Sign up with the Nats?
By Roger Childs
The phones are now ringing as the four main parties try to put together a coalition government. Most media attention and cartooning has centred on the rather pompous Winston Peter’s enjoying the limelight as the potential King Maker.
However, there are some, mainly National and anti-New Zealand First commentators, who are suggesting that the Greens get together with the Tories. In other words form a coalition of chalk and cheese.
The Greens leader, James Shaw, has even stated that he would be prepared to talk to Bill English. However, he and his senior colleagues should heed the message of the fate of the Maori Party in this year’s election.
Crossing the lines
The majority of voters on the Maori rolls have given their party vote to Labour since MMP began 21 years ago. This allegiance goes back many decades.
From the time the Ratana Movement emerged as a political force in the 1930s, Labour has been the natural constituency for most Maori voters.
However, for party leaders the baubles of office are very tempting, and in 2008 the Maori Party threw in its lot with John Key’s National Government. This was despite the fact that the vast majority of voters in the Maori seats had cast their party ballot for Labour.
The party continued to back National in office through to this year’s election when they lost the two Maori seats they had held from 2014. Now they are doomed to oblivion with no representatives in parliament.
The message is clear: Maori voters overwhelmingly favour Labour in party voting, so the leadership of the Maori Party have been punished for crossing the lines.
Lessons for the Greens?
Another recent example of a party being tempted by the chance to share power, while going against the instincts of most of its supporters, is the Liberal Democrats in Britain. In the 2010 election the party won 57 seats and opted to join the Conservatives in a coalition government. Leader, Nick Clegg, became deputy prime minister.
However, most Lib-Dem voters would have preferred to see the party support Labour. Punishment was meted out in the 2015 election, when the Lib-Dems were reduced to 8 seats.
The vast majority of Green supporters in New Zealand favour the party linking up with Labour, if it joins anyone. The idea of going into coalition with National is anathema to most.
Those suggesting the idea say that the Greens environmental policies could appeal to National, and, of course, a coalition of the two parties would leave Winston out in the cold. But how many Green policies would the right wing National-led government implement?
The lessons of recent history are clear: move away from the constituency of most of your supporters and your party is likely to be consigned to the trash can of history.