The Labour/Green pact announced yesterday may pave the way for Greens Co-Leader James Shaw to stand against Peter Dunne in Ohariu.
If Labour didn’t stand a candidate — and Labour sources say that’s a real possibility — then, on paper, based on the last election results, Mr Dunne would lose his seat.
That would be a major blow to National’s attempts to form a fourth term Government because Mr Dunne is, in effect, a bonus seat.
His winning that seat does not affect the total number of seats National gets allocated based on its list vote.
The announcement yesterday committed the two parties to work together in Parliament and to have a “no surprises” policy on the development and announcement of policies.
“We are sending a clear signal to New Zealanders who want a new and better government that Labour and the Greens will work together to deliver that,” said Labour Party leader Andrew Little.
The announcement yesterday is shades of 1999.
Then the Alliance and Labour campaigned together. This was dramatically underlined when Helen Clark attended the Alliance conference in late 1998.
The Alliance’s President then was Matt McCarten, who is now Andrew Little’s Chief of Staff.
And – shades of 1998 — yesterday’s agreement includes an announcement that Labour Leader Andrew Little will speak at the Greens conference this weekend.
But there has been a background of support for the two parties working together for some time now.
In part that is a product of what the Greens believe was a dreadful relationship with Labour during the last election campaign.
Labour Leader David Cunliffe’s refusal to specify who any of his coalition partners might be before the election, along with a lack of day to day co-ordination infuriated the Greens.
They also felt his failure to dismiss Mr Dotcom, and Internet Mana cost them support.
But Mr McCarten is a much more wily operator, and there is much more talk both from Labour’s caucus and its party organisation these days about the need to win the next election.
The Greens too, face pressures from their members who during last year’s leadership election campaign often asked when they were going to get into power and thus have something to show for their 20 years of having been in Parliament.
The deal also underlines what has been obvious for some time now; that NZ First are most likely to hold the balance of power after the next election. The pretence that NZ First might be a part of an anti-Government coalition is now over, and Labour is sure to remind the electorate of this and will try and suggest that a vote for NZFirst is a vote for a National Government.
And though Greens Co-Leader Metiria Turei was quick to say yesterday that it was not a monogamous arrangement, thus implying the door was still open for NZFirst, sources say it is more likely that Labour will now try and compete with NZFirst for the NZFirst vote.
Meanwhile, it is almost as if National had seen this coming.
Again yesterday they were announcing policy which the Maori Party will be able to claim as a win. This time, it was plain packaging for cigarettes.
But the possible loss of Mr Dunne does force National to rely more on the Maori Party.
At the same time, senior National figures are talking about boosting ACT’s David Seymour next year by possibly endorsing him in Epsom a lot earlier in the year.
There is a hope that ACT might be able to get at least one more MP with the personable Mr Seymour not having to worry about his seat and therefore free to campaign across the country.
Meanwhile, Labour and the Greens still have a lot of talking to do to fill out the fine print in the arrangement.
The Ohariu seat issue will be big. Both the Greens candidate (Gareth Hughes) and Labour’s candidate (Ginny Andersen) from the last election have a big claim on their party’s loyalties and will not be easy to persuade to stand aside.
But the figures are persuasive. Mr Hughes and Ms Andersen combined vote was 15623 while Mr Dunne got only 13569.
If a similar electorate deal was also done in Auckland Central, that could pave the way for Jacinda Ardern to defeat Nicky Kaye. On paper the combined Labour/Green vote there would give Ms Ardern a 1480 majority.
Labour’s strategists will be hoping this deal will also much more tightly focus on Andrew Little as the Leader of the Opposition and therefore a future Prime Minister.
On balance, the deal has the potential to be a game-changer.