Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Pieces Align: #BlackGreen2017 And The Green Party's New Chief Of Staff

It's a truism in politics to state that party operations are a beast somewhat overtly resembling an iceberg.

There's what you see 'above the waterline' - MPs making media appearances, press releases and public rhetoric - but also, and arguably much more importantly, that which takes place submerged within the briny, chthonic depths.

Much of what actually shapes and influences our politics and Parliamentary environment today will likely never come to the general public's attention, barring the occasional serious SNAFUs which from time to time forcibly drag the actions and activities of 'political operatives' into the unyielding limelight.

A grand example of this in motion was the #DirtyPolitics saga. All of a sudden, surreptitious and covert maneuverings by a bewildering array of 'backroom boys' to create and shape our Nation's political discourse were in full view of the public. Figures such as Jason Eade had to resign.

But sub-surface political maneuverings, and the spaces where the secondary cogs of various different party-political machines intersect, are not always so incredibly odious in the forms and outcome of their operation.

Something as simple as two politicians meeting up in a bar or Bellamy's can also form the basis for surreptitious political co-operation.

But the personal relationships between potentially rival MPs have historically not proven to be precisely the best foundation for enduring political co-operation between vehicles, leading to common situations wherein certain highly-ranked and trusted staffers are unofficially deputized as prime points of contact with their opposite numbers and the representatives of other parties with a view to forcibly jamming the door open for future political - even coalition - coagulation.

This is speculated to have been one of the lead reasons behind Labour taking on Matt McCarten as its beleaguered Chief of Staff in the run-up to the 2014 Election. Despite David Cunliffe taking public steps to rule out working with Internet-MANA after the election, it was apparently thought that McCarten's strong links to much of the organizational backbone of the MANA Party, and wide mana in harder-left activist circles generally, would provide a fertile avenue for re-opening that door betwixt Labour and InternetMANA in the event that the former required the latter's votes for Confidence & Supply in the House to form a government.

So clearly, the appointment of a party's Chief of Staff is not just the selection of a quality candidate for an important role. It's an implicit, screaming, statement about a party's present and future priorities, as well as where they see themselves in relation to other political actors and vehicles.

Going into the immediate pre-pre General Election run-up, these decisions offer a revealing and powerful insight.

And that is why I was so surprised (perhaps even a little taken aback) at the Green Party's choice of one Deborah Morris-Travers to fill the vacancy at their own Chief of Staff position.

On the face of it, Morris-Travers' appointment makes strong sense. Even leaving aside her previous political experience as both a Parliamentarian and Cabinet Minister (both phenomenally impressive positions to have attained as a comparatively young person of 26) - her work in the PR sector, and demonstrable experience with campaigns and advocacy-work, all combine to grant her a competent resume. She will, no doubt, have built up an impressive trove of contacts, profile, and professional aptitudes.

But what's particularly interesting about Morris-Travers' background, which the Green Party press release which went out in Metiria Turei's name yesterday entirely unsurprisingly fails to mention ... is just where Morris-Travers got her political start from in the first place.

Hint: it certainly wasn't with the Green Party.

She came in at number 9 on the New Zealand First Party list back in 1996 - and quickly made a name for herself as an outspoken progressive, who found herself implacably at odds with some of the older and more conservative political forces of the day.

Sadly, those eventually wound up including her - and my - Leader, Winston Peters, and she eventually ended up resigning from the Party at about the same time the National-NZF Coalition fragmented.

Hm. Smart, young, progressive 26 year old who breaks some stereotypes for NZF before getting offside with Winston and fireballing out. Sounds familiar, doesn't it :P

In any case, the reason why Morris-Travers background is worth mentioning has little to do with minor political arcana from the first MMP Government. Instead, its relevance lies with what's happened since, and more importantly with what might yet unfold.

I am given to understand that Morris-Travers has remained on positive terms with the Party - and with Winston and Ron Mark in particular. The positive citations for both contained in her Valedictory Speech make for illuminating reading. In private, Winston has also previously been complimentary. Interestingly, my Greens sources also suggest that Morris-Travers has been overtly talking up her "close relationship" with Winston to ears within their party.

The significance of Morris-Travers appointment to the Greens' Chief of Staff role, then, lies in the fact that she might well find herself one of those crucial inter-party linkages for the setting up of a prospective post-election governing arrangement in late 2017. And, more importantly, as one of a very few range of political figures both capable and potentially willing to help me bridge one of the more fractious and internecine fault-lines which has historically bedeviled the Left - that which exists between New Zealand First and The Green Party. (As you may recall, Rod Donald publicly compared Winston to Hitler in the run up to 2005, Winston shut The Greens out of Government from 2005-2008, The Greens voted in Parliament to have Winston censured in 2008 after Russel Norman twisted the knife on Winston in the Privileges Committee, then attempted to capitalize upon this for political gain by making an appeal to NZF supporters to abandon our Party for pastures Greener in the run-up to 2011 ... and on and on the cycle of revenge and recrimination went)

Sadly, the conflicts between The Greens and New Zealand First are not a problem which we can safely talk about in the past tense. I am told that there are significant voices within the Green Party who would prefer to run an electoral strategy going into the 2017 General Election of setting up a Government-In-Waiting with Labour which tacitly (if not explicitly) excludes New Zealand First.

Such a strategy would, obviously, be hugely positive for the Greens' own political credibility (as it would start to see them publicly deemed fit to take Ministerial positions and have a serious influence over Government policy from *inside* the tent for a change - they tried something similar in 2014, but due to a lack of Labour interest and some rather ... optimistic demands, were basically laughed out of the room) ... yet of questionable utility in actually securing a left-wing outcome to the 2017 Election.

The numbers, you see, don't add up.

Barring some absolute miracle on par with the Labour Party recruiting its very own Trump equivalent at some point in the next sixteen months ... the Labour Party is likely to remain mired at best in the mid-twenties, and therefore well out of Government range, even with the most optimistic predictions of The Greens polling in the high teens.

The only conceivable Pathway To Government in 2017 for both Labour *and* The Greens lies squarely through New Zealand First.

At this stage, there's no way around it.

So to all my comrades out there who'd rather dearly like to see a progressive change of government come 2017 ... the message is simple.

Best start to be building bridges - not walls.

No comments:

Post a Comment