The Labour Party is foundering in election and poll support and floundering between the Green Party and NZ First.
Up until and including the 2014 election Labour went it alone, hoping to get a high enough vote to cobble together a coalition.
Since then they have sent out signals that they have given up trying to be a major party in a head to head contest with National and instead hope to win back power with the support of both the greens and NZ First.
This in itself is a major shift in status.
Following their three election wins under Helen Clark’s leadership Labour formed coalitions with Alliance, Progressives, NZ First and United Future.
Greens were excluded, notably in 2005 when Labour chose to snub them to get Winston Peters’ support.
But now, after a poor 2014 election getting only 27% and continuing with similar levels of support in polls Labour has been forced into looking for pre-election alliances to try and convince voters they are a credible government-in-waiting.
Labour and Greens have shown some signs of working together and have made noises about forging some joint policy positions.
But Labour probably needs something like 40% to be able to succeed with only the Greens. Polls put the Greens mostly between 10% and 15% but they tend to rise when Labour recedes.
A Labour-Green government doesn’t look likely. And even if the two parties jointly looked like getting enough support there seems to be electoral resistance to a government
And Labour seems to accept they will have to depend on the support of NZ First as well as Greens if they are to form the next government.
But it’s well known that Peters doesn’t particularity like the Greens, and is unlikely to want to play third fiddle to Labour and the Greens in a coalition.
NZ First support is rising. If they beat the Greens in next year’s election Winston would be second fiddle, but he still may resist playing a similar tune to the Greens.
Another problem is that while the Greens are keen to present themselves alongside Labour as a joint alternative to National Winston has made it clear he won’t play along.
Stuff reports: Winston Peters says no chance of joint policy with Labour, despite Andrew Little’s claims
NZ First leader Winston Peters doubts it was “deliberate” but says Labour leader Andrew Little is wrong to say there are plans for the two parties to jointly campaign on policy.
Earlier on Sunday Little said he was talking with both the Greens and NZ First, separately, about issues where there is common ground that they could campaign on ahead of next year’s general election.
He said the public would know “well in time for next year’s election” where all three parties line-up and where there are differences.
“In terms of specific joint policy announcements, we’re certainly not there yet, but between now and the next election I certainly wouldn’t rule out (joint policy) with either of those parties.”
But Peters says his position not to discuss potential coalition governments, or joint policy, hasn’t changed in 23 years and he “won’t depart from that now”.
“We row our own boat and we formulate our own policy.”
One thing Peters has remained staunch about is not giving any indication which way NZ First might swing in coalition negotiations.
National haven’t needed to consider NZ First as an option after each of the last three elections. It is more likely they may need NZ First to successfully form a fourth term government.
Peters knows this well and will want to keep his options open right up to next year’s election.
So Labour can’t campaign as a Labour-Green-NZ First alternative.
Their difficulties don’t end there.
They are left trying to present a joint Labour-Green alternative, and have said they will offer joint policies.
But this pulls Labour left and towards the Greens, which will make them less attractive to both voters as a whole and to NZ First.
I very much doubt that Peters will want to be seen as a tack on to Labour-Greens.
So if Labour are to get a chance to form the next government they may have to throw out all their joint policies developed with the Greens in order to make any headway with NZ First.
Greens are determined to finally get into a meaningful position in government and won’t be happy with that at all.
On top of this Peters seems to look with disdain at party leaders who have barely been in Parliament for five minutes – and both Andrew little and James Shaw have only become party leaders this term.
Metiria Turei has been around for longer, first getting in to Parliament via the Green list in 2002 and becoming co-leader in 2009, but I haven’t seen any sign of a rapport between Peters and a former candidate for the McGillicuddy Serious or Legalise Cannabis parties.
Peters rightfully sees himself as an elder statesman but may think that that should equate to leading a coalition – and leading the country.
Little has a huge challenge ahead of him to try and negotiate this political minefield and present himself and Labour as a credible alternative.
It looks like Labour are caught between a Green rock and a NZ First hard place.