Little concedes Greens+NZ First required

Andrew Little has conceded that Labour will need both the Greens and NZ First to form a coalition.

So the election is shaping up to be National versus three parties – but don’t forget the Maori Party.

RNZ:  Little defends Labour’s record on helping Māori

Mr Little did not rule out the party as a coalition partner, and allowed that both Mr Jones and Winston Peters could be considered for ministerial positions under a Labour government.

“I think when you’re putting together a coalition government, obviously you’ve got your potential coalition partners.

“For us it is naturally the Greens, obviously New Zealand First as well.”

“There’s going to be bids put up and there’s going to be what is needed to have a strong stable government pulled it together, and that would almost certainly involve MPs from each of those parties in a Cabinet.

“Quite what the detail of that is, how that looks, would be a matter for any discussions after the election.”

While Little said “For us it is naturally the Greens, obviously New Zealand First as well” that is a new concession, and is far from a natural position for Labour to be in.

A lot was said last year when Labour tied their election chances with the Greens through a Memorandum of Understanding.

The clear understanding from this was that Labour had conceded that they couldn’t compete on their own with National any more, after their support had slid from being the leading party in 2005 to trailing National by 22% in the 2014 election.

Labour’s share of election vote has gone down in every election this century. Recent polls have them stuck in the twenties with a real risk of a slump similar to last election.

Labour+Greens was not the game-changer that Labour hoped for. It seemed to reinforce their non-major party status and the polls failed to lift.

The Greens also haven’t lifted their support, and with their combined support in polls being around 40% the likelihood of a Labour+Green coalition looks low.

And it looks like it could be worse than just requiring both Greens and NZ First to form a government.

Labour are at real risk of not having a majority in a Labour+Greens+NZ First arrangement.

Both Greens and NZ First are looking likely to get 10-15% of the vote. If Labour get something 25% like last election (a distinct possibility and it could go lower) and both Greens and NZ First got more than 12.5% each the Green+NZ First vote could easily be higher than Labour’s.

That means it’s quite possible Labour could have less than half the say in a coalition, less than half the say on policies and less than half the ministers in Cabinet (if NZ First doesn’t go with National).

With both Winston Peters and Shane Jones having histories of disdain for the Greens their combined vote may not be strong against Labour’s, but it Little’s hope that “there’s going to be what is needed to have a strong stable government pulled it together” – Greens and NZ First – looks a long shot.

The choices this election look to be:

  • National+NZ First with National having about 3 times the vote of NZ First
  • Labour+Greens+NZ First with no party having a majority
  • Labour+Greens+NZ First with Labour having a small majority

The dynamics of a Labour led coalition will depend not just on whether Labour gets a majority or not, but also which of Greens and NZ First is the larger partner.

Greens are currently polling better but their support tends to fall off in campaigns, while NZ First support has tended to surge.

Voters will be considering whether it is time to dump National after three terms, but also have to wonder what a Labour+Green+NZ First alternative would look like, and try to guess what sort of power balance and stability a tri-party coalition might have.

Don’t forget the Maori Party.

If voters are reluctant to ditch National for fear of the alternative the National vote may hold up in the mid forties.

If the Maori Party are successful in their head to head battle with Labour over Maori seats and get a couple more seats that could make things very interesting.

(Little) said Labour’s Māori representation was going from strength to strength and, after the election, Labour would have the largest representation of Māori of any party in the history of New Zealand.

“If you look at the track record of the Māori Party, they’ve hitched their wagon to the National Party government for the last nine years, actually things have got worse for Māori.

Little has made it clear that Labour don’t want the Maori Party in their coalition considerations.

National have shown a consistent willingness to work with the Maori Party, and it is feasible they could have a choice between NZ First and the Maori Party to form the next government, and possibly also ACT+Dunne as another option.

In comparison Labour seems to only be considering a Labour+Green+NZ First coalition. With barely a majority or a minority in that mix that potentially puts them in a very weak bargaining position.

Labour risk becoming political lame ducks, and if voters get this perception before voting it could turn out badly.

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