The Labour/Greens deal

Well, that all seems straightforward enough.

There are varied opinions on the value of a formal Labour/Greens arrangement. Like: it’s superfluous because it’s so obvious they’ll work together post-any winnable election, and they’ve already done things like announce joint policy before. Or: it’s absolutely necessary to send a clear signal to voters before the next election, and frankly they’re all a pack of dunces for not doing it sooner, or in 2014, or 2011, or the minute the result was announced on the second MMP referendum in 1993.

It’s either: exactly like the Epsom cup of tea deal because you want to attack the Opposition for being undemocratic and conniving, or: it’s nothing like the Epsom cup of tea deal because you want to attack the Government for being undemocratic and conniving.

It’s either: a terrible idea for Labour because they’ll lose votes aligning themselves with those wacky pot-smoking weirdos, or: it’s a great idea for Labour because it sends a strong signal to the left base. And it’s: a terrible idea for the Greens because they’re selling out to the mainstream, or: strategic genius to show they’re ready to sit at the grown-ups table.

And judging by the way the press conference yesterday went, whether the cat is alive or dead depends entirely on What Winston Will Do.

I just wonder how much of the handwringing is really relevant to anyone who isn’t a political nerd. I really don’t mean that in an ivory tower/Thorndon Bubble/”wake up sleepy hobbits” way – the simple fact is the vast majority of people don’t have the time nor inclination to watch historic political Memorandum of Understanding announcement livestreams on a Tuesday afternoon.

Most people would already assume the Greens would naturally work with Labour to form a government. Anyone whose primary political concern is keeping the Greens away from the levers of power probably haven’t voted Labour since 1999 and aren’t going to start now. And most people really don’t give a toss about the daily shenanigans of Parliament – certainly not about anything involving the phrase “Memorandum of Understanding”.

Most people have checked out of politics. It’s just not relevant to their lives.

So some will say this agreement is a killing blow to National’s chances in 2017, and others will declare it hands National the 2017 election on a platter. But the important thing isn’t whether Labour and the Greens have a silly handshake, an MoU, a concrete coalition deal, or a blood oath sworn on Grabthar’s Hammer. It’s whether they look like a credible alternative. It’s how they get a clear message to the nation: this is what’s wrong and this is how we fix it.

That’s how you cut through the spin and busyness and apathy. Give people a reason to believe things don’t have to be this way – people don’t have to live in cars, social support doesn’t have to be a pittance, the rich don’t have to get richer by screwing workers over, healthcare doesn’t have to be measured in waiting lists, education isn’t a business, jobs don’t have to be sent overseas, we don’t have to fight each other for the scraps after the bankers and speculators and CEOs have had their fill. The market isn’t our master. The economy isn’t our god.

If Labour and the Greens can work together to show New Zealanders there is a real, credible, caring alternative – that’s what will make the difference.

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