Posts Tagged ‘labour’

So, we now have a government in principle1, with New Zealand First choosing to enter minority coalition with Labour, supported by the Greens. Peters has said he understands that the deal offered to the Greens is a confidence and supply agreement, and the numbers I’ve heard are 4 ministers inside cabinet for NZ First, a parliamentary under-secretary2, and 3 ministers and an under-secretary for the Greens. The leadership team will likely be Jacinda Ardern as Prime Minister and Winston Peters as Deputy Prime Minister, although he hasn’t yet confirmed that role.

The TV news is making a big deal that National was the plurality winner, and for the first time isn’t part of the governing arrangement despite that. Our government has always had a constitutional requirement that only needed a majority of seats in the House to secure the treasury benches and the premiership, and that’s what the new Labour-New Zealand First coalition looks to have secured. This is really no big deal, and given that we have recently re-endorsed MMP, people will simply have to get used to the idea that any group of parties that gets over 50% gets to be the government, as it’s not going to change any time soon. I do expect there are some that will take some time to get used to the idea, but it might as well be now, because I expect it to happen again a few times before FPP thinking dies off.

New Zealand First are likely to be looking at areas like regional development, housing, primary industries, immigration, and education in terms of their policy areas of interest.

The Greens are currently holding a Special General Meeting online (better for the environment, more convenient for delegates) to vote on whether they will accept the deal negotiated with Labour, (the various branches having already had discussions on what sorts of agreements we favour, and then instructed their delegates) however the worst likely option is that they might ask for some adjustments before approving the deal3, if they don’t simply approve it outright. The party will seek a full consensus if possible, rather than resorting to the 75% vote that is the minimum requirement to pass a deal, because that’s an important part of party culture. They have officially confirmed to members via email that they are discussing the deal right now, and Jacinda has committed to not interrupting that process.

The offer from Labour, according to Winston, is likely to be a confidence and supply agreement, and this has now been confirmed by James Shaw, who says this is an ideal level of seperation and involvement for the Greens’ first time in government and given the election result. What does that arrangement mean for the Greens?

Well, firstly, it’s approve confidence and supply, or let National govern. Abstaining would give National a majority of one in terms of the remaining votes and thus afford them the support of the house, and Winston appears to have made locking the Greens out of coalition part of its deal, so it’s the only realistic option. There is a valid option to walk away from an agreement and just let National govern if the Greens feel that Labour is abusing their position, so the commentary by some in the media that the Greens have “nowhere else to go” is just wrong, they simply don’t want to go with their other option if they can avoid it. Besides, Labour will want to have the Greens on-side in case there is an option to ditch New Zealand First in three years time.

Secondly, it means more flexibility to criticize and question the government, exempting them from collective responsibility for cabinet decisions, which New Zealand First won’t have, while still giving them access to ministerial positions that can be left out of cabinet, which might include responsibilities like Minister for the Environment, for Climate Change, for Social Development, or for Transport. The ministers appointed outside cabinet would still have ministerial responsibility, so the Greens will need to be careful about which areas they accept ministerial portfolios in, as they will technically be responsible for not just all government policy in that area, but also the operation of those ministries, so they will ideally want any ministers be appointed in areas where they’ve achieved siginificant policy gains or policy alignment with Labour in terms of which ministries they take up. The Greens apparently know which portfolios they have been offered, but are waiting for Labour to announce their entire cabinet before they confirm them.

It’s likely to also include policy concessions, although perhaps not as much as going into full coalition, as that extra independence from the new government will have to come at a price.

This arrangement is not the same thing as the previous arrangements that the Greens have had in the last term of the Clark government or after they crossed the floor over the GE issue, as they will actively be supporting the new government, and in that case they were actually completely on the cross benches. It will be more akin to the relationship between the National Party and the Māori Party last term, but with a stronger junior partner who will be needed to pass any legislation that National doesn’t agree with Labour on. (This also means that Green ministers would be in a similar position to what the previous Māori Party minister was, where they would be asked questions in the House during Question Time, but they would be in a more powerful position where Labour couldn’t sideline them by going to other parties for votes very often, as their only option is getting National onside)

It’s worth noting that although technically parties with a Confidence and Supply agreement are not part of the government proper, even though their ministers are considered part, so if one of the co-leaders is not given a Ministry, they’d be in a position to be openly critical of government policy, and the other could still hold the government to account on areas not related to their portfolio. Of course, reporters or the public never made that distinction in the past, so it’s relevant to see whether they can be convinced that there is a difference between C&S and coalition this time.

A lot of party members have argued that staying at arms-length of a government that needs New Zealand First’s support to sideline the National Party and ACT is probably a good idea, and to be honest I can’t quite disagree. The Greens will likely be transparent about whose idea confidence and supply was is that is indeed the nature of the offer they got, and will be careful not to ruffle feathers while doing so.

While this may not be the ideal government all of us wanted, it will also prevent an almost-unprecedented four-term National government and relieve the pressure on people who are reliant on the state for support, or medical care, or education, and who have been suffering under an under-funded public sector.

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I return, not with a wholly original take, but rather with an important rebuttal of one Martyn Bradbury.

A little context: This is a man who, once upon a time, was someone I looked up to. (Back when radio was still a thing and he ran a youth talkback show) Politically our opinions have diverged a lot while we both retain the same core philosophy. We both agree that large political institutions aren’t working for regular people and we both like inspiring radicals who want to end those problems, like Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn. I remain a Green, wheras I’m not sure Martyn has ever really decided if he believes in any particular political party, as I recall him supporting just about every Party to the left of United Future at one point or another, and it tends to be based on whichever one is opposing the current target of his indignation.

But in addition to his occasional forays into conspiracy theory and poorly founded political opinion, Martyn has now signed up for the “unite or die” philosophy on voting in trying to get people to change the government. While it is good to have him off the TOP cheerleading bandwagon now that he’s checked up on them and realised they intend to sit on the cross-benches rather than actually try to change the government, as usual he’s going about trying to convince people in entirely the wrong way. Those of you who have read other posts know my firm conviction that your vote is yours to decide what to do with, (even if I don’t like that decision, or even if you decide not to vote) and that neither parties nor pundits should be trying to bully anyone into giving it away to someone they’re not comfortable voting for, rather their duty is to earn your vote.

For a supporter of Sanders and Corbyn, Bradbury hasn’t got that left-wing movements tend to change governments by inspiring people. Left-wing voters want to fall in love with an idea, it’s right-wing voters, steeped in authoritarian values, who are more responsive to fear as a motivating force, which is why they’ve united around National and successfully turned out in large numbers whenever it’s looked like Labour is going to beat them enough with their tired, uninspring policies to get back into government. It of course doesn’t help that Labour has had a serious case of too many chiefs, but that’s a discussion not directly relevant to this post.

Bradbury is calling for people to “get over” their distaste with Labour’s tone on immigration, (and yes, it’s the tone, not the policy itself, that is the problem: voters are still looking at them like they’re trying to ape NZ First, because quite honestly, that seems to be the intention) and vote for a party that will change the government anyway, and dismissing all the critics as twitter liberals1. That’s a terrible pitch.

Firstly, if you want a party that’s left-wing but doesn’t hate immigrants, you have one choice that we’re sure will make it into Parliament, and that’s the Greens. They have an unabashedly pro-immigrant policy, but they also make a concession to the reality that the infrastructure necessary to support the amount of immigrants that want to go to Auckland will need some time to build up after National’s neglect, and so immigration settings will probably need to be a bit more selective2, while still having a policy that supports the rights of the new kiwis that are already here and the ones we plan to let in. You can also cross your fingers and party vote Mana, but personally I wouldn’t recommend the risk that until you’re sure Hone is coming back.

Yes, the Greens haven’t been out there tooting a liberal left-wing radical trumpet. This is a deliberate campaigning strategy they have been maintaining for several terms now, despite being just as liberal and just as left-wing as when Sue Bradford thought she could win the co-leader race. (and yes, many Greens would still welcome her back if she wanted to come) The fact is that running a moderate campaign that focuses on popular liberal and environmental messages has worked for the Greens, so they’re playing nice with Labour while focusing on the areas that have worked for them in the past, and trying to differentiate themselves from New Zealand First and Labour without burning any bridges. It’s a tough balance to juggle and I don’t envy James or Metiria their jobs in maintaining it. The fact is, however, that this is still a party with a policy package that is pretty damn left wing. They unapologetically support any liberal cause you could like, and they want to raise benefits, move towards a UBI system, legalise cannabis, and you know, basically hit every populist issue that’s out there. It’s hard to get further to the left than I am, and I whole-heartedly endorse their policies for this election, and believe that their candidates are committed to them and would do everything they can to advocate those policies in government. (or if necessary, from opposition)

If you’re okay with the immigration rhetoric and subtly dogwhistling to the less racially sensitive parts of NZ and are cool with voting for Labour, great. But don’t try and bully people into being okay by telling them they don’t have options. They do. I’ve heard from enough people uncomfortable with Labour’s positioning that even if they all didn’t like the Greens, they could probably get Mana in off the list if they all co-ordinated, campaigned, and voted for them.

And to those in Labour who aren’t comfortable with the rhetoric but also don’t want to leave because they are doggedly loyal, or because they actually like a centrist brand of politics, or because Labour has historically been good to their Māori or Pasifika community: The criticism isn’t aimed at you, and I wish you all the best in convincing the party not to engage in racist rhetoric in the future. But until that change in rhetoric eventuates, I’m not going to recommend anyone vote for your party, even if they’re not comfortable with their other options, because you can’t earn my respect this way.

New Zealand is a nation forged by an alliance between Māori and immigrants, and only a party that knows better than to betray that constitutional principle of our country has earned any co-operation from me or people like me. And that principle that immigrants willing to come here, work hard, and honour the people of the land should all be welcome is a core part of who we are. We can say we need some time to be able to provide immigrants we welcome in with an acceptable standard of living, (and it’s okay for us to use our own definition of acceptable there, rather than “whatever will still get people immigrating here,” because we as voters are the judges of what the kiwi standard of life should be) but closing the borders entirely, or pandering to people’s racial anxieties, strikes me as a fundamentally stupid idea.

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So, with Bill English and Paula Bennett now anointed by the National caucus as our new leaders, the pre-campaign is now off to its start. In the drivers’ seat, we have the man who lead National to its worst-ever loss, and beside him probably the second-most despised woman in National’s caucus, which is more of an achievement than it sounds because Judith Collins.

On the other side of the aisle, Andrew Little can’t help but being pleased by the news of who he’s up against. (And I imagine Annette King and/or Metiria Turei are keenly eying Paula Bennet’s seat for 2017…) With Labour taking back the Wellington Mayoralty from a Green-aligned independent, (basically by default, as no Green was running, and Wellington is basically the most left-wing liberal place in the country right now) and it winning the latest by-election in what was essentially a straight contest between National and Labour, Little probably feels resurgent right now. And that’s a dangerous feeling.

There is an opinion piece on the Herald that is just close enough to being right on this that it’s worth linking. Heather correctly points out that while English is a record-breaking loser, (performing even worse than Labour has during its constant leadership struggles) he lost to an ascendant Helen Clark coming off her first term. Little might have the chops to be Prime Minister, but he’s no second-term Clark just yet. (and hopefully, he won’t try to be- while Clark was a successful Prime Minister, she set a precedent as PM that has infected the Labour Party with careerists who are unwilling to step aside and accept a renewal. Little needs to be his own type of leader if he’s to succeed) This is still an election Little can lose, even though English makes even Little’s off-days look vibrant and interesting by comparison.

Heather is wrong to say that Labour can’t snag some of the fleeing National voters who will, inevitably, leave the party fold after Key’s resignation. In fact, I suspect Labour will likely get a 1% bump even without trying from the news, as there were many Key supporters who had come from Labour’s tribe and supported Labour values. At least some of those people will look at their options and conclude that now is the time to re-enter the fold as Labour supporters. It could even be more than a 1% bump if Little can come up with an appealing positive vision for Labour heading into 2020. But Heather is absolutely right to imply that much of the loss from National is likely to either head towards NZ First or simply into the non-voter pile, at least in the next couple of polls.

Speaking of polling, all the 2016 trends before now are essentially out the window. (And we’ll have no way of knowing if the recent surge for National after a slow trend towards Labour and the Greens for much of 2016 was temporary or semi-permanent, as we’re now all expecting a noticable falloff in the Government’s polling this month anyway) We are looking at a different government now, no matter how much National wishes to maintain continuity. Heather is wrong to keep bashing Labour over the head with recent polling. We should be waiting and seeing where they poll after Key’s resignation in terms of looking at horse race results, and those numbers aren’t going to be out until we’re well into the holiday season, so there’s really no room for numbers-based reporting until then.

Nick Legett’s defection, seen by mainstream pundits as somehow a reflection on Labour, really says a lot more about what a centrist sell-out Nick Legett is, and why Wellington so soundly rejected him. He belongs in the National Party, and always did as far as I’m concerned. Good riddance to bad rubbish, the Left doesn’t need pretenders taking up space in its ranks, and National needs more moderate liberals to adjust to the new political consensus John Key has forged, where National can no longer win by selling themselves as a purely right-wing party. John Key’s political legacy, arguably, is ceding the war to the Left in order to win the battle: a concession that conservative right-wing governments in an MMP era is asking too much of a liberal, centrist electorate.

Heather’s also wrong to take issue with Little’s comments about “not knowing what the centre is.” He’s actually being reasonably savvy here- Centre voters love to be talked about in terms of being politically unlabelled, defying the conventional wisdom, and being just ordinary people. In its full context, Little was actually pandering to the centre while simultaneously saying he’s not trying to and managing to sound honest at the same time. By the standards of new-millennium kiwi political rhetoric, (hint: those are pretty low thanks to our former Prime Minister, and his predecessor wasn’t exactly one for rhetoric even though she was an excellent politician) this was practically masterful.

Little should also know that the advice to go hard for the centre is bad advice. Labour performs its worst when it’s self-conscious about where it is positioning itself. If it wants to be the nexus of a left-wing government in 2017, Little will need to lead Labour towards its own electoral identity, one with a populist appeal to working and struggling New Zealanders, that can plausibly say it will do better for ordinary kiwis than National. It should be picking policies that resonate with Labour’s identity, not because they think they will sell well to the centre. If Cunliffe showed anything positive about New Zealand politics, it’s that people are willing to be persuaded to policies they disagree with if they’re told how they’ll benefit the public, and that the electorate does have respect for politicians who will tell them things like they are.

Little doesn’t necessarily need the politics of the Centre to win, although he’d be wise to keep a big tent. He needs a politics of honesty and integrity. There are missing and demotivated voters out there who have been waiting to hear a left-wing message from Labour too, and if Little can get them without scaring away the centre as well, then his confidence may not be misplaced.

Crickets…

Posted: June 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Well, this is not entirely unexpected.

Labour are keeping a low profile in regards to the Green Party’s climate policy- I can see two reasons why they wouldn’t immediately have a reaction:

  • Labour will wade into this space later in order to fight hard on the Green’s home ground and try to cannibalise some votes off its strongest support partner.
  • or Labour is intending to not contest climate policy at all, will not announce any significant measures of its own, and will “concede” to the Green’s policy as part of “negotiations”, so that they can either take credit for supporting it if it’s popular (which I find hard not to believe) or wash their hands of it if it isn’t.

Given that Cunliffe has failed to steer the Labour Party entirely back to its routes, and just sailed the ship a few smidges more left of centre1, I don’t really have any suspicions it’s going to be a warm embrace of the policy, but I can always hope to be proven wrong.

1Centre being a political milestone which for some reason seems to be drifting rightward ever since the 1980s…