Stacey Kirk: 'Unacceptable' is a two-way street when the Greens and NZ First go head-to-head

Co-leaders James Shaw and Metiria Turei will not let the Greens be pushed around by NZ First leader Winston Peters. But ...
KEVIN STENT/STUFF

Co-leaders James Shaw and Metiria Turei will not let the Greens be pushed around by NZ First leader Winston Peters. But the likelihood they'll be able to act against him if he tries to shut them out is slim to none.

OPINION: Hear the rattling chains of elections past. 

The Greens will never forget the clanking, like tinnitus ringing in their ears, the way Labour and NZ First conspired in 2005 to do the dirty on them. 

Will it happen again? Could do, but cool the jets. 

The two parties are not even close to the same levels of inoperability and division that coursed between them at that moment in political history... yet. 

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The battle lines are drawn, oh yes, but a spat kicked off by Greens co-leader Metiria Turei last weekend, is only a warm-up as both parties engage in a war for headlines from their respective conferences, happening on opposite sides of Auckland this weekend. 

One thing is true of NZ First leader Winston Peters will keep his options open to the very end, and he has more of them ...
JOHN HAWKINS/STUFF

One thing is true of NZ First leader Winston Peters will keep his options open to the very end, and he has more of them than the Greens.

In reality, the reaction to that flare up may only serve to highlight how well they actually have been getting along to this point.  

It's nowhere near the levels of vitriol doled by former leader Rod Donald, who in 2005 described NZ First policies as "like Hitler's" and "ethnic cleansing" and called Peters a "snake oil merchant" and "the ugly face of New Zealand politics".

Going on to say: "It's no coincidence that the leader of the National Front has quit politics – NZ First has stolen their policies".

In comparison, Turei's pointer to "racist" NZ First policies and a thinly veiled ultimatum staring down the prospect of a 2005 re-enactment, was decidedly vanilla. 

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"The most obvious is that if the Greens are not in government after September, our country will face either a Labour NZF or a National NZF government. Neither is acceptable to the Greens," she said in a speech delivered at the party's campaign launch in Nelson, last weekend. 

Turei stopped short of saying the Greens would leave a hung Parliament if Labour and NZ First formed a coalition. And just yesterday, said the Greens could accept a NZ First coalition with Peters as Deputy Prime Minister.

Low-lister MP Barry Coates was given short shrift by co-leader James Shaw for suggesting they could force a second election if the only deal on the table was one of a Labour/NZ First Government with the Greens outside on a confidence and supply deal. 

But then, what exactly did Turei mean by "unacceptable"?

If those are indeed the cards the Greens are dealt, then they either accept it or do something about it - by definition, not accept it. But any idea that they'd be left with the power to force a second election or weaken Peters' hand is ridiculous. 

If the results fall that Peters is Kingmaker his conversation with Labour will go something like this: 

Peters to Labour leader Andrew Little: You go and get the Greens absolute support for a Labour/NZ First Government and we'll talk. 

Little: I've checked, they're not into it.

Peters: Well, we've got nothing to talk about here. [Picks up the phone to Bill English]. 

Because for all his obstinate difficulty, and refusal to be pinned down, Peters does actually operate by a code, meaning some things are nearly always true.

He may not have much personal love for the tories, but that's where his politics lie. And where the Greens might love a good inquiry, NZ First is just as big a proponent for the referendum. Because at Peters' core is an overt sense of democracy, perhaps even when the cons outweigh the pros.

Not speaking to the largest party first - at this stage it will be National - would run counter to that. 

And so the Greens have the task of staying true to their values. Because if Peters is in the position, and the mood, to make a play against them, there's very little they can do but hold on to their dignity and ride it out. 

There'll be jostling between the two to play out yet, but the Greens at least, will be careful not to cross a line they can't come back from. 

Because there's one thing New Zealand voters can't abide; politicians who can't be elected and then trusted to get on with the job for the next three years. 

 - Sunday Star Times

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