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Title: Labour/Green: The Case for a "clean" coalition Credit: Politics and religion commentator Craig Young Comment Tuesday 15th April 2014 - 7:44am1397504640 Article: 14922 Rights
 
David Cunliffe has ruled out any pre-election coalition deal with the Greens. In doing so, he unintentionally raised concerns about the stability of any governing Labour/Green coalition. But LGBT and other centre-left voters find the Greens far more palatable than New Zealand First. I do not intend to make premature mischievous statements about whether or not the Labour/Green centre-left strategic relationship is in trouble, as certain biased political commentators have stated. However, I will reiterate that New Zealand First is far from being the first choice of many Labour supporters both within and outside our communities as Labour's logical coalition partner. The party's anti-immigration stance, horizontal hostility toward iwi authorities and mainstream Maori leadership, unhealthy populist over-dependence on Winston Peters as its core figure, prior donation questions and the instability of the Shipley administration (1998-1999) all bear heavily on our minds. This is quite apart from the party's homophobia and transphobia. Peters has never voted for any LGBT legislative reform, from the time of homosexual law reform to last year's marriage equality vote. There is also the possibility that he may turn his back on the centre-left merely because of his social conservatism and animosity toward Labour's probable other coalition partner. NZF also advocates binding citizens referenda, especially against socially liberal legislative reforms- like marriage equality and probably transgender rights. I understand that Shane Jones and other figures on the Labour Right are uneasy about the Greens' stance on business regulation, but that is not reflected at the grassroots party level. Many find New Zealand First far more objectionable and undesirable as a primary coalition partner. Its cross-bench threats are opportunist and sectional and threaten political stability. After the election, it may still decide to prop up a National-led government, as it did in 1996-1998. Although it behaved more responsibly when it sided with the Clark administration (2005-2008), it was at the cost of marriage equality, inclusive adoption reform and possibly transgender rights during that parliamentary term. I must also admit that frankly, I find remarks from some political commentators that a Labour/Green coalition would be unstable or unworkable either woefully ignorant or highly selective in terms of their awareness of overseas centre-left social democratic/green coalitions that have worked well. In Germany, Social Democrat Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder led a successful and effective Social Democrat/Green coalition (1998-2005) for two Bundestag terms. In Finland, Social Democrat Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen's government included Cabinet minister representation from both the Green League and Finnish People's Party (akin to New Zealand First), so it might be interesting to focus on how that worked (1995-2002). Iceland saw (out lesbian) Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdasdottir lead a 'red/green' coalition in power for four years (2009-2013). There are therefore ample examples of functional and stable social democratic/green coalitions in place within Western Europe should anyone wish to consult them for precedents. In Canada, the centrist Liberal Party and Green Party of Canada also have an informal 'red/green' relationship in the House of Commons. I would suggest that instead of unsubstantiated and subjective opinion, television news and current affairs programmes research these prior instances, as indeed should Labour and the Greens themselves. Germany, Finland and Iceland suggest that a red/green coalition is stable and workable. What about 'traffic light coalitions' that might conceivably include Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First? These have existed overseas. In particularly, the Czech Republic may offer some interesting insights into how this might unfold. Rather like New Zealand First, the Czech Peoples Party is predominantly targeted at elderly voters and its political existence is marginal, depending on whether or not it is acting as a protest vote or taking advantage of the cyclical weakness of one of the major Czech political parties. However, in Denmark, the Danish Peoples Party has aligned itself with the centre-right Conservatives and Liberals in government over the last decade, which might hearten New Zealand First (and National?), or not. Similarly, in 2007, the Polish Peoples Party formed a coalition with the centre-right Civic Platform, the major winner in that year's national election. However, again, in Slovakia, its Peoples Party formed a coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (2006-2010). Thus, if Winston Peters chose to play a more constructive role in current New Zealand electoral politics, he would have precedents on both sides of his prospective balancing act. The Czech Republic and Slovakia offer one set of examples, while Denmark and Poland offer the other option. However, the Czech Republic seems to be the only example of a 'traffic light' coalition arrangement. Winston could go either way, judging from the behaviour of his counterparts and closest political equivalents elsewhere. Would it work here? In the interests of clarity, I've provided a list of useful resources in this context. Recommended: Charles Lees: The Red/Green Coalition in Germany: Politics, Personalities and Power: Manchester: Palgrave: 2000. Werner Reutter: Germany on the Road to Normalcy: Politics and Policies of the Red/Green Federal Government: 1998-2002Manchester: Palgrave: 2004 Franko Zelko and Caroline Brinkman: Green Parties: Reflections on the First Three Decades: Washington DC: Heinrich Boll Foundation: 2006. Elizabeth Bomberg: Green Parties and Politics in the European Community: London: Routledge: 1998. Tad Shull: Redefining Red and Green: Ideology and Strategy in European Politics: Albany: State University of New York Press: 1999 Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 15th April 2014    
 
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