“Labour strategists are more confident than ever that Andrew Little can become prime minister”

More confident than ever they may be. ?But they aren’t actually confident that he will. ?Hooton writes

What my analysis overlooked is that while the [Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and Green]?did indeed act as an endorsement by Labour of the Greens, it was also an endorsement by the Greens of Labour. At least since their truce following the genetic-modification wars of the early 2000s, both Labour and the Greens have run strategies of trying to hug the other to death. Events since the MoU suggest the red team may have the stronger chokehold.

That chokehold is only getting tighter, with private polling since Labour?s elevation of 36-year-old urban liberal Jacinda Ardern to the deputy leadership indicating an immediate gain to Labour but at the expense of their Green partners rather than National.

The confidence seems to come from the fact that Labour’s strategy is to bleed the Green vote. ?And to be honest, it is the only way to get there with Winston’s NZ First. ?

The MoU has led the daily media to combine the Labour and Green totals in their political analysis so Mr Little is at least taken seriously as a potential prime minister. But Labour strategists know there is no prospect of Labour and the Greens having enough support to form a two-party government, and they also know that Winston Peters will never play third wheel in a Labour-Green government.

The objective, therefore, is not to set up a Labour-Green government with NZ First making up the numbers but to achieve a Labour-NZ First government with the Greens having no choice but to fall in line.? It will be a re-run of 2005, the last time Labour and the Greens were so publicly close.

Following the MoU and the Ardern move, the next step is Labour?s planned move to broadly tie the Greens to its fiscal strategy, which in turn consists of a commitment to work within National?s tax and spending plans, minus any tax cuts, threshold adjustments or boosts to Working for Families to be announced in Steven Joyce?s first Budget on May 25.? In this one respect, Mr Little is almost perfectly aping Tony Blair, who used the same copycat strategy so successfully in 1997 to assure voters UK Labour could be trusted with the nation?s purse-strings.

Greens will be on Confidence and Supply outside of cabinet in exchange for some flagship policy they can claim to be their own.

So why is Labour so incredibly confident it can win this election?

There seems to be an assumption among the political class, which Labour strategists share ? as do I ? that 2017 has 15% written all over it for the MP for Northland. If Labour can get itself above 30% at the expense of the Greens, a Labour-NZ First government would be formed not on the basis of baubles for the NZ First leader but around a Labour commitment to massive new infrastructure spending in the north. Mr Peters would finally have his legacy. And the Greens, with perhaps 8% of the vote and publicly supportive of Labour prior to the election, would have no choice but to fall in line.

It’s a valid strategy but it will fail because of two very critical issues.

Core Green isn’t going to bleed to Labour enough to get Labour to 30%. ?Labour will not get a result with a 3 in front of it while Andrew Little is “leading” the party. ? ?The interesting thing, for “Labour strategists”, is to see if they will realise this in the next few months and go for the Mike Moore option of a last minute replacement for Little. ?That might bring in the final 2-3% based on blind hope that the new leader will be The One. ?And not enough time will exist before the election for hope to turn into disillusion. ?Even though it won’t get them into government, it might save some list seats.

Hooton can always be relied on to have some good theories though, especially when he’s had a chat with his friend at the Mt Eden restaurant.


– Mathew Hooton, NBR