Who Shall Go to the Ball?

Watching the various small parties position themselves in recent weeks, the words “rats” and “sinking ship” come to mind. But as Matt McCarten points out in today’s HoS column, Labour may be partly to blame for its predicament.

Matt reminds us that after the last election Winston Peters and Peter Dunne refused to support a Labour-led government if the Greens were in it. He argues that this “set up the situation where Labour’s hegemony of the minor parties would ultimately fracture.” And so it seems to be coming to pass.

With characteristically colourful prose, Matt recalls:

“Once Clark had dismissed the Maori Party as the “last cab off the rank”, the Greens were screwed. Labour went for the short-term, expedient deal, which, at the time, seemed a master stroke… The Greens had no choice but to take a few crumbs as a consolation prize.

“At the time, Greens co-leader Rod Donald was devastated at what he thought was a betrayal by Labour. The current leadership, after Donald’s untimely death shortly after the election, understood clearly that they would not be put in the position of Labour’s footstool again.”

But like ACT, the Greens are essentially captives to the ideologically adjacent major party. Short of National, already beseiged by climate “skeptics” on the far-right, suddenly signing up to radical and electorally unpopular green initiatives, even abstention on confidence and supply looks unlikely.

Peter Dunne and Winston Peters are an entirely different proposition. The former and his small coterie are socially conservative and, whilst proclaiming themselves concerned for the plight of the poor, principally concerned to keep the middle classes comfortable. (Which makes UF’s tax proposals something of a puzzle.)

United Future probably weren’t so enthusiastic about the prospect of hooking up with Labour last time, but must have been glad to escape association with the ideological extremism that National under Brash represented. In its present guise, National must look the more moderate and compatible of the two alternatives on offer, and Dunne’s attempts to flirt with National border on gauche.

Winston Peters is far too savvy to contemplate propping up an electorally unpopular government for three years; but then, if he’s thinking of retiring in 2011 and Labour makes a better offer…

I blogged recently that Maori Party support after the election should not be taken for granted. Matt seems to agree:

The Maori Party is a real potential for Key if National can’t gain enough support from Act and United Future, and assuming NZ First doesn’t make it back. The Maori Party is Labour’s competitor in the Maori seats and National has decided not to run candidates there. Last time Labour ran a somewhat successful strategy against the Maori Party by saying that a vote for the Maori Party was a vote for National. Given that the Greens, United Future and NZ First take a similar position, this won’t have the same impact as last time.

In Matt’s view, Helen Clark’s snubbing of the Maori and Green parties is coming back to haunt her. They will survive in the long-term and “were alienated and are now taking their revenge.” Utu perhaps. I’d bet that the Maori Party won’t be the last cab off the rank this time round.

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3 Responses to “Who Shall Go to the Ball?”

  1. Inventory2 Says:

    As I’ve said over at my blog, I always read McCarten’s pieces, but seldom agree with him. His assessment of Helen Clark’s plight however is pretty astute. Now, if Matt was to get the rumoured “left of Labour” party off the ground, where would it fit in to these machinations?

  2. jafapete Says:

    Inventory, Haven’t you noticed that those rumours are all on right-wing blogs, etc (The Hive, etc)?

    Really sorry to disappoint, but my sources say there’s nothing to them except right-wing mischief-making. Even if there were something to them, Matt’s going to be very busy with the Maori Party, so nothing could happen before next year.

  3. The day after (the election) « Jafapete’s Weblog Says:

    […] yes, some of us have been saying this for some time. Armstrong goes on to speculate, “… the way the numbers fall in Parliament may well […]

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