It’s been reported that the Green Party approached Labour to propose a formal coalition to campaign under, but that Labour rejected the proposal. The Greens had proposed that the two parties campaign together and brand themselves as a future Labour/Greens Government. But the proposal then went further, seeking a proportional split of cabinet positions based on seats won, and a strategy on how to work with NZ First.
It’s not surprising that the Greens proposed it. David Cunliffe’s sudden back-pedalling from the Greens in recent interviews, where he talked up Winston Peters as the possible recipient of Labour’s first coalition negotiations phone call, must surely have put the frighteners on the Greens. To tie Labour and the Greens together, in terms of the language used to describe their relationship, would have been one hell of a coup for the Greens. A “Labour/Greens coalition” sounds a lot more impressive to possible Green voters than the party simply being a part of a “Labour-led government”.
It’s also not surprising that Labour rejected it. One News‘ political editor, Corin Dann, postulated that Labour doesn’t want to frighten swing voters by allowing National to play the “Labour’s joined at the hip to the scary Greens” card. However, to my mind, I simply see the spectre of Winston Peters looming over Cunliffe’s shoulder.
Voters are well aware that the only way Labour is getting into government this time round is with the help of the Greens. That’s a given. The “scary Greens” card will be played by National all the way to election day regardless of how closely or otherwise Labour and the Greens campaign together.
Winston Peters, however, is Cunliffe’s unknown quantity. The way I see it, Cunliffe is terrified that he’ll lose any chance of a proper negotiation with Peters if Labour ties itself to the Greens. Labour simply can’t bind itself to the Greens, only to discover that shutting the Greens out of ministerial positions is the price of Mr Peters’ support.
I’ve said before that the Greens will have no choice but to support a minority Labour-NZ First government, if that’s what Peters dictates to Labour. The Greens have no leverage whatsoever; their only alternative is to hand Peters to National and say, “Three more years, Mr Key”.
Labour and the Greens need to present that the left is able to form a stable government, but the idea of a formal coalition arrangement was never going to fly in the current political climate.