Here at MyThinks, our correspondent has been ferreting and weaseling information out of various political operatives as the coalition negotiations between the major players get underway following the election on Saturday. From the information he has gathered, we have constructed an exact* transcript of negotiations as they have happened so far.
LOCATION: Meeting room 13, Beehive.
LABOUR: Hello Winston. Good to see you. Please come in and sit down. Can we get you anything?
WINSTON: No thanks.
LABOUR: So let’s get down to it. What’s your position? What does your party want?
LABOUR: Um… pardon?
WINSTON: Just gimmie.
LABOUR: Um… gimmie? Gimmie what?
WINSTON: Everything. Gimmie. Gimmie! GIMMIE!!!!
LABOUR: Ok… You are asking quite a lot so we’ll have to go back to caucus and discuss this further. We’ll contact you once we’ve had our discussion.
(Labour negotiators get up from table to leave)
(Labour walk towards the door)
WINSTON: Gimmie!! Gimmie!
(Labour continue out the door)
WINSTON: (calling after Labour negotiators) Gimmie!
LOCATION: Meeting room 13, Beehive. Later that afternoon.
NATIONAL: Hello Winston. Hope you’re feeling well. What would you like? Is there anything the team can get you?
WINSTON: No thanks.
NATIONAL: So let’s get down to it. What’s your position? What does your party want?
NATIONAL: Done. Welcome to government.
*transcript may not be exact or based in reality of any kind.
As it became clear late on Saturday evening that National had lost key coalition partners in the Māori Party and UnitedFuture and ACT was never going to be enough, Matthew Hooton suggested the Greens would be foolish if they would dismiss outright a coalition offer from National.
His basic premise was James Shaw could be offered the chance to make real change as Climate Change Minister under a National-led government.
Immediately my hackles regarding Mr. Hooton’s (and National’s) motivations were immediately raised. My question: why would the Greens go into coalition with National when the latter are effectively diametrically opposed in just about every policy area?
Then late yesterday afternoon I ended up in a twitter exchange with someone talking about the possibility of a Greens / National alliance after reading Audrey Young’s post-election commentary.
My thinking is thus: National are ruthless. Although they won’t want say it publicly, a parliament without the Greens would suit them fine. Considering how visceral the attacks on Metira Turei were following her admission of fiddling the system, I have no doubt in my mind National are only motivated by what is important to National – self-preservation and remaining in power.
Then I got into a discussion over what I would “flip-flop” on.
As I said to Tim last night, National would never cancel their precious tax cuts (despite being fiscally irresponsible). After all, remember when you don’t lower taxes and keep them at their current level, that’s actually raising taxes.
Ask yourself, what would National get out of this hypothetical relationship with the Greens? First of all, their desired goal to remain in power of the machines of government is immediately satiated.
Secondly, the Greens would make National look good both ethically and environmentally; it would be like they were the conscience of the National Party. Aside: wouldn’t it be nice if National could develop their own conscience?
Thirdly, and most importantly, National and many, many media commentators remain stuck in a first past the post world where there must be a winner on election night. That can only happen in a two-party system. Previous relationships with long-term governments – both New Zealand First coalitions, first with National (1996) and then with Labour (2004) – have resulted in disaster for the minor party. The Alliance also disintegrated following their relationship with Labour in the early 2000s. I am certain this will be in the back of National’s mind. If the Greens go with them they will, in seconds, destroy the credibility they’ve built up over the past twenty years. Their poll numbers will collapse and, as we’ve seen in recent weeks, probably return to Labour. That outcome would suit National fine.
For the Greens, it is a lose/lose situation. Yes they would be in power, but at what cost? Going with the party that has intensified dairying in Canterbury to such an extent they had to replace the Canterbury Regional Council with unelected commissioners to continue intensification without the impediment of democratic accountability and council rules. For the Greens the hypocrisy would be palpable.
The MMP environment offers up a range of coalition options for major parties. If National or their supporters are so keen on going with the Greens, surely it would be far more sensible for them to offer a coalition deal to Labour? They would have control over 100 seats between them. That’s a massive voting block. Imagine what they could get done?
Of course, this is a nonsense. National are never going to offer a coalition deal to Labour because Labour are not a minor party. They were a couple of weeks back, but now they are a threat. That’s why this suggestions the Greens go with National is nonsense.
As a final thought, I actually do think many National supporters would prefer their party work with the Greens instead of New Zealand First. If, however, the Greens signed the deal, their vote would collapse. I absolutely believe that and, I am thinking, so do Matthew Hooton and National.
The brains-trust of MyThinks has been crunching the numbers following the election day result. Our analysis has offered up some very interesting possibilities in terms of the make up of the next parliament.
National / New Zealand First
The most likely outcome. New Zealand First have a history of forming coalitions with the party winning the largest share of the vote. National have a history of doing just about anything to stay in power. A National /NZ First government would probably have Bill English as Prime Minister and Winston Peters as Minister of Whatever He Wants. Paula Bennett will be left out in the cold and given something unimportant like sports or tourism. Look for Gerry Brownlee to order a new speakers chair after breaking the old one.
Labour / New Zealand First / Greens
An unlikely scenario as Winston Peters has ruled out ever working with the Greens, unless he gets exactly what he wants, in which case this is possible. Since Labour are not National this is not really on the cards. The Greens have said they are happy to work with Winston so this could be an option, but Winston thinks they are a bunch of dirty hippies, so this is highly unlikely.
Labour / New Zealand First with support from the Greens
Possible. Helen Clark’s last parliament left the Greens on the cross benches supporting Labour on confidence and supply. Since Winston has said he won’t work with the Greens it is possible Labour could go with this option. Watch in the coming days for National and its proxies to repeat over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again that they are the largest party in parliament and therefore it is written into lore they must form the next government. With the media wanting an instant solution to the those claims to round off their 24 hour news cycle, this could put a nail in this coffin for Labour.
National / Green
Not content to have destroyed the Māori Party, United Future, nearly New Zealand First and almost ACT, National proxies have today suggested the Greens start sniffing around for some baubles of power. Far right commentator Matthew Hooton said James Shaw could be Climate Change Minister in the new National government. National don’t really believe in climate change so it would be like putting Helen Clark in charge of dishing out knighthoods. No, Hoots is only suggesting this because he knows a) the Greens would never do it so he can take the moral high ground if they go with Labour, and b) if, by some bizarre stroke of fate, do decide to do it, then National can take them out (and not the pleasant table for two at Denny’s take you out, the Tony Soprano concrete gumboots take you out).
National minority government
National could try to run it alone. After all, Bill English said almost half of New Zealand voted for him. Tough shit that over half voted against him. A minority government would be doomed to failure so, by all means, crack on.
National / Labour
There’s nothing stopping these to neoliberal centrist parties creating a grand coalition. Except the inability of all of Labour to prevent a little bit of sick leaping into the back of their throat every time they thought about it.
ACT-led minority government
Feasibly ACT could cobble together a loose arrangement with some of the larger parties in parliament (at last count, that was all of them). In that way ACT could be the first single seat minnow party to lead a western government. But back in the real world where relevance is a key issue, with just 0.5% of the party vote, ACT might now be the Nigel NoMates of New Zealand politics.
Greens-led party coalition
The Greens could throw caution to the wind and ask individual like-minded MPs from any party to join them for a party on the roof of Bowen House. This has nothing to do with what we’ve been talking about but one can only imagine the quality of the craft beer at this gathering.
PR guru and far-right enthusiast Matthew Hooton tries to run the government from inside the plush offices of the Taxpayer’s Union. WhaleOil and David Farrar get wind of it and tell on him to Judith Collins. National implodes after six months in power and the country heads back to the polls.
Nobody has any idea what the hell Winston Peters is going to do so we should all just go about our normal everyday business until the National Party bribes him the most and they sign the contract.
Well… that was a bit shit.
The empty feeling that appeared deep in my gut last evening around about 8:30pm remains. New Zealand has decided the born-to-rule Tories of the National Party will lead the next government. Yes, we can get in to the semantics of, “But Boon, Labour plus Greens plus Winston First equals 61. That’s a government. We can be the government!”
Yes. A progressive-led government is a technical possibility, but think about this: in 1996 and again in 2005 Winston Peters went with the incumbent government and ended up destroying first National and then Auntie Helen’s government with his nonsense. Everybody knows what he’s like. Like everyone’s drunk uncle, he’s unpredictable and cantankerous. Good if you are in opposition; not so good if you are in government. So, my progressive chums, you have a choice. You can be like National and demand power at any cost (that cost being Winston), or you can just let him go with National and destroy them.
I am urging Jacinda to think very carefully about how much she wants it. You have only been in power for half an hour. Auntie Helen lost the 1996 election and ended up leading our country for nine glorious years. Everyone pines for her. Her legacy is formidable and remains in tact. Does Jacinda really want to risk her legacy before it’s even started. I hope her advisers are pointing this out.
However, as someone pointed out to me on twitter last evening, some New Zealanders need rescuing now. That is the tragedy of this election result. Do progressives push for change now? It’s a hard choice, but then again, I’m not living in a car, or not receiving the mental health care I need, or not able to get “elective” surgery for knee or hip pain, or labeled a “failure” by the education system from the moment I start school, or have gotten e-coli from swimming in the poisoned river running through my town, so it’s very easy for me to say this.
Boomers vs Juniors
How have we got to the point where 46% of New Zealanders are regularly willing to vote Tory? Everybody knows older people are a lot more conservative and a lot easier to turn out. During my twitter feed last night there was a lot of abuse being hurled towards these home-owning boomers. That doesn’t really solve anything. Home owners are just protecting their assets. National, the good Tories they are, played on the fears of those home owners. You’ll be paying more tax! Interest rates will rise! That’s scary stuff if you live inside the better part of $1 million that the bank owns. If you want to attack someone, attack National for their shameless scare tactics.
There is now that divide. Those who own and those who rent. I voted for change because I know there are thousands and thousands of people out there who are worse off than me and need the hand of the state to help them. I know we are all in this together and if we don’t care for the most vulnerable New Zealanders we might as well live under Trump. I’m a teacher so I may see this vulnerable side, but if you don’t see that part of New Zealand regularly it is very easy to ignore it. Also, if you are saying things like, “I’ve worked bloody hard to get where I am,” then that conveniently removes you from the collective responsibility we have to look after the less fortunate.
We live in a society. Tories do not want you to believe in that society. For years they have been looking to divide and conquer. It is in their best interests to have home owners fighting to protect their asset base against the rest of us. It is in their interest to reduce voter engagement – that’s why Hooton was so vocal about early voting being “undemocratic.” It’s not that he’s being foolish, he just doesn’t want you to be exercising your right to vote. The people who fall off the vote boat are left-leaning and Hoots doesn’t want any more of those people voting.
A lot of the boomers I know, my parent’s generation, grew up in or around the 1960s. That was a period of great change and upheaval. When did this generation, who fought against the Vietnam War and for universal human rights, give up fighting for what is right? Or does society become more conservative as they age? I don’t have the answers to these questions because I’m not a boomer or a home owner (Yes, I am aware that not all older people vote for National or are the only home owners in society – these are just thinks).
Bill English is the definite winner in this election. He’s been anointed to carried on the strong and steady plodding of John Key’s government. Home owners are feeling wealthy and they have rewarded him for it. Jacinda Ardern as taken Labour from a third party to a genuine change contender. One wonders what may have happened if she had more than two months and National hadn’t forced the change discussion to be replaced by a tax discussion. Winston Peters again holds the balance of power. We may not know until well into October what may happen. I’m sure he will do what is in the best interests of Winston. Thank you to James Shaw who brought the Greens back after polls threatened their very existence.
Who knows what government we will end up with when the dust settles at the end of October? I’m picking Winston will go with National because National will, unashamedly, offer him everything he wants to remain in power.
Final Final Thinks
This election must be remembered for the saddest of all terrible ironies: Bill English and National lied and lied and lied and got the largest vote; Metiria Turei told the truth and got hounded out of politics.
PADRE: Hello my child.
BILL: Forgive me father for I have sinned. It’s been one week since my last confession.
PADRE: Go on my son.
BILL: I must ask for forgiveness for I have committed sins against others.
PADRE: How have you sinned against others?
BILL: Well, father… when I was asked about Labour’s tax policy… I said they were going to increase income tax.
PADRE: And were they going to increase income tax?
BILL: No… it’s just that they weren’t going to decrease income tax.
PADRE: But you have apologised for the lie my son?
BILL: Oh no… I doubled down father.
PADRE: Doubled down my child?
BILL: Yes father. I lied about lying.
PADRE: Lied about lying?
BILL: Yes. When they asked me whether I was lying about the tax I said I wasn’t lying about the tax.
PADRE: I see… well that’s only two small lies my son.
BILL: Oh no…. there’s more father. I’ve also lied about Labour’s budget having an $11 billion hole.
PADRE: And does it?
PADRE: Are there any amounts of missing spending? Are there any holes in their budget?
BILL: Just the ones on the side so you can pop it into a ring binder.
PADRE: Well. That kind of lying is not desirable. A good Catholic must always endeavour tell the tru….
BILL: …I haven’t finished yet…
PADRE: Oh for Christ’s sake…
BILL: …I’ve also lied about my involvement with the Todd Barclay thing. First I said I didn’t know anything about it, then it turned out I did know loads about it because I’d texted my friend 450 times. Then I lost those texts after I accidentally deleted them after someone told me to. And I’m still telling people it’s an employment dispute I never really had anything to do with – even when they ask me what I did with all the texts.
PADRE: I’m not sure you should say anymore. Congregational privilege only extends so far my son.
BILL: But I’ve got so much more to say. You should have seen the stuff we got up to when John Key was around.
PADRE: I don’t want to know!
BILL: But father…. I must confess. This is my chance to atone. What must I do to atone for my sins?
PADRE: You could start by pulling the lid down on all these lies. The lies must stop. Now.
BILL: But… I’m the leader of the National Party… I can’t lead that party without being able to lie constantly about all of our policies, plans and all the stuff we’ve done or haven’t done.
PADRE: Well… Okay then. After all… this is the Catholic Church. We didn’t get where we are today without being allowed to wash away our responsibilities with 4 hail Mary’s and a small donation to the church.
BILL: How much do you need father?
PADRE: Well… the church roof legal fund….
BILL: How much?
PADRE: Forty-eight thousand, six hundred and forty-seven dollars and sixty-eight cents. Roughly.
BILL: Done and done.
PADRE: Very well then my child. Remember to say your penance and thank God for the Sacrament of Penance. And do you promise not to lie again?
PADRE: Was that a lie.
PADRE: Oh God….