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One of the behind the scenes battles in this year’s election campaign is that of New Zealand First vs Greens. The battle is mainly for relevance. Both are vying to be the party that most helps determine the outcome of an election that is very much about National vs Labour. As the third largest party, the Greens are trying to achieve this by getting Labour ‘over the line’. New Zealand First is attempting to be the ‘king maker’ between National and Labour. The fortunes and decisions of these two parties will be crucial over the next six months as both parties could play a central role in determining who will govern after 20 September.
The Focus on New Zealand First
Winston Peters is the ‘man of the moment’ – with significant media attention focusing on the centrality of his party, and speculating on which parties he might work with. Peters is not the only politician being tricky about post-election coalitions, but his obfuscation is certainly the most striking and relevant, as I pointed out in my column last week – see: Six months for voters to demand coalition transparency.
In the weekend, Peters continued to respond to and deflect questions about what he would do with any ‘king making’ powers he has after 20 September. You can watch his 15-minute interview with Patrick Gower on The Nation: Winston Peters: Asset buy-back 'a priority'. This interview is summed up well in Tony Field’s 2-minute TV3 report NZ First's future coalition deal unknown. For a review of Gower’s interview, see Paul Casserly’s Into the void. He concludes, ‘As a TV spectacle these encounters with Peters are unequalled, like the joy one gets from watching someone attempting to wrestle a greasy pig. It's going to be an interesting ride to the election thanks to planet Winston’.
Torben Akel also has a very good 7-minute report asking How will kingmaker Winston Peters act this election?
Who will Peters choose? And what are NZ First’s bottom lines?
Speculation continues about whether Peters is more likely to go into coalition with National or Labour. There are many good arguments for both prospects. But there are increasing signs that Peters might smartly position his party to operate on the ‘cross benches’, where arguably he may have much more power. By essentially holding a minority government to ransom, a party on the cross benches could have major influence over legislation on a day-by-day basis.
This is something Matthew Hooton has argued could happen: ‘Mr Peters’ greatest driver is to be at the centre of events. The best way for him to achieve that in 2014 is to stay outside the government, offering no one confidence and supply. That would enable Mr Key’s government to limp on but without Mr Peters having to take responsibility for its decisions. Even more attractive, whenever he was so inclined, he could engage on an issue, putting himself on centre stage. To pass a Budget, the government would either have to negotiate with him for months in advance or – more likely – have to present it to Parliament with no surety of passage. Dramatic concessions could then be demanded in exchange for NZ First’s votes. No doubt it would all end in tears but it would be a rollicking three years. Mr Peters would love it. He could then retire to the north, go fishing and have a good laugh with his mates’ – see: What would Winston want?
That cross benches scenario is anathema to Mike Hosking: ‘Let’s just be clear - if Peters ever did hold the balance of power outside government, you would have in display the perfect example of all that is wrong with MMP. A small party holding all the power. A small party with all care and no responsibility. You would have tradeoffs and blackmail all over the place. Not even your most ardent MMP supporter could argue that’s fair and reasonable’ – see: Campaigning on the tail wagging the dog.
For more coverage of what Peters has declared to be his key coalition negotiating issues, see the Herald’s Peters: Limit foreign ownership of property and Charlie Gates’ Peters backing fix for 'icon'.
For some examination of exactly what Peters might ‘really mean’ and what he might ‘really do’, see Pete George’s NZ First bottom lines and Frank Macskasy’s Winston Peters recycles pledge to “buy back state assets” – where have we heard that before?
Also, today on Radio NZ’s Nine-to-Noon, Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams discussed the positioning by Winston Peters as well Green Party issues – listen here: Politics with Mike Williams and Matthew Hooton.
Labour moving away from the Greens in favour of NZ First
With the relevance of New Zealand First increasing, it appears as if the Greens are correspondingly decreasing in relevance. This is partly due to the Greens faring poorly in recent opinion polls, but also because they have no real leverage over Labour to ensure they are included in any potential Labour-led Government after 20 September.
Labour now seems to be tilting more towards NZ First, and away from the Greens. Rodney Hide discusses this in his column about last week’s battle between Shane Jones and Gareth Hughes – see: Bold No3 grabs the spotlight. The key part is this: ‘The Jones approach is to knock the Greens about and win votes for Labour. It's not like the Greens can take umbrage and shift their support to National. And without options the Greens face the danger of being again stood up. Helen Clark chose Winston Peters over the Greens in 2005. It's a tough choice: Winston or the Greens. But that may well be the choice Labour again confronts. In the meantime, there is a compelling electoral logic for Labour putting a distance between themselves and the Greens’.
For Chris Trotter’s view, see: Five Easy Pieces: How the Greens can stop Labour playing silly-buggers. He calls for the Greens to play hardball with Labour.
Co-leader Russel Norman appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A programme yesterday, and Corin Dann pushed this line – that the Greens are being marginalised by Labour – for which Norman had no real comeback – see the 8-minute interview: Greens target housing and power prices.
Are the Greens becoming beige?
Some of the Greens’ decline probably relates to the party’s rather colourless political nature lately. In its very strong attempt to be a serious and conventional political institution, the Greens appear to have foregone some of the party’s original colour and uniqueness. In the Q+A interview, for example, Russel Norman came across blandly and focused mostly on middle-of-the-road messages about ‘responsible fiscal policy’, ‘paying off debt’ and being ‘fiscally prudent’. Similarly, in the weekend, business reporter Richard Meadows interviewed the co-leader about personal finances, and received some notably bland and conventional responses – see: Frugal Russel true to his roots.
Of course, if the Greens eventually want to prosper electorally and gain more leverage for future coalition negotiations, it might well be smart for the co-leaders to take such a conservative approach for the party, and focus on winning votes from the centre and right of the political spectrum. A new blog has some very interesting and heavily analytical posts arguing exactly that – see Fundamentally Useless’ Looks like it’s up to you, Green Party, Which Blue votes can the Greens steal? and How to take several thousand Blue-Green votes from the Right.
Green progress and success
Many recent policy announcements from the Greens have reiterated the more moderate approach this year and the party is reaping some rewards for this. Most recently, the party’s focus has been on environmental issues that resonate with more middle-class voters. For instance, see Isaac Davison’s Greens tell kids to cycle to school. This received positive feedback from not just the Herald – see: Greens' school transport idea makes sense – but even from David Farrar – see: A Green policy with some merit. Sean Plunket saw both merit and negatives in the policy – see: Let kids make their way.
So far this year, the major policy announcement from the Greens has been its solar energy programme for housing. This received some positive coverage – see, for example, the Herald’s editorial Green power worthy but has too few incentives and No Right Turn’s A sensible policy. But as some noted, the new solar-focus represents a strong shift towards harvesting the middle class vote – see Martyn Bradbury’s A brief word on the Greens tilt towards the middle classes with solar scheme.
The Greens have come out with another interesting policy on politician pay, saying that MP annual pay rises should be in line with the average New Zealand employee. Such a policy is carefully crafted to resonate with those concerned about economic inequality, while rather conservatively not actually challenging MPs remaining amongst the top 1% of income earners. On this policy, however, the Herald was less enthusiastic – see: Greens' pay push makes little sense.
Also in the policy area of political finance, the Greens have announced a policy of reforming political donation laws – see Neil Reid’s Greens seek to ban corporate donations. This will have strong appeal, but the populist policy has many fishhooks and it avoids the fact that there are much bigger sources of money for the parties – such as donations from wealthy individuals (generally the owners of the companies that would be banned from donating), as well as the money from backdoor parliamentary resources.
What the new Green Party list means
Today the Greens have announced their initial party list for the 20 September election – see Isaac Davison’s Genter, Shaw big winners in Greens draft list. According to Rob Salmond, some of ‘those big moves show a desire by the Greens' central team to present a list more palatable to business than in the past’ – see: The Greens' draft list. Genter and Shaw are both from the more environmentally-focused, non-left side of the party – what might be called the New Greens faction – people who are more at home in the business world wearing corporate attire than amongst the far left. The rise of James Shaw is particularly important, and for an older profile of the politician see Claire Browning’s Meet James Shaw, Wellington Central Green candidate. There will be many that see Shaw as a future co-leader of the party.
Despite the Greens current poor polling, the party always campaigns well in election year. This time, digital campaigning will be particularly important for the party. For the latest analysis of what the Green MPs are doing on Twitter, see Matthew Beveridge’s blog posts, MPs on Twitter: Mojo Mathers, MPs on Twitter: Gareth Hughes, and Something that was brought to my attention.
Finally, to see how Labour really views the Greens, see Scott Yorke’s satirical blog post A statement from Shane Jones.
Neil Reid (Stuff): Greens seek to ban corporate donations
Rodney Hide (Herald): Bold No3 grabs the spotlight
Richard Meadows (Stuff): Frugal Russel true to his roots
Sean Plunket (Stuff): Let kids make their way
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): A Green policy with some merit
Fundamentally useless: Which Blue votes can the Greens steal?
Fundamentally useless: Looks like it’s up to you, Green Party
Fundamentally useless: How to take several thousand Blue-Green votes from the Right
John Sergeant (Stuff): Left squabbles, Peters smiles
David Kennedy (Daily bodies): Q&A Norman vs English
The Standard: Russel Norman on consumerism & happiness
Matthew Beveridge: Something that was brought to my attention
The Standard: What is Shane Jones doing?
Matthew Hooton (NBR): What would Winston want?
Charlie Gates (Stuff): Peters backing fix for 'icon'
Newswire: Anglicans tell Peters to butt out
The Nation (TV3): Winston Peters: Asset buy-back 'a priority'
The Nation (TV3): How will kingmaker Winston Peters act this election?
Tony Field (TV3): NZ First's future coalition deal unknown
Pete George (Your NZ): NZ First bottom lines
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Winston wanting to steal the cathedral off the Anglican Church
Frank Macskasy (Daily Blog): Winston Peters recycles pledge to “buy back state assets” – where have we heard that before?
Steve Braunias (Stuff): The secret diary of . . . Judith Collins
John Armstrong (Herald): Collins' shock blunder puts her offside with mates
Jane Clifton (Listener): Crusher’s calamity
Winston Peters (RadioLIVE): Judith Collins was out for much more than dinner with friends
Fran O'Sullivan (Herald): PM's need to save face rescues Collins
Mike Hosking (Newstalk ZB): The difference between Collins and Cunliffe
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Movers and shakers surround Oravida
Kerre McIvor (Herald): Humility tough to digest
Michael Fox and Vernon Small (Stuff): Minister dines with big money
Audrey Young (Herald): National's Boadicea likely to shrug off her week from hell
David Fisher (Herald): Collins set up milk talk with PM
Jenny Woods (Newstalk ZB): Collins declares her affection for Jones
Christopher Adams (Herald): Collins' dinner great for Oravida – exporter
Brook Sabin (TV3): Jones apologises to 'Crusher' Collins
Mike Smith (The Standard): Officials’ dinners off in China
Fundamentally Useless: Judith Collins and National’s upside down politics
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Shock horror – PM open law firm of colleague’s wife
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Slater’s trolling of Cunliffe’s wife & the real questions Judith Collins now must answer
Duncan Garner (RadioLIVE): Clark sacked ministers for lying
Tim Selwyn (Tumeke): Untold corruption
Dave Armstrong (Stuff): Hard-selling, deal-making National’s mode of business
Andrew Geddis (Pundit): The takeaway from Judith's Chinese dinner
Simon Prast (Daily Blog): All In The Family
Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): The Soap Box: Key, Collins and Kiwi milk
David Cunliffe and the Labour Party
Isaac Davison (Herald): Foreign investment shake-up in Labour's plan for future
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Jones takes Cunliffe's limelight
Radio NZ: Vision for economy short on detail
Jamie Whyte (NBR): Cunliffe peddles foreign ownership myths
John Minto (Daily Blog): Labour hamstrung by a sea-anchor of right-wing MPs from the 1980s.
No Right Turn: An economic upgrade?
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Economic confusion from Cunliffe
Rob Salmond (Polity): Cunliife's economic vision
Matthew Beveridge: What I would do: If I was running @nzlabour ‘s social media
The Standard: What is Shane Jones doing?
Fundamentally Useless: Cunliffe’s trust issue is bad, but not that bad
Fundamentally Useless: The Cunliffe conundrum
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Imperator Fish on Shane Jones
Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Cunliffe can’t connect
Catherine Milford (Herald): TV talent gets political to paint his hometown red
Joe Gilfillan (Newstalk ZB): Labour names its Tukituki candidate
Tony Milne (Daily Blog): About Tony Milne
Fundamentally Useless: How badly do you want to win, McCarten?
Michael Fox (Stuff): Nats, Greens at odds over interest rate hikes
Taranaki Daily News: We're back on the inflation road
Waikato Times: Future looks less rosy
Nelson Mail: Editorial: So now the rises start
Frank Macskasy (Daily Blog): National, The Economy, and coming Speed Wobbles – March Update
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): C is for competition
Ganesh Nana (Pundit): Living in fear of full employment
Candice Choi (Stuff): Underpaid McDonald's workers file suit
Ele Ludemann (Homepaddock): Left’s jiggery pokery won’t work
Jonathan Milne (Herald): School funding shakeup looms
Isaac Davison (Herald): School funding shakeup will 'widen the gap' – Labour
Newswire: School funding debate ignites
Herald on Sunday editorial: Schools do their best for pupils
Rob Kidd (Stuff): School restarts religious lessons
Ben Heather (Stuff): ACC to take lead in sex education
Michael Fox (Stuff): Performance-based funding slammed
Lauren Hayes (Stuff): Principal fighting to retain job
Dan Satherley (TV3): Parata's funding plan 'crazy stuff' - NZEI
Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On the Genesis share float debacle
Greg Presland (The Standard): The Genesis share float – or is that share sink?
No Right Turn: A gift to the rich
Michael Fox (Stuff): Power bill transparency promised
Tamsyn Parker (Herald): Genesis float most costly
Fonterra and China
Jamie Ball (NBR): Opinion: What will Key tell the Chinese about Fonterra?
David Fisher (Herald): China likes our milk at $23 a bottle
Claire Trevett (Herald): Botulism scare made us wiser, envoy says
Claire Trevett (Herald): Key will woo China's mothers as well as its leaders
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): Brutal first week of 'unofficial' campaign
Ross Henderson (Stuff): Listen to the engines tell a story
Deborah Mahuta-Coyle (Herald): Voters demand only honesty
Mai Chen (Herald): How to get more Asians on board
Michael Fox (Stuff): NZ dismisses Crimea referendum
Newswire: NZ won't recognise Crimea vote
Herald: NZ dismisses Crimea referendum
James Griffin (Herald): Richard Prebble
Rodney Hide (NBR): How politics avoids the big questions
Michelle Grattan (Herald): Changing flag a radical thought? For Australia, maybe
Keith Locke (Daily Blog): Engaging with the NZ flag debate
Isaac Davison (Herald): Brown's ex-lover slams net bullies
Michael Fox (Stuff): Brown: 'Most people are over it'
Phil Taylor (Herald): The web we want
Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Internet Party accepting members soon
Rachel Stewart (Stuff): Adams well linked to land of milk and money
Newstalk ZB Staff (Newstalk ZB): PM admits he's happy to put a good word in for someone
Charlie Gates (Stuff): Politicians back in website's sights
Isaac Davison (Herald): Drink-drive loophole slams shut
Lewis Holden: Amalgamation: more opposition
The Standard: Tony Benn 1925-2014
Stephanie Rodgers (The Standard): No excuse for WINZ’s mistreatment of people in need
Will de Cleene (gonzo): The Intersection of Ford and Cribb
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Youth smoking way down
No Right Turn: Metadata reveals your most personal secrets
Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Police file on Darren Hughes to remain secret
Southland Times: Migration reforms outdated
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): A win for the Helicopter Trust
Esther Goh (Idealog): What Cards Against Humanity teaches us about business
Rob Salmond (Polity): Nate Silver on the FiveThirtyEight relaunch
Jamie Morton (Herald): New marine reserve for South Island
Vaimoana Tapaleao, James Ihaka, Simon Collins, and Harkanwal Singh (Herald): Closing gaps favour young
Waikato Times: Cleaning up our water act
Newswire: New $100m foundation welcomed by Govt
Morgan Godfery (Maui Street): The cycles of Maori politics
Radio NZ: Mana says it's not reliant on Parliament