The Past As Prologue: The 2002 demise of the Alliance is a sad and complicated story. But, at its heart is a single, brutal, truth. Labour has no use for a support partner determined to pursue policy objectives at odds with those of the Government it leads. Rather than endure the consequences of such political insubordination, Labour will do all within its power to break the party responsible.
MARAMA DAVIDSON and Golriz Ghahraman would be well advised to take a break and read a little history. Not the history of colonial New Zealand: they seem very well-acquainted with that dismal narrative. No, the history they should familiarise themselves with, is the history of the Alliance in the weeks and months that followed the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.
It’s a sad and complicated story. But, at its heart is a single, brutal, truth. Labour has no use for a support partner determined to pursue policy objectives at odds with those of the Government it leads. Rather than endure the consequences of such political insubordination, Labour will do all within its power to break the party responsible.
The issue which broke the Alliance was Afghanistan. Identified as the protectors of Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaida terrorist network, the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan were given an ultimatum by the United States Government to surrender those responsible for the 9/11 attacks or face the full force of the US and its allies. The Labour Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and her deputy, the Alliance Leader, Jim Anderton, raised no serious objections to President George W. Bush’s proposed course of action.
The left-wing of the Alliance was, however, outraged by what they saw as Anderton’s craven capitulation to US imperialism.
With the left of his party in open revolt, the Alliance leader, Jim Anderton, resolved to seize control of the party’s resources and records, and purge its membership of left-wing dissenters. When his attempted coup was thwarted, Anderton moved swiftly to split the Alliance – drawing loyalists away to form a new political entity: Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party.
As the Alliance tore itself apart, Labour sat back and watched. Clark understood that with the Christchurch seat of Wigram firmly in his grasp, Jim Anderton and his new party were absolved from having to secure 5 percent of the Party Vote.
The Alliance enjoyed no such advantage. It waged a brave fight in the 2002 General Election but, deprived of Anderton and scorned by Labour, it attracted just 1.27 percent of the Party Vote and was bundled out of Parliament. Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party, by contrast, although it won only 1.7 percent of the Party Vote, secured two parliamentary seats. Anderton’s vengeance was complete.
Even today, it is hard to believe that what was, at that time, the most successful left-wing party in the Western World, allowed itself to be split and broken over whether or not the Taliban should be overthrown for harbouring an organisation responsible for planning and facilitating the most devastating terrorist attack in modern history.
Why is any of this relevant to the Greens? Because, in the aftermath of another terrorist attack, this time against the Muslim community of Christchurch, New Zealand, another radical faction, in another small but highly successful progressive party, again appears determined to compromise another Labour Prime Minister’s domestic and international responses to an appalling terrorist outrage.
Davidson and Ghahraman need to ask themselves what the reaction of their parliamentary colleagues is likely to be if it becomes clear that their determination to leverage-off the Christchurch Mosque Shootings to unleash an uncompromising anti-racist campaign encompassing the whole of Pakeha New Zealand, is met with a strong enough push-back to jeopardise the Greens chances of remaining in Parliament after 2020? Will the other members of the Green Caucus meekly accept that two of their number must be permitted follow the dictates of the consciences, regardless of the damage they are inflicting on their party? Or, will they attempt to stop them?
Davidson and Ghahraman should also ask themselves what Labour is likely to do.
The Christchurch Mosque Shootings have left NZ First fatally compromised. Denied the option of playing the Anti-Maori, Anti-Muslim, and Anti-Immigration cards, the party’s chances of surging back over the 5 percent MMP threshold in 2020 are slim-to-non-existent. That leaves only the Greens to partner Labour in the next progressive coalition. Davidson and Ghahraman should, therefore, ask themselves what Labour’s reaction will be if its internal polling shows their New-Zealand-Is-A-Profoundly-Racist-Society campaign is causing the Greens to haemorrhage votes in a fatal fashion?
While they’re at it, they should probably also ask themselves what use National and Act are likely to make of their We-Are-All-Guilty campaign. Do they really think the right of New Zealand politics is going to refuse to take advantage of the anger and disgust generated by what many (perhaps most) voters will characterise as a cheap-and-nasty attempt to capitalise politically on a terrible and unprecedented tragedy? Do they not see that what they are doing, and clearly intend to go on doing, is helping the Right to get back in the game? And, do they really think that Jacinda and her “Praetorian Guard” – Andrew Little and Grant Robertson – are going to just sit back and let that happen?
Helen Clark and Jim Anderton weren’t prepared to allow the left-wing of the Alliance to compromise their political mission. Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman should, therefore, ask themselves whether, in their heart-of-hearts, they truly believe Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw are any different?
This essay was posted simultaneously on The Daily Blog and Bowalley Road on Tuesday, 26 March 2019.