Labour versus Greens

In May Labour appeared to have conceded they had no show of contesting the election on their own when the announced a memorandum of Understanding with the Greens. This is likely to have helped an alarming slide in support in the polls.

In July Greens appeared to decide that Labour were a hopeless case. Metiria Turei made a big play on her beneficiary past at their conference, and with a surge in support the Greens seemed to have decided to go it alone and get whatever votes they could, at the expense of Labour and at risk of losing Labour/Greens the election.

That all changed facing appalling polls Andrew Little stood down from the Labour leadership, opening the way for the rise of Jacinda Ardern. This was followed by things turning to custard for the Greens, with Turei and two other MPs withdrawing from the Green list, and Turei stepping down as leader.

This time it was the Greens who plummeted in the polls.

Understanding they had been presented with an opportunity for further recovery Ardern and Labour seemed to show a ruthless side, and that has continued.

Stacey Kirk: Move over John Key, Jacinda Ardern is the new smiling assassin

The Greens are set to unveil their climate change policy on Sunday – the primary reason they exist as an issues-based party.

But in what appeared to media to be a late change to her schedule on Friday, Ardern unveiled the party’s climate change policy, promising “real action” with a net zero target for greenhouse emissions by 2050.

…this is not the first time Labour has stolen the Greens’ thunder.

It pounced on announcing rapid rail for the Golden Triangle between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, as well as a city-to-airport rail link for Auckland. Both are core Green policies that were overshadowed and it is understood sections of the party believe it was a deliberate tactic by Labour.

Now that sounds like a declaration of cold war with the Greens, and it would be naive to think it is not completely calculated.

There gets to be a point during campaigns – particularly if polling starts teetering over 40 per cent – when a party will just see how far it can go. The others will fall into line depending on how the votes are cast.

The Greens decided to see how far they could go at Labour’s expense, and failed badly. Now Labour are being ruthlessly opportunistic.

It would be very strange if parties didn’t put their own interests first, even if they have some sort of understanding with another party. The MoU seems to be largely irrelevant now.

But Labour and the Greens are locked into an awkward situation where they can’t be overly complimentary of one another. More pressing for Labour, it can’t openly knock the Greens to expand its own vote and get a lead on National.

The Greens are just in the cut at this point, but any move to keep them down could have benefits for National if the Greens end up outside Parliament.

But Labour may benefit if the Greens miss the threshold, as long as they are comfortably ahead of National. And they maximise their chances of staying clear of National if they poach Green votes.

If Labour require both NZ First and Greens to form a government it could mean very difficult negotiations – if NZ First would have anything to do with it. It would be far easier to deal with just one other party.

And there’s more reasons why Labour may prefer to have the Greens out of the coalition equation, if not out of Parliament.

If Labour need the Greens that will drag them left, making it harder to hold the all important centre.

If Labour want to bring in welfare reform and address poverty and housing and climate change they would probably prefer to get all the credit themselves rather than Greens claiming it was all their doing.

And there is also a risk that a coalition involving the Greens would be generally unpopular.

In fact even the prospects of Greens being in government is an impediment to Labour’s election chances.

Labour seems to be well aware that it will be better for them for the campaign and in Government if they were Green-less.

The Memorandum of Understanding is almost shot. It expires on election day and Ardern has been very careful not to box herself into anything with the Greens if NZ First proves to be more valuable.

All they get is the promise of a first phone call.

Which pretty much means nothing. Regardless of claims of cooperation and loyalty to the MoU after the election each party will be out for whatever they can get. Labour will want as much of the say and the power as they can get.

Of course, the Greens can’t partner with anyone else in practise so if they want to be in Government they’ll have to suck it up, no matter how poorly Labour might have treated them in the past.

By ruling out any deal with National Greens have already given themselves only one option, Labour or bust. If the scrape in above the threshold they will have a very shaky mandate and will be in a very weak position.

James Shaw doesn’t appear to be a very strong leader either.

Labour are likely to exploit this. Now she has become Labour leader Ardern has shown she has the mettle to be what every successful leader needs  – to be ruthless. That may also end up meaning Greenless.


  1. Corky

     /  September 10, 2017

    Post election, the Green Party will be one of the major shows to watch. The permutations are many. My bet is on a split, with Jeanette Fitzsimons having some part to play forming ‘The New Greens.’

    • Gezza

       /  September 10, 2017

      After changing regime, Labour is now eating its Greens. 👍🏼 🍴 🌱🌿🍃

  2. Gerrit

     /  September 10, 2017

    Labour even on the 43% mark need the Greens and the Maori party to govern. Without the Greens, Labour will need NZ First (with or without out the Maori party).

    On current polling National and NZ First can form a government, especially if the Green vote falls below 6%. Even more so if the Greens disappear below 5%.

    So far the polling suggest that Labour will be the “first cab on the rank” to start negotiating with the minor parties. Assurance to be the government is not a given even at 43% of the vote.

    Maybe the Greens will be miffed enough not to go into government with Labour? After all they are an activist party and actually having to govern is not strong in an activist mindset.

  3. robertguyton

     /  September 10, 2017

    The Greens are ready and able to govern. Their relationship with Labour is in place. They will be in Government together when the election results are compiled. Your supposings are mistaken. Not long to go now! Exciting times! Green times!

    • There’s no guarantee the Greens will be in parliament let alone in government. You’re making grandiose presumptions ahead of of the voters having their say.

      At best the Greens will have between one fifth and one tenth the say in Government, but have at least as much chance of having no say.

      • robertguyton

         /  September 10, 2017

        The Greens will soon be standing beside a triumphant Jacinda, Pete George, beaming down loving Green thoughts over all doubters like yourself, ’cause we care.

    • PDB

       /  September 10, 2017

      RG: “Not long to go now! Exciting times!”

      When it all turns to custard it will be ‘exciting times’………even more exciting if Winston is still required.

    • Ray

       /  September 10, 2017

      Robert, is it true there has been a rush on tin foil down south?
      Remember the Greens have not managed to match the polls when it comes to Election Day, they are just hovering above the 5% cutoff point and it seems Miss Ardern has taken Key’s “smiling assassin” label as her own.
      That plus history suggest it really isn’t looking good for a Green component in the next a Government.
      Not that reality has ever been Green thing, homeopathy or anti-vaccine anyone!

      • robertguyton

         /  September 10, 2017

        Ray – when The Greens poll high, the final figure comes down a bit with the vote. With The Greens polling lower, I expect the opposite effect to occur – a higher-than-expected total with the vote. Your dream that Jacinda wants to or intends to destroy The Greens is completely wrong – she knows as I know, the Green/Labour combo is the winning one and this is what, imo, we will get.

    • “Their relationship with Labour is in place…” Not from what I’ve seen and read, in a wide range of sites.

  4. Gerrit

     /  September 10, 2017

    Robert, My point is that unless the Greens get at least 8 or 9% in the vote, they are not much use to Labour. A low Green vote and only 2 Maori party seats is not enough for Labour to govern in coalition with the Greens and the Maori Party. What they can do is ditch the Greens and Maori Party and form an unholy alliance with NZ First (off course they could include the Greens and Maori Party in that alliance but can either of those two minor parties work with NZ First?

    The greenfly in the ointment is that National and NZ First (on current polling) can actually form a government, leaving Labour, Greens and Maori Party on the cross benches.

    But the numbers are too fickle in the polls to get any measure of combination s so you may be right.

    I expect the National party to go all out these last two weeks on Labour’s weakest link and that is their inability to set accurate taxation figures for CGT, Water Tax or Wealth Taxes, etc.

    These is general uneasy with all the new taxation’s being instigated (the latest a carbon tax) and the effect on the volume of money remaining in the tax payers back pocket.

    • “But the numbers are too fickle in the polls” – All this poll-watching is indeed fascinating. Just look at Brexit and Trump. So many experts got it wrong. I suspect, like Robert Guyton above, it is simply an attempt to talk into being the future they want.
      Sadly, there are many in the electorate who see voting as a competition of picking the winner rather than considering the people, the policies and the potential ramifications. In that respect, the almost constant polling serves a need.

      • robertguyton

         /  September 10, 2017

        I don’t care about the polls, unless the show something truly astonishing. I keep an ear to the ground. I reckon, Labour/Green, done and dusted, thank you for playing.

      • PDB

         /  September 10, 2017

        This election the polls have been VERY important…………… becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        *Greens surge in one particular poll where Labour drops dramatically – Little falls on his sword.
        *Greens drop dramatically in some polls and Turei falls on her sword.
        *Dunne trailing in his electorate in the polls and he falls on his sword.
        *MSM go full-on ‘Jacinda for PM’ mode and Labour surges in the polls which may yet leave Winston out in the cold once again & National into opposition.

    • robertguyton

       /  September 10, 2017

      Nice little insectorial allusion there, Gerrit 🙂 Ah, the good ol’ days…
      8 or 9%, you reckon?
      I reckon.

  5. David

     /  September 10, 2017

    Taking out the Greens is the easiest and most logical path and she made it pretty clear on day one that that was the plan. Given how spineless Shaw is in the face of Labour stealing their policies and votes he said he and Jacinda have been mates for a decade his weakness has allowed her to look strong.
    Its not rocket science but she needs to wipe out the Greens because there are loads of easy votes to steal from them and there are votes lost to her because some people worried about letting the Greens anywhere near governing.
    She has basically done what the Greens should always have done, appear to care for the environment without scaring the crap out of people with loopiness.

    • robertguyton

       /  September 10, 2017

      “Wiping out The Greens” is your fondly nurtured fantasy, David. No grounding in reality though. Still, if it settles your palpitations…

      • David

         /  September 10, 2017

        I would prefer they were on 13% and then nutty economy killing green taxes which do nothing for the environment would then remain the domain of an ineffectual Green party. Because the Greens stuffed up so badly we ended up with Jacindamania and the guarantee of job killing taxes.

  6. Zedd

     /  September 10, 2017

    fascinating that many in the media are almost writing the Greens off (<5% ?) but the polls are being increasingly seen, as a nonsense; landlines only, when in fact many younger voters (who bother to vote) likely dont have a landline & are more likely to vote Green !

    even though it seems that the 'Jacinda effect' has likely taken some votes from Greens, the MOU still stands, until 23/9 to change this tired, outdated Govt. Its MMP folks; not FPP

    btw; the only 'poll' that really counts is election day.. we shall see who is in & out.. after that :/

    • If the landline-heavy polls are more likely to reach the non-young and young people are also less likely to vote it would seem that the landline-heavy polls would be more representative of the actual results than one that easily reached young people.

  7. Gerrit

     /  September 10, 2017

    Current polling Greens and Labour need the Maori Party. Or Labour ditches the Greens and Maori Party, courts NZ First for a “interesting” government.

    This is MMP. For under MMP, it is possible for National, on current polling figures to make a government with NZ First and Act.