Hard News by Russell Brown


To be expected

"Labour has taken another step to distance itself from the Greens," intoned Guyon Espiner on Morning Report, before he went on to identify "early signs of trouble in a pre-election relationship". Last night One News declared that "[t]raditional alliances between Labour and the Greens are under severe strain."


I completely understand why the Green Party would have confidentially proposed to Labour that the two parties campaign as a formal coalition this year, to the extent of allocating Cabinet posts in advance. I understand equally why Labour would have said, thanks but no thanks.

If it is to have any chance of forming a goverment later this year, Labour will need to win two to three times as many votes as the Greens. It's entitled to seek to maximise its vote, and I don't see it attracting many, if any, more votes through a joint campaign. It would be more likely to help National, which is already terribly keen to depict Labour as in thrall to the looney Greens.

It's also very likely that any possible centre-left government will require the support of New Zealand First. Is Winston Peters more likely to be wooed into a prospective government that includes the Greens, or one in which he is the wedding guest to a formal Labour-Green coalition? I think the answer is clearly the former.

Espiner went on to muse that perhaps the Greens were facing a situation like that in 2005, where they weren't part of a formal coalition. This doesn't seem terribly valid either. In 2005, Labour was faced with two coaliton partners to its right, who could deliver it a governing majority but would not work with the Greens, and the Greens, who (and it was close) were short of being able to deliver a majority on their own.

That won't happen this time, because there is simply no possibility of a centre-left goverment that does not include the Greens. There is no other option. It's almost as unlikely that such a government would not include New Zealand First.  So it doesn't make much sense for Labour to embark on a course that reduces the likelihood of co-operation from New Zealand First.

They might as well declare that they are prepared to work together and get on with their respective campaigns. That is, to do what they were doing last week, when no one seemed to think it was a problem, let alone a crisis.

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