Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8: An empty Blue-Green debate

It would be practically impossible for Greens leader James Shaw to agree to a deal with National. Photos and montage by Lynn Grieveson

In today's email we dig into why all the talk of a potential National-Green deal is a pointless debate.

1. Empty talk of a Blue-Green coalition

Various National Party grandees spoke over the weekend about the prospect of a National-Green coalition to form a Government, lamenting the apparent unwillingness of the Greens to at least talk with National.

Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger told Jessica Mutch on Q+A the Green Party should step up to talk with National.

"The other party we could be talking about is the Green party. If they were to step up, they’ve got exactly the same capacity to influence the outcome as New Zealand First," Bolger said.

"And what I’m really hoping is that the Green party will step up and accept that opportunity – or I would term it ‘responsibility’. If they’re in the political mix and campaigned to have an influence on the government, then they should, as another small party, talk to both sides," he said.

"The Greens campaigned to influence the country’s environmental approach on a whole range of issues and some issues of poverty – then why not talk to both sides? Why presume that you only can talk to one side? I think they fail to understand MMP if they do that."

Bolger pointed to the German situation where the Green Party there was expected to have talks about forming a coalition with Angela Merkel's centre-right party.

2. Green party members don't want it

National Party supporters are said to prefer a deal with the Greens over one with New Zealand First's Winston Peters, but the problem is that Green voters don't want it for this electoral cycle and their approval is needed.

The Greens' constitution states that any deal with National would require the approval of 75 percent of the party's members, which is very unlikely to the point of impossible. Any move by leader James Shaw to try to form a coalition would swiftly lead to his ousting at the next Green leadership elections by party members.

Former Green MP Nandor Tanczos wrote a useful piece over the weekend explaining why such a deal was impossible in this cycle, although it could be in the next one if there was a debate and a change of approach within the party.

"To support the National Party to become a 4th term government would be both impossible in practical terms and politically suicidal," he wrote.

"Suicidal for a multitude of reasons. People voted for the Greens on the clear understanding that we would not support a National Government.

"To do so would be a complete betrayal of our voters, akin to NZ First going with National in 1996 (for which they got badly punished).

"Second, it might be worth the risk if we could shape the trajectory of an incoming government. To bolster a government almost certainly in its last term, a government that has shown such disregard for both the environment and our growing social inequality, just before their support collapses, would be a tragic mistake.

"Third, to make such a move without lengthy preparation and discussion inside the party would tear the Greens apart."

Tanczos' piece is well worth a read to understand the political impossibility of such a coalition or support deal from inside the Green Party. Or at least not yet.

For the record, Shaw has said he would listen if National called, but has down-played the prospect.

Former Green MP Catherine Delahunty said late last week there was a "snowball's chance in hell" of a deal.

"I would rather drink hemlock than go with the National Party," she said.

3. 'I rang, but he didn't pick up'

National Leader Bill English told Susie Ferguson on RNZ this morning that he tried to call Winston Peters yesterday, but didn't get a response.

English said he was now concerned that without preliminary negotiations this week before the results of special votes are declared on Saturday that National and New Zealand First would struggle to agree arrangements for governing before Peters' self-imposed deadline of October 12.

"I gave him a call yesterday. I didn't get a response. I think he's just sticking to timetable he outlined last week where he's not going to speak to anyone until the specials are counted," English said.

"My concern is that the deadline of October 12 looks pretty tight," he said.

He pointed to the time it had taken National to form three coalition agreements since 2008 in simpler situations where smaller parties had less power and only had one major party to negotiate with.

"Trying to get through that in four or five days would be quite a challenge. Some sort of preliminary discussion for that would help and we'll certainly be preparing for that," he said.

"We can move as fast as New Zealand First can. They've got quite a complex situation, because on the one side they've got to deal with the Greens and Labour, and counting the specials won't make much difference to that of course because National's seat margin (58 to 52) over the two put together is still significant, and he has to do that at the same time with National on our side.

"That's why getting all that done looks a bit of an ask."

He said National wanted to form an agreement that would create a stable Government that could last for a "couple of terms."

4. 'We're open to the Greens'

English also repeated his stance of being open to talk to the Greens about a coalition or governing arrangements, if they were serious about talking.

"The Greens have yet to indicate that they would seriously intend to negotiate. There's been a lot of public discussion about the possibility, but their track record is pretty clear and there'd be some doubt in our minds that they're willing and able to shift ground to seriously contemplate being part of a Government," he said.

Asked if he was willing to have a conversation, he said: "We'll see how that unfolds this week."

"It's to give the impression that it takes two parties to negotiate anything."

English said there had been no discussion about the possibility of Shaw being made finance minister or deputy prime minister and he said he wouldn't think there was the chance of a significant proposal being put to the Greens this week by National.

5. Quotes of the day:

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who faces criticism over his platforms role in eroding democracy and traditional media, posted this on Yom Kippur:

"For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better. For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better."

To get a sense of the pressure on Zuckerberg and how his 'move fast and break things' mantra is coming home to haunt him, here is a New York Times Op-Ed by Zeynep Tufekci on Zuckerberg's defense:

"The unfortunate truth is that by design, business model and algorithm, Facebook has made it easy for it to be weaponized to spread misinformation and fraudulent content. Sadly, this business model is also lucrative, especially during elections."

We have yet to understand how Facebook was used in the New Zealand election.

6. While you were sleeping

In another sign of political instability in Europe, Spanish national police used tear gas and rubber bullets to try to stop Catalonia's independence referendum in Barcelona overnight, injuring 460 and closing 92 polling stations. (BBC)

Tweeting from his golf club over the weekend, US President Donald Trump undermined his own Secretary of State's efforts to solve the North Korean crisis through direct negotiations. (NYT) He tweeted:

"I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. Save your energy Rex."

He followed this up with a second tweet: "We’ll do what has to be done!"

In other news from Trump on twitter, he wrote that a mayor in Puerto Rico who had criticised the slow support from US authorities for the devastated island was "nasty" and showing poor leadership.

This piece from AP's Chris Gillette details the slow response from US agencies, while this New York Times piece from its reporters and photographers on the ground there is essential.

7. Coming up...

The key focus this week is the announcement due at 2 pm on Saturday of the final election result after the counting of 384,072 special votes.

The NZIER is scheduled to release its September quarter survey of business opinion at 10 am on Tuesday.

8. One fun thing

Here's an XKBD cartoon on Zuckerberg's "Move fast and break things" mantra that hits the spot.