Turning the political landscape Green

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.