For decades now National and Labour have had a cosy little arrangement when it comes to free trade. Both parties could count on each other to provide a solid bloc of votes in parliament to pass any bill implementing free trade agreements.
So any hyperventialting by the Greens, New Zealand First, the Maori Party or Mana counted for nothing. Jane Kelsey might get to write as many op-eds as she likes, but she has virtually no influence on the actual outcome of the free trade agenda. The solid National–Labour coalition ensures that the relevant legislation will pass.
But will this arrangement prevail after this election?
A very good question. Monetary policy used to have bipartisan support also, but Labour have abandoned that to go along with the Greens and NZ First. Will they do the same with trade?
This election could see Labour down in the low 30s as a percentage of the total vote. If a combination of Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First, the Maori Party and Internet Mana can form a government, Labour is only going to be 60% of the government, at most. All its likely partners have opposed every single free trade agreement over the last two decades. Collectively they could demand that Labour not support the TPP as a price of coalition. And could Labour resist such a demand?
What’s more, if the Left (apologies to Winston who is not really left) do not have enough votes to form a government, would Labour still continue the cosy arrangement of supporting free trade agreements? Increasingly Labour activists, including their left leaning MP’s, oppose TPP. David Cunliffe, supported by Phil Goff and others, has positioned the party to be able to vote for TPP. But that is before the election. An election loss could well weaken the free trade faction in Labour.
I’m not sure there is a free trade faction left in Labour. Goff, and O’Connor maybe. Who else?