Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Let 'em swing

with the election getting closer, the right is panicking about the prospect of not gaining an outright majority or getting ACT in in Epsom, and having to depend on Winston Peters for confidence and supply. And the pressure is already going on the Greens to step in and "save New Zealand from Winston" should National's nightmare scenario occur:

All eyes would turn to the Greens. The possibility of them backing National by either supporting Key on confidence and supply votes or, more likely, through abstention on such motions would be the obvious solution.

So obvious that it is possible to envisage the Greens coming under huge pressure to reach some kind of accommodation with National which shut out Peters.

Armstrong's column is part of that pressure. But to raise the obvious question, what would be in it from the Greens? Its one thing to make a deal if you're the only credible option, but quite another when its just a matter of "saving" a party from a partner they don't like. The Greens have nothing invested in hating Winston. Meanwhile, National is not a natural partner for them (lets be honest: their core platforms are almost diametrically opposed), and any arrangement would have severe costs for them and could even destroy their party. Absent National surrendering its entire policy platform, any deal is likely to be a bad one for them.

In such circumstances, it would be better for the Greens to simply stand back and let National swing. A National government hamstrung with Winston achieves some of their policy aims (e.g. stopping asset sales) without their having to lift a finger. Meanwhile, they can pursue an MOU and cooperate on areas they feel comfortable with, while helping to block any legislation they don't. Not as effective as being in government, but a lot safer, and with a hefty dose of schadenfreude into the bargain.