Trans Tasman's Political Pulse - August 07, 2017
Trans Tasman's Political Pulse - August 07,
07 August, 2017
Greens co-leader Metiria Turei's confession about welfare fraud has dominated coverage of the party.
State Of The Parties: Turei’s Welfare Focus Makes Greens A Single-Issue Party
INSIGHTS ABOUT THE NEWS - Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei domination of the headlines for several weeks has proven to be a double-edged sword for her and the wider party. The confession of decades-old fraud to maximise her welfare benefits ran alongside a policy of increasing benefits and ending the “punitive culture” of the system.
According to the editors of the Trans Tasman Political Alert, this dominated the political narrative for weeks and most of the energy of the political pundits was focused on little else until Jacinda Ardern took over the Labour Party leadership. This change created new political noise bordering on hysteria, which failed to note the perilous circumstances that caused her accession.
Green Party supporters hoped Turei’s move would energise their base. Labour feared the move would merely cannibalise their votes and polling since then indicates their fears were correct. It has also polarised opinions and led to a succession of headlines about the details of Turei’s past, including potential electoral fraud. As a result Turei “volunteered” to rule herself out as a Minister in any future Govt.
Ardern distanced herself from Turei, saying she would not be happy to have Turei in a Labour-Greens Cabinet. A message was conveyed to the Greens co-leader, saying if Turei did not rule herself out of Cabinet, Labour would do so. As a result, Turei on Friday “volunteered” to rule herself out as a Minister in any future Govt.
Ardern denied she had forced Turei to act, saying the decision was Turei’s and her choice should be respected.
The Greens will be hoping their play for the social justice vote will bring out non-voters and increase the overall share of the centre-left vote. This may be possible, especially with Labour distancing itself from Turei in an attempt to hold on to more conservative voters.
The Greens’ play for the “missing” voters will depend on good organisation and early voting mobilisation, but experience shows the unengaged tend to stay that way and the Greens usually get fewer votes on election day than the polls promise them. The Greens will also be hoping the “Jacinda effect” will take voters from National and not simply reduce their support.
The flipside of all this is the Green’s other policy areas such as a cleaner environment have been drowned out by the welfare debate and they have become a “single-issue” party. This would mean those who like the Greens policy on the environment and other issues, but do not agree with Turei’s statements on welfare will be lost to the party.
Turei’s fellow co-leader James Shaw has backed Turei, saying on Monday he is confident she's told the full story and she should be a Cabinet Minister.
Turei’s decision not to seek a Cabinet role leaves open the issue of what role she might play within a Labour-Green coalition.
It could mean keen competition for a Cabinet role from others in the Green Party, after James Shaw, Julie-Ann Genter and Marama Davidson, with energy spokesman Gareth Hughes competing with Eugenie Sage.
Turei’s gambit was bold but polarising. National will no doubt exploit this by repeating a campaign line from 2014 – that vote for Labour is a vote for the Greens and vice versa.
Despite both parties’ attempts to draw a line under the furore, there is a feeling the issue has not run its full course yet.
For analysis and further updates see this week’s edition of the Trans Tasman Political Alert