Opinion: Labour swallowing TPP rats
The Labour Party is swallowing a dead rat, and not just any old dead rat.
Labour is swallowing an enormous, filthy, stinking, rotten, maggot-infested dead rat called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Labour's 32 MPs looked deflated and rattled in Parliament's question time today. It was like 32 individual TPP rats were served up as a ghastly afternoon feed.
Labour looked as if it had nowhere to go when attacking the TPP the Government had agreed to.
Labour seemed to be flailing about, its questions effectively patsies that allowed Prime Minister John Key and company extol the virtues of the trade deal.
The lowest point for Labour was the inevitable and humiliating recital by Key of Helen Clark's public statement that it was "unthinkable" for New Zealand to be left out of the TPP.
It was always going to come, but it looked like it really hurt the Labourites. Their hero, Clark, was in support of TPP – her words thrown back at them as a disgusting garnish on their dead rat feed.
It is looking like the TPP was nowhere near as bad as Labour made it out to be.
The big fears have been muted: the PHARMAC model is looking intact and there are restrictions on tobacco corporations suing the Government. And while the deal's not great for dairy, there's a lot in it for other export industries.
In fact, the TPP seems pretty much okay and it looks like Labour should be supporting it.
Problem is, Labour said it would not support the TPP unless its five non-negotiable bottom lines were met.
And, by leader Andrew Little's own admission, at least one bottom line has not been met – that "New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreigner buyers".
The TPP will impinge on the right of New Zealand to restrict housing sales to foreigners, so Labour has painted itself into a corner.
Either Labour's non-negotiable bottom lines were a load of codswallop, or it will not support the TPP.
At the moment, Little is trying to play both sides, refusing to say whether Labour supports the agreement or not. Basically Little is playing word games as he plays for time, knowing that National is going to rub his nose in the TPP dead rat feed.
My pick is that Labour will continue to play out this silly game for a while before finally giving its support to TPP. Labour wants to try and trick its base supporters that it is still against the TPP, but let the public think it is for it.
It really is untenable for Labour to refuse to say either way. However, it has until the final text is out to continue its charade.
Labour's best hope is that there is some massive face-saving fishhook, but that seems unlikely and Labour's sad faces show it knows it.
It seems Labour's TPP game is up. It should just swallow the TPP dead rat and get on with it.