The Greens: John Key's biggest electoral asset?
Greens co-leader Russel Norman and Labour leader David Shearer (Getty)
John Key has got an early Christmas present - a giant Green stick to whack David Shearer around the head with.
And Key is clearly intent on using his Green stick to bash Labour out of the centre ground right up until polling day in 2014.
Our 3 News/Reid research poll shows there could be a Labour/Greens Government.
The Greens want to have plenty of control - Russel Norman even wants to be Finance Minister.
Key knows that many in the New Zealand public fear the Greens. And the fact is there is probably no such-thing as a "Labour-led Government" any more - except in Shearer's dreams.
It will be a "Labour-Greens Government" up against a "National-led Government".
And that means Key can raise fears about just what the Green side of that equation wants to do.
The Greens want to print more money - Labour thinks that's mad.
The Greens want to stop all fracking (even though the Parliamentary Commissioner couldn't find a problem) - Labour likes the jobs it provides and wants it to go ahead.
The Greens want to stop deep-sea drilling - once again, Labour likes the jobs it provides, and wants it to go ahead.
Norman wants to be Finance Minister - Labour is intent on having one of its own people in there.
The list goes on and on.
We have already seen Key using the Green stick this week - hitting Labour with the attack line that the Greens want to stop everything and don't like jobs.
Norman's had a great year but his brain explosion about printing money to get us out of a financial hole looks like it will be a gift that keeps on giving for Key as well.
With two years to go - there will be plenty of others,
We now also know that a Labour/Greens Government will have a "proportional Cabinet".
Norman has called for that and Shearer agrees it’s the right thing to do.
It means the Greens would get a share of the Cabinet proportional to the seats they have in Government - on polling, that's around about a 1/3.
So that would mean up to seven Green MPs in any Cabinet - the public are entitled to know who this may be and how it will work (or not work).
Expect some severely bruised Labour egos - for instance, Trevor Mallard or Phil Goff may not make Cabinet. That will go down well if Kennedy Graham makes it.
Shearer seems to want things both ways - he wants an old-school Labour-led Government. But he is happy to try and grub a victory against Key - and be a "minority Prime Minister" who wins thanks to the Greens and MMP mathematics.
This will help Key who can campaign on old-school stability - the most popular leader of the most popular party. He knows that many New Zealanders will struggle with the idea of a minority Prime Minister - the first time around at least.
And don't say the election is two years away and this is for another day.
It is never too early to educate and inform the public about what future Government's may look like.
Key has obviously decided it’s not too early to attack.
And Norman has decided it’s not too early to say he wants to be Finance Minister and have up to seven Cabinet spots.
Labour just doesn't want to engage because its scared of the impact getting too cosy with the Greens will have.
Labour doesn't want to the public to have a true picture of what a Labour-Greens Government will look like.
The centre ground is still where elections are won and lost. And it is clear Key will use his Green stick to bash Labour and scare centre voters back over to his side.
At the last election, the Greens systematically misled the voting public that they could work with National - they even seemed to fool Key and Steven Joyce for a while.
The truth is that it was just a Green ruse to try and nab a few extra votes.
The gloves are now well and truly off and its payback time for Key - he can use and abuse the Greens for his own benefit.
It is obvious that Labour are scared of the negative impact the Greens will have on them when it comes to the centre voter.
If it wasn't so scared, then Shearer would have at least considered the idea of Norman as Finance Minister.
Aside from the day he decided printing money was a good idea, Norman is a superb economic communicator - he often puts Labour to shame.
Surely he could be an asset to a Left-wing Government as Finance Minister?
The same can be said of Metiria Turei - she would be an electoral asset given Labour is largely devoid of strong female politicians.
And Kevin Hague - the former DHB boss would be a good look as the next Health Minister.
But Shearer's answer is: no. Norman and the Greens are clearly a threat to Labour on many levels.
And that's why the Greens are an asset to Key.