Despite the Labour-Greens memorandum of understanding, Greens co-leader James Shaw has decided to go head to head with Labour’s Grant Robertson in the Wellington Central electorate at next year’s election.
Shaw was last night selected as the Greens candidate for the seat. Robertson currently holds the seat.
Shaw’s decision will mean he and Robertson will end up debating each other during the campaign.
But Shaw was playing that down yesterday.
He said the Greens had always promoted the party vote all over the country.
“Our message ahs always been, party vote, Green,” he said.
In fact what the decision may show is that there may be less to the Labour-Greens pact than meets the eye in that discussions between he two parties have not yet got down into campaigning details.
Apparently the decision by the Greens not to contest the Mt Roskill by-election was made without any formal discussions with Labour.
Labour accepts the argument from the Greens that because Wellington Central is their highest polling party vote, they need a high profile in the electorate to maintain that vote.
Labour also knows that Robertson who got 52% of the candidate vote at the last election should easily hold the seat as he did against Paul Foster-Bell (30.3%) and Shaw, 13% in 2014.
Nevertheless, the perception will be that the two parties are at odds with each other.
Wellington is the machine that drives the Green vote.
Over 8% of their total party vote the last election came from just two Wellington electorates; Wellington Central and Rongotai.
But ironically both those seats are also Labour electorate strongholds with Robertson in Wellington Central and Annette King in Rongotai.
POLITIK has spoken to senior Labour MPs and party officials, and the consensus appears to be that it’s not at all clear just what the Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Greens means in practical terms.
A Labour source said it was “baby steps” at present.
But Shaw was more enthusiastic.
“I think it’s working really well,” he said.
“Over time our co-ordination with each other is improvising.”
In practical terms that meant that the two parties’ Chiefs of Staff were meeting more regularly athough that would hardly seem to require a formal document top make happen.
The leadership of the two parties also meets monthly. Again, hardly a difficult thing to organise.
What is clear is that on the big contentious issues, no progress has been made.
Shaw says that the initial phase of implementing the memorandum is now largely complete.
“We are starting to get into substantive issues, part of which is driven by the election timetable,” he said.
The big question is what electorates (if any) the parties will do deals in.
“There’s a whole bunch of things that are on the table and electorates is one of them,” said Shaw.
“That’s one of the project streams that we are working on.”
So are there electorates where Labour could stand aside for the Greens?
“Nothing has been ruled out, but we also haven’t made any decisions, but I think it is a possibility.”
The Greens’ problem is that the electorate seats where they might stand the biggest chance of winning if Labour stood down — Rongotai, Dunedin North and Wellington Central all have Labour front benchers occupying them.
At the same time, they might expect Labour pressure to stand down greens candidates in Auckland Central and the Maori seats to either defend Labour MPs or in the case of Auckland to win the seat for Jacinda Ardern.
But at this stage, this looks academic.