickly aroma of defeatism in the morning…

    The boomers are going down–if not this election–then certainly the next. This country should be a land of plenty for the working class, yet we have had 39 years now of Pinochet/Rog’/Richardson style monetarism, union busting ECA, public sector fifth columnists, and penetration of public infrastructure by private capital.

    Chris’ scenario would actually be a positive outcome if Rimmer’s motley crew and Baldrick Mark Luxon are kept well away from political office.

    • I think Chris’s scenario would be the end of NZ economically and socially but I also think Seymour/Luxo would be almost as bad. On that I am factoring in a slight economic improvement as being the ‘not quite as bad’.

      We need a new system of governance, one that isnt infiltrated by ideologues and big business.

  15. The depressing thought of an Act/National government by those on the left is only made worse in the knowledge that it didn’t have to be this way if the current the coalition government wasn’t so completely inept. The lost opportunities. Chris’s juggling of ideas and scenarios are because he sees that with an Act Nat government it’s big business as usual and although economically NZ may improve, socially it wont. He is most likely correct . I have always believed the best government we can hope for is a socially minded National party or a business minded Labour party. Both the two major parties have yet to work this out. If the voting is close and we are looking at a minority government, could National ditch a radicle Act and join Labour? or could a Labour party sick of a useless green party and not wanting the distractions of the Maori party, join with National?. IMO the country could do worse than have a Labour National coalition.

    • It is a fact that philosophically and ideologically Labour and national do occupy the centre ground with the satellite parties out beyond in one direction or the other. Though NZF is pretty near the middle on most issues too. Hard to be sure where to place them but in the middle.
      But such a coalition of major parties would just about be a one party government ; making parties effectively obsolete and irrelevant . That would be a real move forward towards a having a collection of people with the best interests of the country as their priority rather than keeping the other side out. I’m all for it.
      D J S

  16. Public discontent with ‘moderation’ (i.e. the neolib. wealth-concentrating status quo) is growing and the decreasing share commanded by the pit-a-pat duopoly that delivers it is an expression of this.

    Eventually if this process continues (let’s say to 35% plus of the vote being outside the pit-a-pat duopoly), the pit-a-pat duopolists are forced into a coalition against the growing minority. This is what has happened in Ireland as Sinn Féin’s growth forced Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael into a governing coalition against them.

    By achieving this Sinn Féin has virtually assured the destruction of one of these two parties as a major force in Irish politics as the pit-a-pat process is disrupted and the two parties are shown to represent only one option. Therefore only one of these two ‘establishment’ parties will emerge to form a new bipolarity with Sinn Féin. A similar fate would await National and Labour here, were they ever to form a coalition between them.

    However, this is a long way away from happening here as, while a strategic mass of votes now lies outside the pit-a-pat duopoly, it is spread between multiple parties. One party must emerge (or reinvent itself as Sinn Féin did) that is sufficiently broad in its appeal to attract a critical mass of votes under a single banner before the lethal coalition is forced upon the pit-a-pattists.

    This is certainly possible, as Sinn Féin was more extreme than any of NZ’s small current parties only a generation ago, and was disliked and distrusted by a vast majority of the Irish electorate in just the same way that all of these small extremist New Zealand parties are.

    Could that party be Te Pāti Māori? Sure – it does share a number of characteristics with the Sinn Féin that participated in the Good Friday Agreement. It could be any party that presents a coherent set of policies that combine social conservatism with economic radicalism that appeals to the middle and working classes – just as the Nazis did.

    However, Te Pāti Māori must be the favourites to force the fatal coalation, as they have the focus and cohesion to consistently move towards that goal over the period of time that will be necessary to achieve it. They also, in my view, have the unscrupulousness that is necessary to modify/disguise their policies and image (as Sinn Féin have) to present a moderate enough face to a wary electorate over a long period of time.

    • Yes but I would argue that Sinn Fein was not more radical than TPM. About the same.

      And in any event, the Sinn Fein problem hasnt gone away. Seems that having gained legitimacy, they are back to champing at the bit and blackmailing their way into meeting their original ends. The same will happen here.

      TPM will not stop until there is a Maori government in NZ. And the problem is, does anyone believe the other 84% will embrace that, either now or in the next 20 years? 30 + years perhaps but not for a while and maybe not at all depending on the level of economic prosperity for everyday Maori at that time.

  17. Not sure what you’re talking about. So much peril, so much need to talk for that. The 2 Left parties would be advised to sit back on the cross-benches apart from confidence.

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