Stacey Kirk: Move over John Key, Jacinda Ardern is the new smiling assassin

Labour's election campaign to date has largely overshadowed that of its memorandum of understanding partners, the Greens.
STACEY SQUIRES/STUFF

Labour's election campaign to date has largely overshadowed that of its memorandum of understanding partners, the Greens.

OPINION: Is Jacinda Ardern the mean girl of this election?

Throughout the campaign she's been telling her Green BFFs "oh my gosh babe, we're totally cool" as she skips across the country undercutting her friends and blocking them from their moment - any moment - in the sun. 

The Greens are set to unveil their climate change policy on Sunday - the primary reason they exist as an issues-based party.

But in what appeared to media to be a late change to her schedule on Friday, Ardern unveiled the party's climate change policy, promising "real action" with a net zero target for greenhouse emissions by 2050.

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Former Prime Minister John Key was known as the “smiling assassin” when he worked at Merrill Lynch.
HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES

Former Prime Minister John Key was known as the “smiling assassin” when he worked at Merrill Lynch.

Labour also announced legally binding interim targets and carbon budgets to keep the country on track. 

The Greens have long made a net zero target a bottom line of theirs. So far, so coincidental. 

Except, this is not the first time Labour has stolen the Greens' thunder.

Greens leader James Shaw will announce the party's climate change policy on Sunday, just days after Labour unveiled its ...
CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF

Greens leader James Shaw will announce the party's climate change policy on Sunday, just days after Labour unveiled its policy in the same area.

It pounced on announcing rapid rail for the Golden Triangle between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, as well as a city-to-airport rail link for Auckland. Both are core Green policies that were overshadowed and it is understood sections of the party believe it was a deliberate tactic by Labour.

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By the time it was done, all the Greens had left to establish a point of difference on transport was its commitment to a city-to-airport rail link for Wellington, which while nice to have is, arguably, not the most pressing transport issue plaguing the capital right now.

In fairness, Ardern did plant a stake in the ground during her campaign launch when she declared climate change the "nuclear free moment" of her generation, so the policies that followed should not, perhaps, come as a surprise.

Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party has stolen the Greens' thunder on a couple of occasions this election campaign.
LUKE KIRKEBY/STUFF

Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party has stolen the Greens' thunder on a couple of occasions this election campaign.

Of course, she then went on to say Labour would be running on three main planks: reducing inequality, cleaning up our rivers and tackling climate change. 

Now that sounds like a declaration of cold war with the Greens, and it would be naive to think it is not completely calculated. 

There gets to be a point during campaigns - particularly if polling starts teetering over 40 per cent - when a party will just see how far it can go. The others will fall into line depending on how the votes are cast. 

But Labour and the Greens are locked into an awkward situation where they can't be overly complimentary of one another. More pressing for Labour, it can't openly knock the Greens to expand its own vote and get a lead on National.

The Greens are just in the cut at this point, but any move to keep them down could have benefits for National if the Greens end up outside Parliament. 

Longevity is an issue though, and this is a risky play in the long-term. There will be a point at which the Greens regain strength, perhaps by 2020. 

Their members haven't forgotten Labour leaving them at the altar in 2005, and they will be less likely to forget being passed over this time around. 

The Memorandum of Understanding is almost shot. It expires on election day and Ardern has been very careful not to box herself into anything with the Greens if NZ First proves to be more valuable. 

All they get is the promise of a first phone call. 

Of course, the Greens can't partner with anyone else in practise so if they want to be in Government they'll have to suck it up, no matter how poorly Labour might have treated them in the past. 

With friends like these, eh?

* Comments on this article have been closed.

 - Sunday Star Times

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