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.