To paraphrase Jack Kennedy, if success in politics has many fathers, the Labour-Greens Memorandum of Understanding will enter the history books an orphan — in the annals of Labour at least.
By striking contrast, the Greens, the deal’s only and overwhelming beneficiary, should be mounting the signed original like the Dead Sea Scrolls, demanding members commence branch meetings with selected incantations from therein.
That the MoU has been a monumental blunder for Labour, and a boon for the Greens, surprises none of us who opposed the idea from the outset. We knew it would license the Greens to raid Labour's vote while neutering the party's capacity to fight back and thereby alleviate concerns about a ramshackle centre-left coalition. If anyone ever doubted this risk: see Turei's protracted middle finger to middle NZ and the depressing effect on Labour's vote in the One News-Colmar Brunton poll. This is playing out exactly as we feared.
The deal’s proponents, meanwhile, exist either in denial about the monstrosity they wrought, or are desperately scrambling to evade culpability for it. They justifiably surmise that the people behind similarly daft ideas— Internet Mana, anyone? — have not just evaded consequences for their strategic idiocy; it has been rewarded with promotions and patronage. In many cases, they have been rewarded for failed ideas themselves. Why should this be any different?
Sadly, it probably won't be.
In the wake of Labour’s coming — and fourth consecutive — defeat, the central role of the MoU in kneecapping whatever chance Labour had to reemerge as a credible governing party will be obvious to all but the small handful of apparatchiks. These are the people who conceived of the agreement, and whose reputations hinge on pretending, against any and all available evidence, that it was a resounding triumph. Sadly, this is the same clique who will shape the post-election narrative, much as they did in the aftermath of the Cunliffe Calamity when they hired as co-obfuscators Bryan Gould and Margaret Wilson, authors of the toothless and pathetic ”post-mortem”.
Have no doubt that the geniuses within Labour responsible for every misstep of the past ten years remain as powerful today as they ever were. Do not expect any contrition or admission of failure. Whoever is to blame for the failure of Labour’s strategy, look anywhere but in the direction of Labour strategists. They are, let's face it, far better at making excuses than making headway against the Nats.
I've heard tell there's a “narrative” in the works that, surprise surprise, it is the Labour Right’s subterranean shenanigans to blame for Labour’s woes. The attacks on the so-called Anyone But Cunliffe conspiracy were so successful last time, they’re aiming for a reprise. It's a tough argument given how the Labour caucus rallied behind a leader all but two of them voted against, and to whom they have remained fiercely loyal throughout. But convincing oneself of something that serves our purposes to believe makes falling off a log seem like hard work. (Of course the argument also wobbles upon recognition that the Labour Right does not exist, but why quibble?).
The people in charge of Labour have guided the party through a period of strategic ineptitude, policy torpor, financial ruin and organizational decay. They are just not very good at politics.
Until the party reckons with this, root and branch, their only other idea — changing leaders periodically in the hope that doing so will transform the party’s fortunes — is merely window dressing to distract from the shambles within.