Green options

Bryce Edwards suggests four options for the Green Party in The Greens go nuclear – and other options: (but he misses another option).

Greens option #1: Go nuclear

Green MP Barry Coates has spilt the beans about the fact that the Greens are considering making the threat to pull the plug on a Labour-NZ First government and refusing to provide their votes in Parliament to allow a minority government to govern.

According to Patrick Gower, the revelation from Coates “has shown the Greens are ready to enter a high-stakes game of political chicken with Peters. James Shaw has tried to hose this down but hasn’t actually ruled this out – that’s because it is pretty much the Greens’ only option. The problem is, it doesn’t exactly make the Labour-Green-NZ First combination look stable. In fact, Winston Peters is suddenly looking more stable than the Greens” – see: Green Party’s ‘nuclear’ election threat shows fear of Winston.

This is all very extreme, Gower says: “It is an extreme call that demonstrates the extreme fear the Greens have of Winston. It shows us they are panicked by the current rise of Peters. It also shows us that the Greens don’t trust New Zealand First. But more importantly, it shows us the Greens don’t trust Labour.”

They should be wary of what both NZ First and Labour might do. They are competing for votes with Labour in particular. They have a problem in needing Labour to get them into power.

Greens option #2: Appeal for more votes in order to counter NZ First

They will obviously want to “appeal for more votes” regardless – that’s kind the aim of contesting an election.

The Greens’ ideal scenario is one in which the New Zealand First vote collapses and the Greens shift well ahead of them to maintain their position as the third biggest party. In that situation, Labour might not need Winston Peters, or in any case it would be even more difficult to push the Greens aside.

The Greens seem to have decided to go hard against their rival party, and to use the strategy they think might best damage New Zealand First – challenge their progressive credentials, especially in terms of racism.

It’s not appealing for votes that will counter NZ First. Greens seem to have chosen to highlight negatives for NZ First to deter people from voting for them. Negative campaigning is supposed to be not the Green way, but they are very negative about National.

So this isn’t appealing for more votes for themselves, it’s appealing to voters not to support other parties.

This is just standard campaigning – the aim is always more votes for them, less votes for others.

Greens option #3: The crossbenches

The Greens seem hell-bent on getting Cabinet roles under a Labour-led government. But given that minor parties normally suffer from being involved in coalition governments, shouldn’t the Greens relish the chance to avoid the fate of every other minor party that has been punished after taking Cabinet positions?

I argued in a previous column, Have the Greens gone too far, or not far enough? that the Greens would probably be better off and possibly more influential if they stayed out of government and remained on the crossbenches: “that is possibly the answer to the Greens’ current dilemma – commit to being on the cross-benches, supporting a Labour-led government, on a case-by-case policy basis. That seems to be a potentially powerful place for minor parties to exist, flourish, and have plenty of influence. The problem for the Green MPs, however, is this way you don’t get the Cabinet positions and baubles of office for yourself.”

The Greens have made it clear they won’t enable a National government from the cross benches so this is only an option if they support Labour+NZ First from outside government. They have made it clear that this is not something they want to do.

It would be particularly hard if Labour’s vote shrinks and NZ First’s grows.

Would Greens support Winston Peters as Prime Minister, either as a part of a tri-party coalition or from the cross benches? That would be very hard for them.

Greens option #4: Negotiate with National

In theory, if the Greens are left out of government by Labour and New Zealand First, they could still negotiate a better deal with National. And, although the Greens have seemingly closed off the option of working with National, they haven’t categorically ruled out supporting a National-led government.

They seem to have all but ruled out enabling and supporting a National-led government in any way.

This option is surely only a bargaining position, as it would be an extreme high-risk move in reality. The history of such bold political realignments suggests that it would work, but only once, and at great cost. The massive internal Green ructions following a decision to prop up National would likely destroy or severely damage the party before any tangible benefits would be realised.

But having virtually ruled out helping National the Greens don’t have much of a bargaining position, it’s accept what Labour give them or nothing.

Their only way of increasing their bargaining is increasing their share of the vote relative to Labour and especially relative to NZ First. Which means seeking as many votes as possible, which is what all parties try to do, that’s the key to MMP.

Another Green option – setting themselves up for the future

I think the Greens actually have two key options – doing everything they can to get whatever they can out of this election (which may be only crumbs from Labour if NZ First allow it).

Alternately they could look to the future, in particular positioning themselves to benefit as much as possible from what may be a very messy term whether National or Labour lead the next government in coalition with NZ First.

This means going for broke for themselves and competing as hard as possible with votes from all the other parties, including Labour.

And this could include changing past practice and trying to win some electorates. More on that in the next post.

See How many electorates will Greens contest?


Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  16th July 2017

    Until they abandon their hard Left politics I hope they continue to box themselves into a small corner of fantasists.

  2. David

     /  16th July 2017

    One would imagine there is quite a voter rich pool of people who care for the environment but believe in much more centerist economic policies and its succesful and rich economies that demand and afford good environmental outcomes.
    Means torpedoing Turei though.

  3. Corky

     /  16th July 2017

    I watched their conference on One News. One Shelia in the audience was holding a tree sapling. That’d be a vote catcher for sure. Then I watched the NZ1 conference, I didn’t see one blue rinse among the audience. Their only down points for me was Shane Jones pontificating in an interview, and Rom Marks trying to outdo John Wayne with his ” too large” cowboy hat.

    I’m holding off the Greens options because I believe a split may ( repeat, may) be coming should the Greens bomb at the election and gain no political power.

  4. sorethumb

     /  16th July 2017

    sounds like The Greens are going to put bungs in cows backsides?

    • sorethumb

       /  16th July 2017

      I don’t think farmers will agree. A bung will likely come out and there’ll be a mess?

  1. How many electorates will Greens contest? | Your NZ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s