John Armstrong on Labour’s impending civil war

Armstrong’s pegged it right: ?the War Room won’t be so much used to take down the National Party instead of causing a severe amount of collateral damage to their own side

Having turned its caucus room in Parliament Buildings into a war room staffed almost around the clock by policy wonks, political strategists, experts in social media, plus assorted press secretaries – all in readiness for the coming general election – the Labour Party may find itself with another war on its hands before then. Or something close to it.

The “enemy” on this occasion will not be National. Neither will it be Act. Nor United Future. Nor Colin Craig’s Conservatives. Nor even Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party.

No, this war will be of the internecine variety where the combatants all come from the same neck of the (political) woods.

It will have been sparked by the seemingly endless positioning and posturing ahead of September’s election which will count for little in the aftermath. But this week it all turned ugly for the Greens. And things may yet get uglier still.

It may be that fate has decreed that the power struggle between Labour and the Greens takes centre stage at the worst possible time for the centre-left.

It may not come to open warfare. But the dismissive, almost contemptuous attitude displayed by David Cunliffe with regard to a supposed ally is bound to rankle deeply wherever Green Party members gather.

You can be assured there will be a response; that there will no longer be any scruples about upstaging Labour on the hustings.

Labour are not so much in a war mongering mind set as they are in a siege mindset. ?This is all about survival of those at the bottom of the party list.

David Cunliffe and his “strategists” know that a friendly face towards the Greens before the election will result in job losses for Labour, and increased power for the Greens.

If you were in Cunliffe’s shoes, what would you do? ?Maybe get a chance to take down National as an equal coalition partner, or preserve your own power base as best you can? ?

What the Greens were really doing was testing the extent of Labour’s commitment to working with them in government following signs that Cunliffe was wavering on that question.

The Greens got their answer soon enough. It was not what they wanted to hear. They got a lecture in semantics – that the next Government would be a “Labour-led” one, not a “Labour-Greens coalition” – and a lesson in history – that Labour had been the dominant party on the centre-left for the past 100 years and thus called the shots as of right.

Cunliffe made it patently clear in word – and more so in tone – that Labour was decoupling itself from the Greens and would be seeking to “maximise its share of the vote” – code for saying it was now open season on territory occupied by the Greens.

Neither could Cunliffe muster much enthusiasm when asked to digress on how Labour would treat the Greens in any post-election negotiations.

Of course, Cunliffe’s remarks were for targeted at an audience of one – Winston Peters. Cunliffe knows he will likely need both New Zealand First and the Greens to make it to the swearing-in of a new Government. But it is Peters’ chalk to the Greens’ cheese. It is Cunliffe’s conundrum.

Peters has choices. The quickest way to have him running helter-skelter towards National’s camp would be for Labour to get tied down in some pre-election arrangement with the Greens.

The Greens are consequently expendable.

The truth is that Labour don’t have to be nice to the Greens. ?Neither before nor after the election. ?They never have in the past.

If the Greens want to be in government, they will have to step up and kneel in front of Labour.

Or, the Greens can take the high road again and support a minority Government with confidence and supply only.

Russel Norman’s lust for being in the driving seat is palpable. ?He’ll take whatever deal is on offer once the final numbers are known.

Cunliffe knows it, and that’s why the Greens are still Labour’s cannon fodder.

 

– NZ Herald

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