This Split Is Different - National
4 April 2002
No one should believe Jim Anderton's and Michael Cullen's claims that the breakup of the Alliance in 2002 is just like the departure of the Greens in 1999, says National's Tony Ryall.
Mr Ryall has identified at least seven main differences:
* The Greens in 1999 were a small opposition party with few obligations. The Alliance is a formal coalition partner with four Ministers in Cabinet. The coalition agreement is between Labour and the Alliance - not Labour and two Alliances. The fact that the Democrats claim to have now left the Alliance makes Grant Gillon and John Wright's claim to be part of the Government even more unclear.
* The Greens recognised they couldn't hold leadership roles in a party they planned to leave. Jeanette Fitzsimons stepped aside as deputy leader saying "it just wasn't credible for me to continue to have a leadership role when the Greens were planning to be independent at the next election." Anderton believes it is somehow credible that he and Sandra Lee continue as Leader and Deputy Leader of a party they intend to desert.
* The Greens withdrew properly. After announcing their plans, the Green MPs did not attend Alliance political strategy sessions. Jim Anderton intends to continue to head up the Alliance election strategy committee until Parliament is lifted, then he will leave to head up a party opposing the Alliance in the election.
* The Greens were not hypocrites. In 1999, it was perfectly legal for them to leave a political party as the party hopping legislation did not exist. The convoluted Alliance split is designed solely to avoid the legislation that Jim Anderton himself pushed for. Matt McCarten put it best when he said "I don't know how people who are advocates of the party hopping bill to stop this can use technicalities and loopholes to get out of the obligations to their movements."
* The Greens did not attempt to take Alliance money with them when they left. One day after the split, Matt McCarten is freezing bank accounts to stop them going with supporters of the new party. Money raised for the Alliance should stay with the Alliance. It is difficult to see how anyone could justify how money raised for one political party could be used in any way to fund a new, competing party.
* The Greens left with the overwhelming backing of a party conference. Jim Anderton made the decision himself and now appears set to defy a party conference understandably electing Laila Harre as party leader by claiming to be Parliamentary Leader right through to the election.
* The Greens left to resume their established political identity as a separate party. Jim Anderton has not even named his party (despite some helpful suggestions from the poll on the National Party website) and doesn't even intend to join it until Parliament ends - all so he can avoid his own law.