There are five parties in Parliament. One of them is guaranteed to be in Opposition (ACT) and one of them guaranteed to be in or supporting Government (NZ First). One or two of the other three will be in opposition also. So what do the parties in opposition need to do to prosper?
Below is my genuine best advice for each of the four parties that may or will be in Opposition as to how to best prosper there.
Let’s start from smallest to largest.
Have fun. NZ First is going to be part of Government which means it will be a big spending Government with lots of waste to target. Make yourself the party against wasteful spending. Also steer through the euthansia bill – for nine months this will be very high profile.
Effectively you want to be the opposition to NZ First. The other parties will be reluctant to do so, in case they need them in future. Don’t hold back. Use the OIA and call in the Ombudsman and Auditor-General as often as necessary.
Also keep Epsom happy.
Elect Julie-Anne Genter co-leader. Leave the door open a fraction to National, so Labour and NZ First can’t ever take you for granted again. You don’t have to ever go with National, just leave open the possibility.
Carry on the campaign on dirty rivers and climate change. They are your bread and butter issues where you can differentiate from Labour. You need to give young urban liberals a reason to vote Greens instead of Labour. Propose something inspirational for cycling.
Never ever again mention Metiria Turei. Use your new MPs Chloe and Golriz as star power on campuses and around the country.
Relax. You are going to be in Government in 2020 if NZ First went with National. You just need to do the basics right, and run a tight ship and you’ll get there.
Jacinda is uncontested as Leader so caucus infighting should be a thing of the past. Work out how you effectively oppose a National – NZ First Government while keeping Jacinda’s brand as relentlessly positive. Assign some attack dogs.
The way to bring National down will be the same as in 1997, associate them with the antics of NZ First (recall Undiegate). Make the Prime Minister every day defend what some NZ First Minister or MP has done.
You’ve got 20 more MPs, and proportionally more funding and staff. Recruit some top staff from the Clark era. They’ll want to work for you if they think you will win.
Give some decent portfolios to some of your star new MPs such as Deborah Russell and Kiri Allen. Don’t make them “wait their turn”. But be aware a couple of your new MPs can be very loose, and make sure the Whips keep a close eye on them.
You won the election, but Winston did a coalition of the losers. So this is very different to any other Government going into opposition. You are going to dominate Parliament as no Opposition party has since 1983.
Absolutely essential is not to have a leadership change in 2017, if at all. The stupidest thing an opposition can do is put in a new leader while the new Prime Minister has a honeymoon. It means no publicity at all for any new leader.
Yes of course senior MPs may want to consider whether or not they want to contest 2020. These are not decisions needed for 2017. What is needed is an Opposition that gets straight to work destroying the moral authority of the coalition of the losers.
Many NZ First supporters in provincial and rural New Zealand will feel betrayed if Winston goes with a Government of Labour supported by Greens. It means he has given the Greens a veto on all government legislation. So National needs to get out around the country whipping up discontent.
You have a huge caucus of 56. Don’t worry too much about the House for the first few months – what happens there is beltway. Get out into the provinces. Just have a small attack team for the House.