The Greens looked a bit pathetic this week, lining up to ask for a niche in a government that doesn't want them and doesn't need them. Their only value to Labour at the election was to scare enough voters from the right to give the moderate left a majority.
Labour now had to calculate whether it was worth trying to keep those voters by leaving the Greens out of their second-term government or count themselves unlikely to keep them in 2023 when they will probably need the Greens to get a third term.
But whatever Labour decided, they knew they could count on the Greens whenever they may need them, because the Greens have given themselves nowhere else to go. They are well accustomed to being spurned by Labour.
Helen Clark kept them out of her three cabinets and Jacinda Ardern let Winston Peters block them from her first. But still the Greens come back, like eager puppies.
MMP wasn't supposed to be like this. Back in 1986 when the system was conceived by a royal commission, I was genuinely excited at the prospect of new dimensions in our politics. It seemed to me there were many more strands of interest in New Zealand than those that sat on the socio-economic axis of left and right.
Māori self-determination would be one obvious new dimension. Environmentalism would be another. Both of those tides of thinking had been building steadily since the 1970s and neither was exclusive to the left or right.
By 1986 there was a lively young environmentalist in National's caucus, Simon Upton and 10 years later, when MMP came into force at the 1996 election, National had another in Nick Smith. Outside Parliament there were leading environmental lobbyists, notably Guy Salmon and Rob Fenwick, who were either in business or were not averse to it.
By 1996 a Green Party had indeed appeared on the New Zealand political landscape but it had quickly positioned itself to the left of Labour on social and economic policies and joined Jim Anderton's Alliance for the 1993 and 1996 elections.
It left the Alliance before the 1999 election, which consigned the Greens to the wilderness when Clark and Anderton formed a coalition. When Anderton crashed, the Alliance hard left gravitated to the Greens - and there they largely remain.
The only Green Party we have had in Parliament has been a collection of political activists far more energised by social concerns and antagonism to capitalism than environmental projects.
There are exceptions, one of them being a co-leader at present, James Shaw. But we have just seen the gulf that separates Shaw from his party when the poor fellow got the Government to grant money to a green school. It sounded like a strange school but that wasn't what infuriated the rest of them. They were aghast that it was a private school. Even Labour is not that doctrinaire.
Shaw is a Green who is familiar with commerce and can deal with the National Party. Given a climate change portfolio last term, he got National's support for his zero carbon bill in order that its emissions target will survive a change of government.
Genuine Greens understand that environmental values can very effectively be priced into business and market behaviour through carbon taxes or tradeable emissions permits under a descending cap. Some of the Greens in our Parliament have no idea how markets work.
At one meeting during the election campaign, Chloe Swarbrick reportedly declared, "Jobs are not created by trickle-down." How does she think jobs are created?
The Green voters I've met are more like Shaw, sensible moderate realists, not class warriors. But I can't argue with success, the Green Party has managed to stay in Parliament while other third parties have come and gone.
A Māori Party tried to be independent but was punished by its voters for supporting a National Government. Revived this year, the party promised not to do that again. The only other surviving party, Act, has been kept alive by National and could not cross the line.
The multi-dimensional promise of MMP has never materialised and we find ourselves now with four, possibly five, parties in the new Parliament that all sit firmly on the left or the right.
What happened? I think it was that we adopted MMP just when the old left-right debate had been revitalised. New economic thinking had split both ends of the axis into conservative protectionists and liberal free-marketers.
Liberals had the upper hand in both Labour and National governments of that time. MMP allowed conservatives in each, Anderton in Labour, Peters in National, to form their own parties but the contest was the same.
So it remains. There is no other essential dimension to our politics. Two parties are enough.