Friday, September 11, 2020

The price of Green co-operation just went up

If they get into Parliament, everyone expects the Greens to form a coalition with Labour. But James Shaw has said that that might not be the case, and that they might instead choose to sit on the cross-benches:

The Greens are prepared to forego a coalition or confidence and supply arrangement and sit on the crossbenches if post-election talks do not go their way.

Co-leader James Shaw made the comments on Thursday, saying the only post-election deal that was off the table completely was one which would give National power.

However, he said if the Greens held the balance of power it was "always a possibility" that it would walk away from negotiations with Labour if they could not get the gains they wanted.

If there was no coalition or confidence and supply agreement, that would force a minority Labour government to seek the Greens' support for legislation on a case-by-case basis. He wouldn't say what the Greens' bottom lines in those talks were, but said a "wealth tax" was a "top priority".

Labour people, who see being government as essential to delivering change (which then somehow never arrives) are boggled by this. But for the Greens, its worth considering. Because unlike Labour, they're in politics to actually change things, and they have a long history of doing so from opposition (just look at all the Green policies Labour and National have been forced to adopt as the Greens have won the argument with the public). And while being in government in theory gives you greater capacity to do that, the past three years have delivered a bitter lesson that its not all its cracked up to be, that being a Minister isn't worth shit if your proposals are consistently vetoed by your "partners", while core coalition commitments are ignored. Compared with that, just sitting there, delivering confidence and supply and support on a narrow range of agreed policies while holding the government to ransom on everything else (and vetoing anything contrary to your values) seems kindof attractive. After all, it worked for Winston in Cabinet; the Greens would simply be being honest about the relationship.

Of course, its not up to Shaw: decisions on support arrangements are ultimately in the hands of the Green membership. Who have no interest in who gets a Ministerial salary or free limo rides, and who Labour has just taught to be highly sceptical of the benefits of being in government. So, if Labour wants to persuade them that This Time Will Be Different, that they really are a trustworthy partner, they are going to have to be very persuasive indeed, and commit to actual change. Because if all they want to do is more status quo bullshit, they can do that without a Green fig-leaf, and take the blame themselves.

(And of course the entire discussion could be academic, in that the Greens might not make it back into Parliament. In which case them's the breaks. I'm confident the movement will survive a term out, and would just switch to an activist / protest track to pursue change instead).