The Greens want to genetically modify Parliament. That’s why there’s so much fuss about them.
They want to transplant an ecology gene into our two-legged wallet-and-welfare body politic.
The Greens acknowledge that traditional selective breeding of new generations of members of the old “grey” parties has had an effect. Labour is ratifying the Kyoto protocol and doing a raft of green things.
But they reckon the traditional process is too slow and the animal still doesn’t look right. After 30 years, it has come time to take political ecology out of the laboratory and field trials and loose it into the environment.
Labour leaders fear that release of the Greens’ toxic transgenic organism would be irreversible, that it would destroy their cosy social democracy.
They want the Greens confined to the political laboratory. Tightly constrained political science of greenery is OK, they say. But who knows what it might do in the wild?
Labour leaders are even contemplating gambling their “keep-their-word” reputation on a cut-and-run election while the polls are promising a majority.
Of course, they will sacrifice this reputation only out of deep concern to protect you, the public, from the Greens’ designs.
And, indeed, they may have a point. The Greens have a habit of holding conferences in places of such bracing cold as to convert the captive observer into an ardent advocate of global warming — and that wouldn’t do for an export drive Labour wants to sell as clean and green.
So the Labour deal is this: in return for Labour giving up its credibility as a party that can be trusted to see out its term, you give it (plus, of course, Jim Anderton, in tow) 61 seats or more — that is, a majority of Parliament or, put another way, old-style parliamentary dictatorship by Labour.
Here are the alternatives.
Let’s say Labour-plus-Jim gets 60 seats, exactly half the 120 in Parliament.
Then up pops politics’ forgotten man: Peter Dunne, the leader and entire parliamentary population of United Future. Dunne’s one seat of Ohariu-Belmont would provide a majority.
While three years ago he would have spurned coalition, now he says he would look at a proposition that, in return for some policy concessions, he support Labour-plus-Jim on confidence and supply. This is what the Greens have been doing this term.
That shouldn’t be too hard for Labour. Dunne was a Labour minister in 1990 and he is no hardline libertarian rightwinger as are his one-time ministerial mates, Richard Prebble and Ken Shirley, now of ACT.
In fact, Dunne’s middling reasonableness probably represents the silent majority. He has voted for a number of Labour initiatives.
But what if Labour-plus-Jim gets fewer than 60 seats? Does that skewer it on the Greens’ GM hook — and pressed, despite the cost to its “innovatIon strategy”, to choose power over ending the GM moratorium in October 2003?
Not if Tauranga re-elects Winston Peters and he brings in, say, three MPs with him.
Then if Labour-plus-Jim gets 57, 58 or 59 seats, it can turn to Peters.
Labour would very much not like to do this because when Peters has bailed it out this term, embarrassing legislative prices have had to be paid.
Moreover, Labour remembers acutely the run-around it was given in the 1996 coalition talks by a Peters who from the start wanted back with Jim Bolger’s National party.
But Peters could at least give Labour-plus-Jim some wiggle room.
Of course, if Peters doesn’t win Tauranga, Labour-plus-Jim’s chances of a majority lift. A majority would require 2 per cent fewer votes.
Now let’s say Labour-plus-Jim wins 56 seats and Peters wins four. Dunne comes back into the picture. Labour-plus-Jim could still escape the Greens’ plans to re-engineer their political DNA.
But if Labour-plus-Jim gets 55 seats or fewer, the Greens are in the box seat.
You can do your own numbers. If Peters wins Tauranga and brings in four MPs with him, as now, then Labour-plus-Jim would have to fall to 54 seats or fewer to be at the Greens’ mercy.
But you get the picture. And you can see why cut-and-run to an early election is so attractive in the Beehive right now. A political varroa mite is on the loose and the white-coat brigade on the ninth floor is desperate to eradicate it.