The Dim-Post

April 10, 2014

Jaw-dropping risk of the day

Filed under: Politics,polls — danylmc @ 12:10 pm

The Herald carries the details of the Greens attempt to form a more formal coalition with Labour:

Labour yesterday rebuffed a proposal by the Green Party to present both parties as a coalition Government in waiting during in the run-up to the September 20 election.

Labour leader David Cunliffe indicated that such a pre-election arrangement could have posed problems with post-election negotiations with other parties, such as New Zealand First.

Which might not seem like a big deal. But if you look at what’s happening in the polls over the last few months you see a pretty consistent pattern. Labour are losing votes to National and New Zealand First. But they aren’t losing any votes to the Greens.

nzpolls20140410Now there could be a bunch of reasons for that but my guess is that most Labour voters who are sympathetic to the Greens – and according to the Colmar Brunton poll that’s about 70% of Labour voters – don’t feel the need to switch because ever since the NZPower launch there’s been a kind-of-consensus that a vote for Labour is a vote for a Labour-Greens coalition. Labour’s announcement that this isn’t the case and that a vote for Labour could also be a vote for a Labour-New Zealand First coalition seems like a big risk. I can see why they took it: they want to win back those votes from National and think its going to be tough to do when they’re in a formal alliance with the Green Party. But I’d also note that Labour’s high-point during this electoral cycle came after the NZPower Labour-Greens co-announcement back in 2013, suggesting that center voters are less repulsed by the idea of a coalition than Labour’s caucus are.

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44 Comments »

  1. It is very obvious and rational politics that Labour would reject Norman’s proposal. They need to keep their option with NZF open.

    But Norman doesn’t get the obvious.

    Norman is a prat and keeps badgering Labour in this manner providing plenty of opportunity for the media to focus on the very real tensions between Labour and the Greens.

    Comment by NeiiM — April 10, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

  2. Labour taking 1 vote from National is worth 2 votes to a possible Labour/Green coalition – 1 less for National, 1 more to Labour. The Greens taking a vote from Labour, or Labour keeping a vote that would otherwise go to the Greens is worth 0 votes.

    Swing voters that Labour lost in 2005 and 2008 don’t like the Greens – they think they are crazy. It’s not that complicated.

    Comment by mph — April 10, 2014 @ 12:23 pm

  3. A formal deal with the Greens will include knowing who get what cabinet posts, which therefore means Trev, Ruth and Annette might know they are going to miss out on a ministerial limo no matter what the outcome of the election. Cunliffe’s problem is the same as Abraham Lincolns – there are too many pigs for the teats.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 10, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

  4. This obviously isn’t the advice Cunliffe is getting, but I suspect a lot fewer people piss their pants in terror at the words “Labour/Greens joint campaign” than the media-political complex CW has it.

    Comment by cranapia — April 10, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

  5. Terror induces strange decisions.

    Comment by George — April 10, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

  6. 2.A formal deal with the Greens will include knowing who get what cabinet posts

    But that’s nothing like what was described. The only thing about what the next govt would look like is that it would have the Greens inside it, with cabinet numbers reflecting vote proportion.

    That seems to be about it, a big scary thing apparently.

    Comment by Lew (@LewStoddart) — April 10, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

  7. That seems to be about it, a big scary thing apparently.

    So scary, no other nation on Earth with a proportional electoral system has dared even moot such heresy. Oh. Wait…

    Comment by cranapia — April 10, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

  8. I think Norman is trying to get Labour to commit to major portfolios.

    Maybe they think that Hague would be ok in Health but then they’d have to give Norman and Turei more significant roles.

    Might not appeal.

    But if Norman keeps asking the question then Labour will have to keep on brushing him off.

    Comment by NeiiM — April 10, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

  9. Comment 6 was by me, not Lew. So don’t blame him for it.

    Comment by Alex Coleman — April 10, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

  10. “center voters are less repulsed by the idea of a coalition than Labour’s caucus are.”
    Got it there.
    Labour’s big big problem looks to me to be that noone really knows what they stand for. They seem to be a party looking for a popular policy: tell us what you want, and we’ll give it to you. Sometimes they’re champions of the little guy (though they seem to have thrown beneficiaries off the cliff, making much of this hollow rhetoric.) Sometimes they’re cosying up to business. Sometimes they’re environmentalists, except when they’re opening strip mines and oil exploration. The only thing that’s consistently progressive is the promise to take our very flat taxation regime and make it (mildly but significantly) more progressive.
    The Greens, on the other hand, have some very clear political principles. If anything, they seem TOO black and white. In this scenario, yes, it’s a fair assumption campaigning in coalition could lead many to assume Labour is much greener and more socially progressive than they are.
    Yes Labour needs to keep the Winston option open, and maximise their own vote. But they also need to make it very clear what they stand for. And that means not changing leadership. Saying they’d stick with their leader (whoever it is) whether they win or lose the election __because they believe in that person’s shared vision __ would be a start.

    Comment by Robinson Stowell — April 10, 2014 @ 1:05 pm

  11. Labour has its problems and Norman is just adding another one.

    He’s sounding increasingly entitled – don’t criticise us, we want this, we want that.

    Comment by NeiiM — April 10, 2014 @ 1:12 pm

  12. “…The only thing about what the next govt would look like is that it would have the Greens inside it, with cabinet numbers reflecting vote proportion.

    That seems to be about it, a big scary thing apparently…”

    If you had as big a bunch of entitled dead wood who already don’t like you in your caucus as Cunliffe has, would you advertise their imminent demotion by saying before the election you would be happy for up to a third of the available posts going to another party? I suspect that internal tensions within Labour have something to do with this. An electorally victorious Cunliffe is one the ABC’s wouldn’t dare try to over throw. In the meantime, he can’t upset the deadwood to much.

    Two other things:

    1/ The Greens have painted themselves into a corner on a number of issues. For example, say Labour were to announce that any income from a major oil strike would go into a sovereign wealth fund. Nice bit of positioning that actually costs nothing. Except the announcement would be over shadowed by Patrick Gower badgering Cunliffe about the Greens policy of leaving it the ground, or badgering Norman about Labour using him like a doormat. Although the Neanderthals of the press show no sign of grasping MMP politics, I think the Voters have already worked out that Labour and the Greens have split the left voote between them and are likely to form a government.

    2/ it is great for the Greens if they can wring concessions like proportional allocation of cabinet positions out of Labour before an election, but what can they offering in return? Zilch. Nada. Norman is trying to straightjacket Labour into a deal favourable to him and his party, and good on him. But fair enough if Labour are awake to him.

    It is far better each party can get on with their own policy position, campaign on it, and sort out who wins what and where after the election.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 10, 2014 @ 1:16 pm

  13. <em.It is far better each party can get on with their own policy position, campaign on it, and sort out who wins what and where after the election.

    Exactly. Norman is getting a little ahead of himself by imagining himself in government. He might find that in less than 6 months, that won’t be a concern for him.

    Comment by Ross — April 10, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

  14. It is far better each party can get on with their own policy position, campaign on it, and sort out who wins what and where after the election.

    Not really, everyone knows that Labour / Greens have to come to some kind of understanding if they want to govern post-election. The government will not be Labour + NZ First, for example, unless the Greens agree to support it.

    In fact, National is campagining on the fact that Labour / Greens is the alternative to National. This would have been an opportunity to show to the electorate how that might actually work, and to show that it would not be “scary”. By refusing to articulate how a coalition would work Labour is allowing National the luxury to continue screaming about the dangers of Labour / Green. Refusing to articulate how the coalition would work does nothing to allay the concerns of those (mythical?) Labour voters who are nervous of the Greens, and it just gives left voters who are nervous of Labour a good reason to vote for the Greens.

    Refusal to articulate the terms of a Labour / Green coalition only seems to make sense if a) there are low ranked Labour MPs who believe an agreement means that they will miss out on baubles of office, or b) Labour thinks it has a significant chunk of voters who are fools and believe that Labour will be able to govern without some kind of agreement of the Greens, or perhaps c) Labour wants to leave open the door to something disastorous like a Labour/National grand coalition.

    Comment by RJL — April 10, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

  15. I think what Norman is suggesting is absurd but is getting reasonable support from some Labour supporters.

    He’s trying to manoeuvre Labour but is he also positioning to blame Labour if National get back in.

    From the comments I’ve seen there are quite a few who would see a loss that way.

    Comment by NeiiM — April 10, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

  16. Not really, everyone knows that Labour / Greens have to come to some kind of understanding if they want to govern post-election.

    Nonsense. Have you heard John Key discuss how he will work with Winston after the election? Me neither. That doesn’t mean they won’t work together after the election.

    Comment by Ross — April 10, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

  17. He does not need to weld himself to the Greens. If some extraordinary miracle occurs leading to Cunliffe being in a position to cobble together a rag tag assortment of loons and numpties at the end of September he will need Winston.
    Winston will call the shots, He is an old hand at getting the best deal. His deal will require the Greens to be sat outside whining for scraps again.
    Russel will accept these scraps like the Greens always have. If this does occur we can look forward to Winston getting his brother to be the funded lawyer for another massive six week pay day while they wrangle over Winstons earning opportunities.

    Comment by Barnsley Bill — April 10, 2014 @ 3:00 pm

  18. “He’s sounding increasingly entitled – don’t criticise us, we want this, we want that.”

    thats rubbish neil – in all media interviews he goes to some length to point out that of course the greens want big things for themselves, but that everything is a negotiation, and one that is first dictated by the polling booths on election day

    “the next govt would …. have the Greens inside it, with cabinet numbers reflecting vote proportion.” – is pretty much normans public position

    of course theres un said messaging and all sorts of other positioning etc going on, but all the parties are doing this – to try and claim the greens are somehow going OTT and running around, getting shouty and making demands of labour is absurd.

    Comment by framu — April 10, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

  19. Ross 16: Have you heard John Key discuss how he will work with Winston after the election? Me neither. That doesn’t mean they won’t work together after the election.

    Of course not. But that’s because a significant proportion of NZ First supporters don’t want NZ First to work with National and a significant proportion of National supporters (and MPs) don’t want National to work with NZ First. It would therefore be counter-productive for both parties to talk too much about how they might work together.

    With Labour/Greens a significant majority of their supporters do want/expect Labour and the Greens to work together, and the absence of details about how this might work allows National to scaremonger about the possibility to galvanise its own weak supporters.

    Comment by RJL — April 10, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

  20. I don’t really see the upside to Labour for this – creating some sort of formal coalition before the election seems premature.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 10, 2014 @ 4:15 pm

  21. I don’t really see the upside to Labour for this.

    Well, conceivably it anchors Labour firmly in the centre-left rather than just as “Not National.”
    Also, it’s a strong signalling device to that huge chunk of non-voters that the pundocracy is telling us are left leaning.
    Lastly, if they don’t get the numbers to form a government, they came blame those crazy Greens!

    Comment by Gregor W — April 10, 2014 @ 4:34 pm

  22. I think everyone knows that any government after the election that includes Labour is likely to also include the Greens, and vice versa. Surely it would be in Labour’s interests to demonstrate that they can work in a stable and co-operative way with the party they’re going to have to work with after the election.

    at least that’s what I’d have thought – maybe they decided stability is not one of the values they want to embody

    Comment by kahikatea — April 10, 2014 @ 4:54 pm

  23. kalvarnsen @ 20
    The point is that it would clearly demonstrate what a left government would look like. It would show the electorate what the alternative to National is. It would show that Labour was serious about forming the next government. The point being to galvanise the segment of the electorate who don’t want to vote for National, or other clowns of the right, but fail to see a credible alternative. It also partly deflates National’s capability to scaremonger about what a Labour/Green/others government would look like.

    The only real downside is if Labour thinks that the electorate, by and large, doesn’t really want a Labour/Green coalition. Which would be a troublesome conclusion for Labour to be arriving at.

    Comment by RJL — April 10, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

  24. If Labour voters start flocking to the Greens and the Greens start polling at >50% of Labour, a delightful Labour death spiral will ensue. The centre will head to NZ first and National

    Comment by Swan — April 10, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

  25. @Gregor: I’m sure there are voters who want to see a Labour/Green coalition, but do you really think that this coalition would win their support? Who do you think they’re supporting now?

    I think, rather than trying to set up some overarching coalition structure, the Greens and Labour would be better served trying to provide some more joint policy announcements. That would have all the potential positive effects of a coalition, but would have the additional positive of getting some of the hard work of negotiating policy compromises in a post-election environment out of the way. A coalition without some sort of policy agreement is a dead letter, anyway.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 10, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

  26. kalvarnsen — April 10, 2014 @ 4:15 pm

    For decades in Australia the Liberal Party and Country Party campaigned successfully as a coalition. Norman knows that. I suspect he thinks there is some electoral synergy from such an arrangement in NZ and I think he might be right. The only question may be what to do if the Greens out perform Labour? Looks more and more likely as each day goes by.

    Comment by Adolf Fiinkensein — April 10, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

  27. @Adolf: Do you think the Nat/Lib coalition is really the model Norman aspires to? It hasn’t exactly been great for the National party. I can’t imagine Norman is imagining such a subordinate role for the Greens when he proposes a coalition.

    I’m not saying that a permanent Lab/Green coalition would never be a good idea, I just don’t think that now is a good time to create it. If such a coalition can govern in a way that both sides regard as successful for a few years, then it might be time to think about making it a permanent arrangement. And I think the possibility of the Greens outpolling Labour is a long way off, if not impossible.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 10, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

  28. …cobble together a rag tag assortment of loons and numpties…

    A description aptly fitting our current government, BB.

    …he will need Winston.

    The “he” in this sentence will likely apply as much to Key as it does to Cunliffe. And Key has way more experience in dishing “baubles of office” to loons and numpties in exchange for their support than Cunliffe has – it’s a poor lookout for Labour indeed.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — April 10, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

  29. If Labour voters start flocking to the Greens and the Greens start polling at >50% of Labour, a delightful Labour death spiral will ensue.

    Didn’t this happen with National and ACT in the early-mid 2000s, and a National death spiral stubbornly refused to eventuate?

    Comment by Psycho Milt — April 10, 2014 @ 7:03 pm

  30. kalvarnsen — April 10, 2014 @ 6:51 pm
    No I don’t think that very same model might be that to which Norman aspires but I do think he recognizes the value in campaigning as a coalition. It only needs Labour to drop another two or three points in the polls and the whole dynamic changes. Norman has outperformed Cunliffe inside and outside the house so I suggest the scenario whereby the Greens outperform Labour in the polls is not as remote as you may think.

    Interesting times.

    Comment by Adolf Fiinkensein — April 10, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

  31. @kalvarnsen – I didn’t mean to imply that there are many others (I.e. non labour or Green voters) who will vote implicitly on the basis of a per election coalition formation.

    Rather, that signalling intent cold well attract voters who don’t normally cast a ballot – the logic being, I suspect there are plenty of people who are more likely to cast a vote for a left bloc that looks like it has a chance of victory, than voting for two ‘also rans’.

    The whole Certainty Effect / Prospect Theory thing. People love backing a winner. It seems to keep the Nats in the box seat.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 10, 2014 @ 7:36 pm

  32. @Adolf: If the ‘coalition’ is just an agreement to split cabinet seats a certain way after the election, I don’t think it really has any value when campaigning. What the public does respond to, at least potentially, is joint policies, such as the NZ Power announcement which, as has been correctly noted here and elsewhere, was a success with the public. An agreement on executive appointments without joint policies would be, and has the risk of being seen to be, a purely cynical exercise.

    As for the likelihood of a Green majority, it’s been extensively discussed here, so I’m not going to retread the issue, except to note that there appears to be quite an element of wishful thinking among Green supporters on this issue, especially if you predict it happening this year.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 10, 2014 @ 7:50 pm

  33. @Gregor: Oh, right. Well, you could be onto something there, but I still feel that those kinds of voters are more likely to be attracted by policy than by coalition agreements. And I feel like only the most chronically politically under-informed* would really be sceptical about the chances of Labour and the Greens forming a coalition if they’re in a position to do so.

    *or, perhaps, the most chronically attentive to Shane Jones’ every speech

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 10, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

  34. If Narionsl win then the Labour-Green dynamics will get interesting.

    Comment by NeiiM — April 10, 2014 @ 8:10 pm

  35. Most people do not vote for policies. They vote based on their sense of who they can trust in charge of the country. Some of that is how the relationships within and between parties are played out in the media.

    That’s what today’s announcement affects. Whoever leaked must be counting on it helping their party (which seems unlikely to be the Greens). If it’s any of the same strategic geniuses who lost Labour the last 2 elections, I wouldn’t be betting on a good result for anyone except the Nats. Thanks a bunch, numbskulls.

    Comment by Sacha — April 10, 2014 @ 8:44 pm

  36. @Sacha: Pre-election coalition agreements are way, way more political inside-baseball than policies.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 10, 2014 @ 8:47 pm

  37. @kalvarsen – watch the tv coverage with the sound turned down and get back to me. That’s what most voters decide on. Does the story about this make Cunliffe look all manly like? Why is that other guy looking disappointed? Aren’t they on the same side? etc etc

    Comment by Sacha — April 10, 2014 @ 8:53 pm

  38. Gosh, they seem to be drinking tea together..

    Comment by Sacha — April 10, 2014 @ 8:54 pm

  39. Watching Parker on TV3 was pretty excruciating.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 10, 2014 @ 9:27 pm

  40. C’mon the election is on 20 September 2014.

    It is ,today 10 April.

    We are nowhere near an election (let alone a consummation of parties) .

    Comment by peterlepaysan — April 10, 2014 @ 10:17 pm

  41. “(which seems unlikely to be the Greens)”

    I’ve heard at least one Green MP going on about this at length at a party, so I’m afraid that yes a Green could well have leaked it, unintentionally at that.

    Comment by Stephen J — April 10, 2014 @ 10:23 pm

  42. I think the MSM driving this as a horse race disadvantages the left simply because the left has split into a still large Labour and sizable Greens, while the right hasn’t. My comments would apply the other way if it was say Nats with 33% and Act on 13%. Because the MSM leads with the biggest party versus second biggest line, as if it’s first past the post, the way the left has fragmented, that always leaves poll numbers like 48% vs 33% or whatever it is each week, which look hopeless. Message is tune out, give up. Sure, we hear talk of the left block etc but repetitive noise and lead message is clear, it’s Nat vs Lab and this reinforces how far ahead National is when in blocks, it’s very very close, 48% vs 45%, that sort of gap and therefore completely game on.

    So whether it is via more coordinated joint policy announcements (base case, and I think a good idea) or some sort of more direct arrangement as Norman has proposed, I think there is much more to gain changing the ‘branding’ to a clear Labour-Green ticket so that at the very least, the media talk not about Nat vs Labour and the gap that makes everyone despair, but the real gap, which is game on, Nat vs a Labour-Green alliance. I actually believe people back winners or the sniff of one and as when Jim Anderton and Helen Clark made their peace, far from frightening middle voters to the Nats or NZ First, a decent chunk would recognise there was a reasonable prospect of a Government in waiting and give Labour its vote to ensure it had the sort of proportionate stake they’d prefer – I think Labour would go up. Maybe some on the left, “trained” by MSM to be non voters, would come back on line seeing a united front and realising it’s not Labour on 30% of whatever, it’s a Labour-Green ticket a couple of % behind Nats and within sniffing distance. I think NZ First is a symptom in all this rather than a cause, i.e. in the fact a whole lot of voters feel they have nowhere to go, so I guess implicit in this I’m saying the united front of L-G would reduce their vote and make the battle between the blocks clearer.

    Comment by Joe 90 — April 10, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

  43. Labour’s mixed signals are because it doesn’t know if it is an economically disinterested rump urban liberal party (as it’s candidate selections would seem to suggest) or if it is still a party relevant to blue collar workers everywhere and wants the economy and class warfare dominate its discourse (which is what it likes to think). Add to that a caucus split with an old guard determined to defend both it’s privileged position within the political system and it’s neo-liberal legacy and you have a picture of a party torn between wanting the old way, the third way or just Trevor’s way.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 11, 2014 @ 8:53 am

  44. Sanctuary – best description of the Labour Part yet! And the reason I can’t bring myself to vote for them, despite my dislike for Key’n’Co.

    Comment by Michael — April 11, 2014 @ 10:44 am


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