The master of spin, Prime Minister John Key, has fired the first shots across the bow of the opposition parties. His quip to the media about “the coalition of the unwilling” will set the tone for the 2017 election and destroy the credibility of the opposition unless they move swiftly to prove him wrong and demonstrate that the wider left can work together.
Unfortunately, Key is right – the wider left have always struggled to get along. Key has blown the whistle. It has to stop. Time for the wider left to be friends, or at least frenemies. A few common goals are necessary. A left wing party should embrace the common good on a global as well as local front, and see the need to reduce inequality and head off catastrophic climate change.
‘First past the post’ is dead. New Zealanders have made it quite clear they do not want a two party system. They want to see multiple parties in government providing checks and balances and alternative points of view. Parties need to be about principles, not power for power’s sake. People have two votes; many people vote for two parties. Some people even vote left and right. Having more than one party on the left is a good thing. The wider left should embrace it, not view other left wing parties as vote-stealers.
The greatest challenge for any coalition is coping with diversity, and on this the left, including the Alliance, has been naïve. All parties are not going to agree on everything. If they did they wouldn’t be separate parties, there would be no point. Somehow we have to find ways to stay true to our principles but live with each other’s different points of view. Let the electorate decide which they want to advance by the way in which they cast their votes.
In an MMP environment, no one needs to sell their soul. All that is really needed for a coalition is an agreement between partners to support the party that gets the most seats on confidence and supply votes so that a government can be formed. There is no reason why everything else can’t be debated in the house on a case by case basis, including the make up of cabinet.
Look for the best candidate in each electorate regardless of which party they represent. Make a place for the minor parties. They have the courage to put up radical policies and keep a coalition fresh and exciting.
We need left-field thinking and rigorous debate. A ‘no surprises’ clause is superfluous. Don’t play it safe. Surprise each other with innovative ideas. Throw everything into the ring. The planet and its people are in a perilous state. We need to consider all the options to defeat climate change and inequality. We don’t need sycophants; there are enough of them on the right. And above all else, show Key, show willing.