No Minister

Trading on the margins of opportunity: Lessons for the Greens

I vote for, and am a member of, Act for many reasons. One of them is because it argues a lot (internally, if not externally) for “achievement politics”. Some examples: Three strikes, Charter Schools and now assisted dying. I have a good friend in the party, a long-time supporter, who calls it, in a MMP environment, “trading on the margins of opportunity”. In classic terms, it’s essentially known as politics being the art of the possible. The Greens need a lesson in all of this.

First, their dogma to have cannabis legalised will almost certainly now lead to a failed referendum result and a lost opportunity for progress on the issue for the country. Nandor Tanczos, bless his sole, put a lot of time and effort, into arguing for personal use of cannabis to be decriminalised, and I think this referendum would have been successful. Even I, a true die-hard classical liberal who believes strongly in personal responsibility and freedoms/liberties and small government, probably won’t vote in favour of legalisation, mostly because I don’t think the country is ready for 20 year olds to be sitting down smoking joints on a Sunday afternon in cannabis cafes. I don’t want that for my neighbourhood. Sure, there are ways to limit it, or prevent it if the referendum passes, and the law is then changed, but I don’t want to walk around my middle-class North Shore suburbs seeing that. I don’t care if people want to smoke it, and indeed, it should never be a criminal law matter – it’s a health issue. But I just think this issue needed two stages: decriminalisation and then perhaps legalisation in five to ten years. But the Greens dogma and ideology overruled any common sense, and they have not observed my rules around the margins of opportunity and politics being the art of the possible. Just dumb.

Then today, another gaffe from these twits: The gap in Auckland Central has closed right up with Chloe Swarbrick potentially throwing a grenade into the Labour campaign and splitting the vote there, allowing Emma Mellow to win.

I’m going to out on a bit of limb here and admit to quite liking Swarbrick, not necessarily her politics nor policies, but her energy, zest and passion. I think we need more of those traits from our MPs. But in Auckland Central, she is just plain dumb. She is not going to win – the gap is too large. All she can do is give the seat to National. It’s too late for her to pull out, and the Greens are far too close to 5% to play that game now, so she has to keep going. Jacinda Ardern will be annoyed, possibly angry, at this stupidity. if she, and the Greens, had half a brain, they should have not contested the seat, in return for the decriminalisation of cannabis bill to be a government bill if they won the election (they didn’t need to announce this). Or they could have done another sly deal somewhere on something else. That’s called achievement politics, and is certainly trading on the margins of opportunity.

But going in all guns blazing with legalisation and now tomfoolery in Auckland Central is going to hand the Greens with two defeats and a lot of internal reflection I suspect in about three weeks’ time.

Written by Nick K

October 4, 2020 at 11:48 am

Posted in New Zealand

8 Responses

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  1. Fair post Nick but Labour hasn’t done itself any favours in Auckland central either with their candidate saying she doesn’t know if 5G is safe because … she’s only a lawyer … reminds me of the old lawyer joke. How many lawyer jokes are there. Answer … only three. all the rest are true.

    The Veteran

    October 4, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    • I am personally very happy at this poll result for Emma and am considering driving across the bridge in the next two weekends to help her campaign, if only to tell voters not to give their electorate vote to Act, but to National, and PV Act. Felix should not ever be on 4%!

      Nick K

      October 4, 2020 at 12:48 pm

  2. Good points but having said that it’s been obvious from the sag and then recovery of the Greens polling, that a bunch of Labour voters have shifted their support to the Greens to prop them up.

    True Believing Greens might be upset about things like the private school funding issue but Labour voters know they want and need the Greens in coalition in order to apply pressure on tax and other policies where Adern and company don’t want to go. As such those Labour voters don’t care about stuff like the New Plymouth school, and with Labour comfortably in the lead they feel they can afford to give up their Labour Party vote.

    Whether that will translate into getting the things they want is another question entirely. If they weren’t able to win the arguments inside Labour how much better could Greens pressure be?

    It’s not like the Tory’s and Farage in the UK; the Tories know he can and will stare into the abyss of a Labour government and walk away from the Tories, taking perhaps 10% of their vote with him.

    But the Greens? Can anyone imagine them breaking with Labour in any meaningful (meaning damaging) way, even in Opposition, let alone in Government? Pressure is more than just argument.

    Tom Hunter

    October 4, 2020 at 1:00 pm

  3. Have to admit I don’t get the point of Chloe Swarbrick’s Auckland Central campaign either. There’d be something in it for the party if she was to win the seat, but that was always going to be a long shot. I suspect she’s just happier campaigning in her local area for locals to vote for her personally, rather than travelling the country campaigning for the party vote. I can see why a politician would prefer that, but it’s hardly thinking strategically.

    Re “achievement politics,” the Greens tend not to work like that. Just look at how much shit James Shaw was in with the membership when it was revealed he’d played achievement politics to ensure the Green School’s project was funded. They really don’t like it. If the Greens’ leadership had done a secret deal with Labour in which they pulled out of the Auckland Central race in exchange for legalisation of cannabis after the election regardless of the referendum result, it wouldn’t have stayed secret, core voters would turn away from the party and their chances of not making it past the threshold would increase dramatically.

    Psycho Milt

    October 4, 2020 at 2:08 pm

  4. Sorry but once again a commentator has indicated a lack of understanding of MMP. For Labour winning or losing Auckland Central makes no difference to their seat count – that is based on the % of total vote they get. For the Greens, it would only make a difference if they get < 5% but win the seat – in which case they get seats based on their percentage of votes.

    Given Act are polling well above their 1 electorate seat level, there will be no overhang in parliament and the seats each party get will be based on the party vote (ie % of effective votes = total seats, deduct electorate seats = list seats).

    All that would happen if Labour lost Auckland Central is another list seat

    Kevin McMenamin

    October 5, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    • Which commentator are you referring to?

      Nick K

      October 5, 2020 at 7:29 pm

  5. Take your pick – the writer of this post. or anyone who comments on the basis that what happens in Auckland Central (unless the Greens win tle electorate and get 5% vote) is in any way relevant to the overall result.

    Kevin Mcmenamin

    October 5, 2020 at 8:52 pm

    • This post is not about MMP. I wrote the post and you’re right with how MMP works.

      Nick K

      October 6, 2020 at 8:35 pm


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