Bryce Edwards: Signs of a Labour-NZF government

Bryce Edwards: Signs of a Labour-NZF government

Is Winston Peters about to announce a Labour-NZ First government? Yesterday I looked at arguments NZ First might be inclined to choose National. Below are recent items laying out the reasons a Labour-led government could be NZ First’s best choice.

1) On the most important policy issues, Labour can give NZ First what it wants

Newshub’s Lloyd Burr has put together an excellent list of NZ First’s supposed 25 “bottom lines” for negotiation, and he evaluates the likelihood of National and Labour yielding to each one – see: The comprehensive list of Winston Peters’ bottom lines.

2) Winston Peters wants a legacy of change

Winston Peters “doesn’t want to be remembered as the man who went with National twice, when the country, to a greater or lesser extent, wanted something else. He understands this is his last chance to genuinely put New Zealand first”. So says Chris Trotter, talking about Winston Peters desire for a legacy on the AM Show – see: What does Winston Peters want as his legacy? Trotter says “What he wants to be remembered for is the person who, in that last three-year period, brought together everything he has been as a politician since the late 1970s. If it’s simply to keep in the National Party for another three years, that’s not what he wants to be remembered for.”

3) Winston Peters will want to hit back against the Establishment

Chris Trotter also writes this week about Winston Peters’ long history of battles with New Zealand’s “political class”, or Establishment. He argues Peters needs to resist the pressure to put National back into power, and instead be the “grit” that enables a Labour and Greens government to make real and lasting change to “this country’s economic and social direction” – see: ‘Dear Winston’ – an open letter to the leader of NZ First.

4) NZ First should choose a brand-new government because voters want change

Finlay Macdonald argues “more than half the country” voted for change, and Peters could “play the role of elder statesman in a young, progressive government at a time when the need for economic, environmental and social reform has never been greater” – see: Which Winston will step up for coalition talks? Peters’ legacy won’t be secured with National, according to Macdonald: “there will be no great legacy available to him for propping up a government clearly past its use-by date, no matter what little wins (or baubles of office) he extracts in the process”

5) The economic nationalism of NZ First, Labour and the Greens is a unifying factor

According to Gordon Campbell “Peters is a nationalist, more than anything else”, and this binds him to the left parties – see: What does Winston Peters want his legacy to be? Campbell says: “Yes, Peters and many of his supporters certainly have their social and generational differences with Labour and the Greens, but these pale in comparison with the similarities between them on the more basic issues to do with economic sovereignty.”

6) NZ First supporters prefer Labour-Greens

According to a Colmar Brunton survey earlier in the year, 65 per cent of NZ First voters favoured Labour, rather than National, leading the new government. Toby Manhire therefore argues that NZ First’s caucus should be regarded as being split between the left and right blocs: “if we factor those responses in, the centre-left option nudges ahead… the Labour-Green side would get about six and a half seats, and National about two and a half… The point is, roughly speaking, if we assign those preferences, you’d finish up with Labour-NZF-Green at 62 seats versus National-NZF at 57 seats, with ACT’s one seat tallying up the 120” – see: After specials, it’s closer than ever – but what do Winston’s voters want?

7) NZ First policy is more aligned with the left

Simon Wilson says “NZ First and Labour policies align pretty well, and the Greens can be accommodated in much of that alignment too. But NZ First and National do not enjoy this luxury: from fiscal settings to immigration, regional development to welfare, their policy settings do not align with NZ First’s. That means Labour is the natural partner for NZ First” – see: The special votes swing left – here’s how the votes fell and what they mean.

8) NZ First still has profound differences of policy and ethos with National

RadioLive’s Mitch Harris says “National as the landowning, farming and big business party is less worried about housing costs and likes to have a plentiful supply of cheap labour. Labour, The Greens and NZ First want Government to have a greater hand in directing the economy. These are profound differences in outlook and no coalition agreement can ‘future-proof’ these sorts of differences three years into the future” – see: Common purpose more important than just ‘wins’.

He is predicting a Labour-NZF-Green government, largely due to their similarities: “In 2017 Labour and The Greens have far more in common with NZ First than National does. Labour and NZ First want to cut back our high immigration numbers to give working people a better chance of earning a decent living. They also share a concern about wealthy foreigners bidding up the costs of land and housing”.

9) Bill English has made negotiation mistakes

Bill English was quite outspoken at the beginning of the coalition negotiations, according to Barry Soper, and this hasn’t served National well. For example, “The best he could say of Peters during the campaign was that he was a challenge to do business with, then on the Monday after the election he told the nation he called Peters the night before but he didn’t pick up. That was designed to embarrass Peters, and it did, who told us he was out of cellphone range and when he got what would have been a most pleasant message from English it was too late to call him back” – see: Bill English doing little to endear himself to Winston Peters. Also, see Soper’s earlier column, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, don’t rule it out.

10) Luckily for Labour, the Greens ended up with less votes than NZ First

Winston Peters will be comfortable choosing a Labour-Greens arrangement because NZ First will still be the second biggest party. David Cormack explains: “while the Greens’ total of 8 MPs is just under 60 per cent of the number they had last time it was crucial to Winston’s ego that they had fewer MPs than him. If the Greens had managed to get two seats from the specials and draw level with NZFirst then it’s likely that he would have been a lot more inclined to go with the Nats. Wherever he goes he’s got to be the second biggest party” – see: Winston and the predictable, boring, no clearer, very dull specials.

11) Winston Peters will have more power in a Labour-led government

John Armstrong has explained that the NZ First leader will have learnt his lesson from the last time he went with National: “As Peters soon discovered, after reinstalling National in power after the 1996 election, the kingmaker becomes the target for discontent and dissatisfaction – not the king or queen. That would be best avoided by New Zealand First being a driving force in a first-term Labour-led administration. That would be far more preferable than being a cling-on to a fourth-term National-dominated one. Were Peters to opt for Labour, the ratio of that party’s seats to New Zealand First’s would be five to one. If his choice is National, the ratio edges closer to seven to one – and he has consequently less leverage” – see: Winston Peters’ ultimate bottom line. Furthermore “If policy compatibility is the gauge, Labour is again the only realistic choice. Labour would be far more amenable to slashing immigrant numbers than is National, for example. Only Labour can make the changes in economic policy to satisfy Peters’ demand for an alternative to the “failed experiment” of neo-liberalism. Opting for National would suggest he did not actually believe what he had been spouting on the campaign trail.”

12) Winston Peters holds a grudge against a National Party that tried to kill him off

Not only is Peters still seething at the idea senior National figures may have leaked his superannuation overpayment details, National also tried to cut him out of Parliament. North & South magazine’s Graham Adams explains how National has antagonised Peters: “English took even bigger gambles this election and he may be the bigger loser on account of it. He believed he could knock Peters out of the race altogether — by an aggressive campaign in Northland and an attempt to force NZ First’s vote under five per cent” – see: Bill English: A gambling man.

13) NZ First has better personal relations with Labour

Personal relationships matter in politics and Vernon Small explains that Labour “has the edge in terms of closer and warmer personal relationships. That is a legacy of the 2005-2008 period in Government together and the joint battles in opposition since then. And there is no doubt Peters has some serious issues with National on a number of fronts, and with its finance guru Steven Joyce in particular” – see: The game is everything Winston Peters wanted.

Finally, a new song has emerged that satirises Winston Peters’ current position of power. Called “The Kingmaker”, the song by The Rekkidz is explained by the Herald – see: Rewi McLay and Nathan Judd write Winston Peters ‘kingmaker’ song.