Monday, October 19, 2020

The Greens and Labour

With an absolute majority, Labour can govern in its own right, and doesn't need partners. But while unnecessary, they're a nice-to-have, both as backup and for PR reasons. Ardern has talked about "consensus", and there are obvious benefits for her of having government policy endorsed by as many parties as possible. At the same time, that's not hugely valuable, and nowhere near as valuable as votes to get something over the line, so the price Labour would be willing to pay is probably rather low. So should the Greens be rushing to sign up?

I'm doubtful, for two reasons. Firstly, as we saw last term, being in government has a cost. Being a good team player means not criticising your political partners, and in particular, not spending the next three years reminding Labour's supporters and voters generally of what the government could or should be doing. Which is fine, if you're actually getting real policy out of it. But its not something you give away for nothing, or next-to-nothing (which is what the Greens arguably got last term). Secondly, as noted above, I think the price Labour is willing to pay will be low. They don't need the Greens, and while they could be used as rhetorical cover for increasing the ambition of their lowballed centrist policy promises, the numbers simply make such excuses laughable. So the net result of the Greens in government would be Green Ministers implementing and overseeing Labour policy. And as someone who thinks that status quo Labour policy is the problem, I don't think that's worth shit, and certainly not worth surrendering the rhetorical power of opposition for. I'm not interested in a Green Party which gags itself for other people's benefit. So I'd favour a loose arrangement of (un-needed) confidence and supply in exchange for consultation on key issues and a few select-committee chairs, at best - friends, not partners.

Of course, all of that changes if Labour is willing to offer substantial policy concessions on climate change, inequality, and housing. But I don't think that's likely, and TBH if the concessions moved too far from Labour's platform then it would make the Greens party to an 80's / 90's style political deceit. But ultimately, the decision is one for the Greens' members.