Ardern, Shaw, and English are in a room…

Posted: September 29, 2017 in government, New Zealand, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I’d like to share for you a scene from my head:

She takes a long drink of water. It’s been a hard day of negotiating.
“So, we think we know what he’s after. Do you?”

He replies. “Yes, we’ve got it about sussed.”

Shaw joins the conversation: “So, let’s get serious now. Which of us is it going to be?”

And then the bidding starts:

“We’ll be quiet about roads for six years if you do it,” says English.

Ardern counters with: “Oh yeah? We won’t put the boot in about Canterbury if you take him.”

Shaw issues a gentle reminder. “Well, if both sides fail to do a deal and he abstains, you’re kinda stuck being a minority government, Bill.”

English stares him down and says: “Okay, so we concede to him we’ll cancel the tax cuts and spend it on some of his priorities and health, and I won’t say it was your idea. Let’s hope we don’t see each other again in three years.”

…This is how I imagine things going next week at the moment in my head, but of course, in reality National wants their first turn at four terms, and Labour would like to dethrone English before he can pick up any momentum, even if it means a three-way deal with two significant junior partners. And there are people, like those Metiria talked about, who can’t afford another three years of this government.

But it’s definitely not fun being stuck in a position where the three adults around the table are forced to trade favours with a nationalist. There is a real possibility that he’ll drag down a National government with him, and that he’ll manage to arrest the momentum Labour has been enjoying and lock them out from developing a stronger negotiating position in three years if he successfully steals the spotlight enough.

Now is a time for at least our side to be fair but tough. If National wants to sell the country to get Winston, let them over-bargain and have their government suffer for it, then beat them in three years. Having the Greens at the table, rather than waiting to be called by Labour like the Alliance was, would be Ardern’s smartest move. Clark’s negotiations in ’96 suffered badly for her not being able to promise that the Alliance would accept a deal without modicifation, when they should have been at the table to tell both parties themselves. There are certainly sticking points. NZF won’t want to move on environmental rules that impact farmers too harshly. The Greens won’t want to move on immigration. And Labour will be reluctant to be as radical on the economy as both the Greens and New Zealand First would like.

Let’s not even entertain the notion, that some National supporters who seem content to spend plenty of time talking on social media but have made no discernable progress in moving the politics of their own party, have put forward that it is somehow obligatory for the Greens and National to at least try to work together. We can talk if National changes its tune, but right now there’s no credibility and no trust between the two movements. That there is more room with New Zealand First, who our leaders had to remind everyone in the media is in fact a party that engages in racism, is saying something.

The reason the two parties won’t work together is because the Greens will compromise on practical matters, but not their values, and the Nats will compromise their values, but not oppose their donors, who don’t like Green ideas, and aren’t so sure about green ideas, either. If bluegreens are really so desperate to get a coalition, all 6,500 of them, they should be working on making National greener first before asking. This is because their economic policies are fundamentally opposed to the Greens’ philosophy, so it would take stronger environmental concessions to make them competitive with Labour, which they have not made, and show no indications of considering. Most of National’s environmental policy is little more than a green-wash marketing gimmick, and the Greens can’t even get behind Labour’s greenwash attempts.

I expect we’re in for a wild ride, but who’s heading down the stream and who’s waiting behind safely onshore on this one is anyone’s guess at this stage. I am currently of the tentative view that the ride is not sufficiently safe for the left to jump in enthusiastically, but it looks like they’re at least toeing the water. All we know is that Winston, surprisingly reasonably1, schooled the media that we do in fact have an MMP system now, not an FPP one, and that they should perhaps have covered his party a bit more before the election rather than playing catchup, which is half-reasonable if you forget that the reason we didn’t see Winston until afterwards is because he refused to show to debates that didn’t feature Ardern and English. (In reality, we should probably have four “tiers” of debates: all-party debates where it’s acceptable to send deputies or senior MPs, smaller-party debates where only over-threshold parties should do the same, list-party debates where Greens, NZF, Labour and National all get together, and Leaders’ Debates which we got far TOO many of this time around.)

1 By which I mean he had an actual point of argument, not that his tone was actually acceptable. His press conference was pure Trump faux-outrage at “fake news,” or in Winston’s parlance, “things you lot should already know.” Classic Muldoon style attack-attack-attack if there’s any question of unfriendly narratives. I may have laughed in disbelief watching the thing at the pure gall of it, but that’s what he does best.

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