Wednesday, June 01, 2016

That alliance

The big news yesterday was Labour and the Greens finally, after ten years, agreeing a pre-election alliance to work together to change the government. This shouldn't be a big deal - the Greens have been setting policy on the left for years, and (with the exception of spying and bombing and general toadying to the US) the policy differences between the two are largely of degree rather than substance. And yet bad blood from the Clark era and a rump of Labour MPs and officials who either were still locked in the mindset of FPP or saw the Greens as a threat to their personal political ambitions had stymied any such arrangement. But while the Labour leadership has overcome those problems, that internal faction hasn't gone away - and that could pose some problems. The whole purpose of the exercise is to present a credible alternative to National. But if Labour's third-raters play their usual games and engage in internal sabotage and backbiting, that won't work, and instead of a government-in-waiting, voters will be reminded that Labour is a clown cart, full of people who would rather sabotage their own party's electoral chances than share power or see someone else take "their" Ministerial position.

The other problem is that it is difficult to present as a credible government-in-waiting when you are steadfastly unwilling to talk about who will be filling which Ministerial chair. To a certain extent that is forced on them, both by the realities of MMP, and by the need for any post-election confidence and supply agreement to be approved by the Greens' membership. But its still a problem. We all know that Jonathan Coleman speaks for the government on health, and Hekia Parata on education, but who speaks for Labour-Greens on these issues? Annette King or Kevin Hague? Chris Hipkins or Catherine Delahunty? Who gets what jobs is the sort of thing people judge a potential government on. Though maybe the closer cooperation they promise will give us some implicit answers to that.

Finally, I'd like to think that this will put an end to the traditional triennial spurt of articles about how the Greens should sack their leadership, offer to support the National Party, and start sacrificing baby seals to National's dual gods of cows and trucks. But given our political pundits' fundamental incomprehension of the Greens, I expect to be disappointed.