(Posted here for comment, critique, disagreement, etc :-)
Dear Mr. Shaw,
Congratulations on being returned to Parliament in New Zealand's 2017 General Election. You are now in a position where you can influence the makeup of a coalition government. Obviously, your preferred coalition partner is the New Zealand Labour Party - you have synergies and significant policy overlaps. Unfortunately, between your two parties you did not win enough seats collectively to achieve a majority. This leaves you with 3 possibilities:
1) Form a 3-way coalition with New Zealand First
2) Form a coalition government with National
3) Remain in opposition
Going out on a limb, I'm going to assume that the first option is now your preferred outcome. This may well eventuate, but you have very little influence in making that decision. (And your level of influence in government is something that New Zealand First will likely seek to minimise in their negotiation with Labour.)
Option 2 is arguably a much stronger position for your party. You could negotiate environmental policy from a position of strength, and demand significant concessions from the National party on social issues.
Option 3 is familiar territory. Perhaps your comfort ground as a party of activism and protest, but fundamentally a place where you can expend a great deal of effort, make a lot of noise, but not meaningfully effect change.
All but the second option will see you taking an essentially passive role in Parliament, so the remainder of this letter will deal with the possibility of a National Green coalition. I have heard a number of arguments against such a proposal; I will address each of them here:
* Your membership wouldn’t stand for it. There is likely a large number who won’t, but equally, there were a large number of voters who wouldn’t stand for your former co-leader’s stance on welfare. Your constituency appears to be a mix of people with social and/or environmental priorities. Your polling numbers roughly halved by alienating the latter group – you may find that your support remains steady (or lifts slightly) by returning your focus to delivering environmental wins.
* National’s coalition partners die off. I understand that this may be uncomfortable territory for the Green Party, especially when considering the fate of the Maori Party, Act and United Future. But you will need to get off the benches and enter the great game at some point! You will triumph or fail on the merits of your ideas and policies, and when you’re done you should be able to point to a legacy of significant achievements for your voters. To do otherwise is akin to a promising young All Black attending all the training sessions and prep with the team but refusing to take the field when call on, out of fear of suffering a career-ending injury.
* You campaigned to change the government. Well you certainly would achieve that! A National-Green government would be a markedly different government to the one National, Act, The Maori Party and United Future was.
Mr. Shaw, Winston Peters is not the only potential Kingmaker that the voters delivered on September 23rd. It only seems that way because you seem to have ruled yourself out of contention for that pivotal role. If that is indeed that case, then I am inclined to ask, “What is the purpose of the Green Party?”
If your intentions are to form part of a government and implement meaningful reforms to benefit the environment and New Zealand’s worst off, then pick up the phone and get on with doing precisely that. If instead, your intention is to simply act as a support partner for the New Zealand Labour Party, then I would suggest that running two independent parties may be a flawed strategy. By splitting the vote, you have returned National’s Nick Smith in Nelson and Nikki Kaye in Auckland Central and likely achieved a lower number of seats than a unified centre-left party might have.
Will you shape your own destiny and take action to change the government? Or will you continue to follow where other parties tell you to go?
A Potential Blue-Green voter.