David Cunliffe admits mistake over Greens

LABOUR LEADER: David Cunliffe
LABOUR LEADER: David Cunliffe

Labour leader David Cunliffe says he regrets not hitching himself to the Green Party, admitting a decision to reject a proposal for a joint campaign was a poor one.

Earlier this year the Greens put forward to Labour a strategy that would see the two parties campaign together, and to brand themselves as a future Labour/Greens government.

The proposal also sought agreement that Cabinet posts would be in proportion to the number of seats each party managed to win, and a common strategy on working with New Zealand First.

Fronting to media today, Cunliffe said he now realised there was "potential for us to operate in a more cohesive way".

He said he regretted turning that opportunity down in April.

"I think we can all learn some lessons from history. In hindsight the progressive forces of politics probably would have got a better outcome if they'd been better coordinated. 

"That's my personal view. We made decisions based on circumstances, you can't always rerun history. Decisions were made that were made but we've always had a positive and close relationship with the Greens."

Offering the political equivalent of saying "I told you so", Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei agreed.

"I think it was the wrong decision. We put a proposal to present Labour and the Greens as an alternative Government, we thought that that would be the best for voters and for the country. 

"They decided not to do that, I think it was the wrong decision."

But Turei wouldn't be drawn on whether the two parties would be working more closely over the next term.

"We're yet to determine our strategy, we know we want to be the lead opposition this term like we were last term.

"We'll forge our own path but we will work with other parties," she said.

But NZ First's Winston Peters claimed the opposite, saying the real failure on the left came from Labour's association with the Green Party, which the New Zealand First leader said was off putting to voters.

"There'll be a lot of analysis on this campaign but the prospects of the Greens going into government put the fear of god up so many people. Labour, I thought, would have realised it a long time ago," Peters said.

He did not believe NZ First's core principles would work with the Greens in the long term.

"I said during the campaign we are not going to stand by while people proselytise extremist policies."

Peters said Labour should have realised the campaign was doomed by its association with the Green Party.

"The Labour Party was not campaigning as the Labour Party, they were campaigning as a Labour/Green alternative government. How many times did I point out that the mathematics of that was never going to work? Perhaps their problem is they've got too many advisers that none of them are seeing it with any clarity."

The Greens would now reassess their strategy, and that could could include seeking a closer relationship with National - if National was willing.

"We will see, again, we haven't determined that strategy yet. I would however offer yet again, to work with National and other parties on a cross-party agreement to end child poverty," Turei said.

Key has already ruled out a memorandum of understanding with the Greens, so any cooperation between the two would be difficult.

Turei said they were yet to look into policy areas where they might hold common ground with National, but there would be few.

There were no regrets over the way the Greens campaign was run, and Turei said there was nothing she would do differently. 

"I think we ran a straight campaign, a clean campaign. We focused on the issues, we kept out of the muck, we had the best ground campaign we've ever had and I think that was why we held on to our vote as we did."

But the involvement of Kim Dotcom and Laila Harre via the Internet Party had been damaging for the left.

"I think that their campaign was a failure, clearly. Not only did they fail to get a strong party vote but Hone Harawira lost his seat as a result of that strategic alliance," Turei said.

"It's a real shame for them, and for him in particular, but the Green Party is here in strong numbers yet again and we have a united caucus, a strong and proven leadership team and we will be an effective opposition to the next Government."

Harre split with the Greens earlier this year, over "strategic differences". 

Turei refused to rule out opening their doors to Harre again, but said her future was of no concern to the Greens.