Monday, June 04, 2007

Defining the ground

The Greens held their annual conference over the weekend, and co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons took the opportunity to position the party for future coalition negotiations next term by putting forward some symbolic questions to Helen Clark and John Key. Two of the questions were about climate change policy, and are really worthy of another post; the others highlighted the Greens' interest in social justice, and made their position clear. To John Key, she asked:

what you intend to do about the people you have labeled as the "underclass". Will you make a public commitment now that benefits levels will not be cut and the conditions for receiving them will not be made more stringent under any government you lead? Will workers still enjoy the options of seeking collective agreements? Will the minimum wage be frozen at the level you inherit or will it continue to rise? Will we see bulk funding or vouchers introduced in education?

While to Helen, she asked:

how you feel about the growth in inequality since you came to power, and what plans you have to address it

and highlighted benefit levels, child poverty and housing affordability as areas that need government attention. The message is clear: that if National wants to govern (and despite recent polling, they are likely to need a partner post-election, and their options are likely to be limited to the Greens or the Maori Party), they are going to need to restrain their urge to screw the workers and transfer wealth to their rich donors, while if Labour wants another term, it is going to have to do much, much better than it is at present. The ground should naturally favour Labour, but given the slow progress we've seen on these issues (particularly that of benefit levels), I'm not sure they can be relied upon to rise to the challenge. And OTOH, the latter two are centrist issues, of interest to both of Labour's current coalition partners, so they may have political room to move.

And as part of my ongoing snark against Jordan: this is an example of a political party definining the political ground, and trying to lead public opinion rather than cravenly following it. It would be nice if Labour would try and do the same, rather than continually wasting its bully pulpit.


That's a really valuable reminder. As someone who is sometimes frustrated by the timidity and slowness of Greens policy development it's useful to be reminded of just how disastrous the other parties are. Although with that nice mr howard committing to not commit to greenhouse targets recently, I'm not sure how much reminding I really want. But thanks anyway :)

Posted by Moz : 6/04/2007 03:42:00 PM

That's not a snark! :)

Labour does have to do better. I've been posting quite a lot on just that point. A good Labour government is a natural partner for the Greens.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/04/2007 06:16:00 PM

Jordan: That's not a snark!

Well, no, not really. Just an observation, and voicing my view that I'd like to see labour do more of this stuff.

Of course, I'm one of these radical democrats who thinks that parties should actually, y'know, tell people what they want to do, rather than keeping their policies secret and relying on a shiny smile and vague promises of change...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/04/2007 11:04:00 PM

their options are likely to be limited to the Greens or the Maori Party

Well, Dunne will be back, possibly with a few new friends in tow, assuming he can find some. So there's United Future.

The more interesting question concerns NZF, which is probably a 50/50 proposition for breaking the 5% threshold.

And then Rodney Hide might be able to retain Epsom. I wouldn't bet on it though.

Posted by dc_red : 6/05/2007 12:45:00 PM

" I'm one of these radical democrats who thinks that parties should actually, y'know, tell people what they want to do, rather than keeping their policies secret and relying on a shiny smile and vague promises of change "

Anyone in particular in mind?

Posted by Anonymous : 6/05/2007 02:38:00 PM

DC_Red: While I think Dunne will hold his seat, I doubt he'll be bringing anyone with him this time - unless he seriously starts talking himself up as a moderating influence on National. As for ACT, any improvement in their position comes at National's expense, so they don't actually help National's coalition numbers.

Which leaves NZ First (who as you point out, might not be there at all), the Greens, and the Maori Party.

Anon: Anyone in particular in mind?

I'm sure people can work that out for themselves.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/05/2007 02:44:00 PM

The Nats won't seriously challenge Hide in Epsom, especially if they stand the same joke candidate as in 05. ACT will probbaly poll enough PV to get 1 more MP so 2 votes to the Nats. The same applies to Dunne. Total = 4 votes to the Nats. Winston won't win a seat because no cosy deals from the Nats for him; he may or may not poll above 5% PV. The Maori Party won't support Labour as long as Helen Clark is leader because Tariana Turia hates her. In return for a few sweeteners from the Nats they will probably support on a case by case basis and abstain on confidence and supply. The Greens won't win an electorate, while their PV will be eroded by a combination of organisational incompetence and disingenuous "blue-green" posturing on climate change by the Nats (which it will rat on as soon as it moves into the Beehive). Outcome: a one-term minority ACT-National government, unable to repeal MMP (because of guarantees to the Maori Party). Increasing social strife as the Nats try to deliver to their campaign funders. OBE's bestowed by Prince Edward on the lawn of Government House to National Party hacks though.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/05/2007 07:19:00 PM

Anon 7:19.

You're about right, I reckon. A couple more points: Maori Party could win more electorates, creating a larger overhang, so more seats needed for a majority. And the Maori Party can't all automatically be delivered by Turia to the Nats. Electorate MPs are more likely to dig their heels in - maybe not immediately, but as right-wing legislation comes up during the term.

Also: keeping both the tacit National/ACT deal in Epsom and some form of National/Green co-operation will be a hell of a hard sell. That's not a Grand Coalition, it's a Grand Canyon.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/05/2007 08:26:00 PM