This new green-flavoured party isn't the life saver National needs. At least, not unless National can do some serious sweet-talking.
Vernon Tava's Sustainable New Zealand is launching today. The temptation is to imagine this party as a potential and desperately needed coalition partner for National.
But, it's not. Not as long as party leader Tava clings to his ideal of staying neutral.
Tava is refusing to entertain the idea of taking a safe seat from National at the next election. Which almost certainly means he won't make it into Parliament. Without a safe seat he's going to have to rake in 5 per cent of the vote. That's a mammoth task
Look, for example, at Colin Craig's Conservatives. They managed around 4 per cent at the 2014 election. It wasn't enough to get in, and that was despite a three-year run up. Tava's given himself a third of that time.
Tava is, of course, ultimately doing the right thing by refusing to entertain the gift of a safe seat. Having National as his Parliamentary sugar daddy would repel left-of-centre voters who might prefer a Labour government. A vote for Sustainable NZ would mean a vote for National, stunting the smaller party's chances at standing on its own two feet.
And, what's more, electorate deals are short sugar hits that eventually kill the eater. Peter Dunne's United Future, ACT and even the Alliance if you count Helen Clark encouraging Labour voters to help Jeanette Fitzsimons out in Coromandel in 1999; each of them took these deals in some way, and each of them suffered.
Tava's party - as a theory anyway - has merit. He's pitching himself as a "bright-green" party. Not blue-green, not red-green, not green-green. Bright-green implies this is a party aimed at improving the environment, without killing off the economy. There's a place for that in the political landscape. Especially since the Green Party's done a fairly good job of declaring war on cars and roads and also reminding us it's still too hippy to consider genetic engineering. Tava is a welcome alternative to the existing Greens who are still way too kooky for the majority.
But - and this is possibly a big but - are there enough environmentally focused voters to get both the Greens and Sustainable New Zealand into Parliament at the same time?
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Maybe. Between them they'd need 10 per cent of the vote, and the Greens themselves have polled far beyond that in the past. But it's a tough ask for next year.
Tava seems relaxed about that. He's talking like a guy who is realistic about skipping Parliament in 2020, using that election to introduce himself to voters, then bouncing from that into the house in 2023.
Good for Tava, bad for National. The Nats are desperate for mates, and so are National voters. There's a good chance a fair few of them will strategically switch their votes to Sustainable New Zealand, only to have the party miss out on Parliament. Those are votes National can't afford to give up.
There's still the tiniest chance Tava might change his mind about taking an electorate seat from National. If he registers something like a respectable 2 per cent over the next few months, National might beg him hard enough to convince him.
That kind of thing can be left right to the last minute. When Jim Bolger gave a tacit endorsement of ACT's Richard Prebble ahead of him winning the Wellington Central seat in 1996, it was just two days before the election.
A safe seat remains a possibility, depending on how Tava does. The closer the election gets the more tempting that would be for both sides. But, until then, this party might do more harm than good to National's chances.