The seismic shifts round Parliament this week present both risks and an opportunity for the Greens

The Greens face political risks, and opportunity, in about equal measure. What will they make of these, between now and November?

I am ever-fascinated by the Greens. I like them, but I do not -- what’s that fabulous word? -- grok them, all of the time. Every now and again, in my efforts to crack the code on their policy, I have ended up rewriting it for them.

To be fair, if the Greens remade themselves every time they were criticised, they would have disintegrated long ago. In truth, they don’t do this because they can’t (also, because a lot of the criticism is rubbish).

With this week’s political landscape shifts, they are going to have to have another think, and I hope they are.

Hone Harawira launched his Mana party, with seeming endorsement of Sue Bradford and Nandor Tanczos, who were prominent at the launch: a tough blow, and, in Tanczos’ case, a surprise. There remains much Bradford loyalty among the Greens.

Political aeons -- a few weeks -- ago, it was sounding as if the Greens might pick up a ballot-boxful of anti-Labour protest vote. Danyl’s post and its thread were gratifying. If it all came to fruition, it would have helped build a strong Green opposition -- Opposition, even.

It was also a massive risk: likely to bolster the view, within the Greens, that nothing is in need of repair.

The ground is crowded on the left, but space has opened up on the centre-right. A Brash-aligned government is a different spectre to the one we’ve … enjoyed? for the last three years.

It could wound National on both sides. The Greens could, if they chose, respond.

They have a point of difference from all of the others: sustainability. It is not a move right; it is anything but mainstream. Yet there has never been a better year to try the sales pitch; there may not be again, for a long time.

Among the tests of real leadership, is wisdom to spy an opportunity, and the courage to grasp it. Will the Greens be out in front?

I myself think that this week’s developments won’t affect the Greens’ campaign. I think they will hold a steady course.

That, too, will take some nerve. Ironically, it exposes them to identical criticisms that were being levelled at Pagani and Labour: the Greens sit where they sit, year in year out, waiting for historical opportunity to fall in their lap, the electorate to catch up with them.

Steady state is better than actively running after the social justice vote, at the expense of what ought to be their core message, losing their point of difference, becoming a sort of ‘new’ Labour, redux.

In a way -- for I do not wish them ill, or out of Parliament -- I think a good fright in 2011, or at least mild disappointment at the ballot box, that sees the Greens back in about their current strength despite higher hopes, would be good for the party. If it prompted some self-inquiry, it might be the best thing for them and us all that could happen.

Comments (15)

by Save Happy Valley on May 01, 2011
Save Happy Valley

What would it take for the greens to have 15, 20 or 30%? what would it take to have green co leaders of the republic of Aotearoa? Surely one day NZ could have a green government. To do that the greens would have to make their policies effective and popular.

The mana party will be anti privatisation and Don Brash is a climate denier. So that means the point of difference is effective climate policy and anti privatisation between the greens et al and Act and National.

National knows privatisation is not popular, and NZ likes its clean and green image (it wouldn't of set up the 'blue'greens otherwise). Brash really puts a dent in Key's image.

Privatisation, pollution and prejudice... the PPPs of Brash. Rather boring, old fashioned and... old news. What else is on offer...


by Claire Browning on May 02, 2011
Claire Browning

This morning Geoff Robinson asked Nandor Tanczos on Morning Report whether he, too, like Sue Bradford, was a proud founding member of the new Mana Party:

"No, look, I was a Green MP and I'm still a Green, but what interests me really about this development is the opportunity to enlarge a third space in New Zealand politics ... where parties can work together strategically ..." 

by Judy Martin on May 02, 2011
Judy Martin

Good on Nandor. He has long held that the Greens are neither left nor right, but a new force.

by Claire Browning on May 02, 2011
Claire Browning

Yeah, I was gobsmacked to see him there, and I checked his blog (which hadn't been updated since January) ... but I get it now.

by Save Happy Valley on May 03, 2011
Save Happy Valley

Nandor has always hoped that the maori party and green party could of worked well with each other. So the thinking is that the Mana Party is a new party that could work well with the greens.

Hone has been supporting East Coast iwi who with greenpeace are opposing deep sea oil drilling.

With Dr James Hansen in NZ this month for his climate talks visit, and the climate conference in Wellington in August, regeneration's nationwide workshops the ECO conference in Auckland mid year and the climate conference in Durban, South Africa in December. There is a lot of space for the Mana and Green Parties to work together.

Of course Don Brash the new Act leader is a climate denier. So the difference between National and Labour on climate action could continue to widen.

Nandor will be involved in this Auckland climate event with Dr James Hansen

Saturday, May 21 · 12:00pm - 4:00pm
Auckland Town hall Queen Street Auckland, New Zealand

Perhaps Hone's new party will have a role in bringing more pacific and maori people into the climate and green movements, after all Aotearoa is a pacific nation, and climate is a huge issue for out pacific cousins.

[SHV -- to be fair and apply the same rules to everyone, I have to ask you please not to use Pundit for spamming. Although I realise it is well meant. And half of your comment is on point. Thanks. Ed.]

by Nathaniel Wilson on May 03, 2011
Nathaniel Wilson

"What would it take for the greens to have 15, 20 or 30%? what would it take to have green co leaders of the republic of Aotearoa? "

To 15 % at least - I think there's a single very simple strategy.  The Greens need to start offering the carrot instead of wielding the stick.

The Doom and Gloom approach upon which nearly all climate change campaigning is based on is ineffective because we're not yet underwater.  You can only tell people that the sky is falling for so long (even if it is) before they stop listening.  If the Greens started focusing on how Green tech = better efficiency, how being less wasteful = savings etc... then you take away the great environment versus the economy debate, and with any luck also gain a heap more voters.

by Save Happy Valley on May 03, 2011
Save Happy Valley

More solutions based messaging and policy you think?

ie permaculture, food forests and community garden support


clean energy investment and instillationa and manufacture - ie green jobs and clean tech

rail jobs and investment -

eco city plans - ie Auckland eco city, rebuild chch as a eco city (garden city) with green manufacturing...

by Nathaniel Wilson on May 03, 2011
Nathaniel Wilson

Like it or loathe it, a lot of people are inherently adverse to the Greens and green policy because they conjure up (unfairly) images of hippies and drugs, bums and layabouts.   The pitch needs to change - everything is currently sold environment first, everything else second.  That's fine, but it won't win hearts and minds, or at least no more hearts and minds than have already been won.

In New Zealand at least, I'm not so convinced enough people see Green policy as adult (as opposed to high-minded naive teenage) policy.  There's too much talk about how wonderful things will be in some point in the future if we plan for green cities etc... I think the Greens (IMO) would get much more traction if they started pushing the direct "now" benefits - "policy x will save you money (now) or this investing in this kind of manufacturing will create x jobs now, with the potential for heaps more later, plus have x, y, z spin-off benefits", and quietly add the "plus leave our grandchildren something to play with" as an aside.

We live in a world where business drives everything.  I don't like it, but you've got to start winning before you can change the rules.

by william blake on May 04, 2011
william blake

Nathan, "direct now benefits"...what, like privatization? This immediacy of gratification seems like the 'naive teenage policy' that you decry.

How about an adult, thoughtful, long term approach to the environment and social equality that is missing from all of the short term politics available elsewhere?


by Nathaniel Wilson on May 04, 2011
Nathaniel Wilson

I wasn't talking about solving NZ's problems, or in what direction we should actually be going.  I'm just suggesting what it might take to lift the Green vote to 15% plus.

Speaking of privatisation, I do think any green tech manufacturing set up here should be privately owned, perhaps with initial tax breaks, if for no other reason than our government's a little on the broke side.  The "now" benefits, regardless of the actual tech should be two-fold - jobs, and growth-potential (some jobs today, more jobs tomorrow).  You sell it the same way the ludicrous Google server farms are being sold - given they are white elephants still getting traction, how hard should it be to sell smart concepts?  Just don't sell 'em as green first is all I'm saying.

by Save Happy Valley on May 07, 2011
Save Happy Valley

You also may have to change the rules to win. One being: economic growth.. is not compatable with a functional biosphere in the not to distant...

Your point is well made tho, re talk about current benefits of certain policies.

With rising fuel prices, and hostility to deep sea oil and coal mining in some communities... rail and public transport investment makes a lot of sense and has support from Wellington and Auckland Mayors.

I wonder what some good ways to create policy would be, following on from your point, and what good ways to communicate such policies would be.

One year the green party launched their transport policy @ britomart in Auckland.

by Save Happy Valley on May 07, 2011
Save Happy Valley

It must also be said that spending more and more money on motorways that don't solve traffic problems is a naive teenage idea, to take your phrase. It is of course more likely to be certain parties having links to certain.. trucking lobby figures that has more sway over policy and popularity or practicality of certain policy in the transport sector tho.. eh

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