Wednesday 1 April 2015

The Nashing Of Labour's Teeth: Why Being Green Ain't Getting Any Easier.

Red In Tooth And Claw: Stuart Nash, winner of the provincial seat of Napier, clearly intends to build Labour's vote by savaging the Greens.
IF THE GREENS want a glimpse of their future with Labour, then they should listen to Stuart Nash.
Speaking yesterday (31/3/15) at the big oil exploration industry conference at Sky City, Labour’s energy spokesperson warned his audience that the tiny minority who opposed oil drilling was “always in our ear”. What’s more, he said, “they’re very media savvy”.
The Napier MP (who raised the bulk of his campaign funds at a single dinner organised by Matthew Hooton and held at Auckland’s exclusive Northern Club) lamented the fact that the oil industry’s “great story” – about jobs, regional development and enhanced government revenues – was simply not being heard by the New Zealand public. It was time, said Nash, for the industry to “lift its game”.
This is, of course, the same Stuart Nash who is also urging Labour’s caucus to abandon its support for the Greens’ flagship energy policy of setting up a single electricity buyer – NZ Power.
“It will be my very strong recommendation that we drop NZ Power,” the Stuff website quotes Nash as saying. “There are very few people that think it is a policy that’s needed in 2015. Maybe 10 years ago there was a strong argument for it, but not now.
“We have got a regulatory framework – the Commerce Commission and the Electricity Authority – which is out there looking at predatory behaviour, and also with a strong mandate to foster competition . . . you could argue that the level of competition necessary to drive prices down is coming in.”
Nash is the fresh new face of a Labour Party Caucus still smarting from the hiding it received at last year’s General Election. A large number of the Napier MP’s colleagues share his view that the party cannot be elected while tens-of-thousands of voters see it as being joined at the hip with the “far-Left” Greens.
Nash is convinced that until “Middle New Zealand” becomes convinced that any future Labour Government will not only limit itself to “sensible” economic and social policies, but also undertake to keep the Greens on a tight leash, there is very little chance of the party being re-elected.
It’s a view that can only have received powerful reinforcement from Winston Peters’ conservative populist victory in Northland last weekend. The speed with which the NZ First leader embraced the role of environmental defender (by promising to keep the Resource Management Act safe from Dr Nick Smith’s ‘forests and sawmills’ model of economic development) will not have been lost on Nash and his ilk. They’re convinced that a substantial number of New Zealand voters, while happy to call themselves “environmentalists”, shudder at the thought of being labelled “Greens”. Nash (and Peters?) suspect that there may be upwards of 100,000 “detachable” Green voters just waiting for someone to offer them a more comfortable billet.
All of which leaves the Greens facing some very uncomfortable choices. With the zeitgeist offering scant protection to old-fashioned left-wing radicalism – let alone revolutionary ecologism – the party will either have to hunker-down and wait for the conservative tide to turn; or, allow that same tide to carry it inexorably to the Right.
The first option would see the Greens’ numbers shrink, but the party itself would remain true to its core principles. Anchored firmly on the Left, it would offer the electorate clear policy and, more importantly, clear ethics. In a Parliament awash with opportunism and equivocation, the Greens would continue to speak truth to power.
The second option offers the Greens the prospect of power itself. Yes, it would give rise to enormous internal tensions and involve some pretty major compromises; and yes, the Green leadership would have to restrict the party’s ambitions to achieving the sort of small gains that either Labour or National might reasonably be expected to concede; but they would, at long last, be part of the game.
After being excluded from executive power for nearly twenty years, the Greens would finally be free to choose. They, and they alone, would decide whether Green Party ministers took their seats at the Cabinet Table alongside Simon Bridges – or Stuart Nash.
This essay was posted on The Daily Blog and Bowalley Road on Wednesday, 1 April 2015.


Nick J said...

Nash reminds me of Mayalls amoral young MP Alan BStard. Hunting with the hounds, running with the foxes. Hooton and the Northern Club and a Labour candidacy. Shades of 84 methinks!

pat said...

...or fade into insignificance due to its supporters disgust to be replaced by a clone of the unsullied Green Party under a new name....the two party state is not carved in stone.

Anonymous said...

So Chris,
Do YOU agree with Mr Nash?

Dave Kennedy said...

Interestingly the Green political movement is growing in strength around the world. The UK Greens are moving rapidly to becoming the third party in the UK (50,000 members), the Australian Greens are growing stronger and immediately after the election the NZ Greens polled 17.5%.

Many voters see the Labour Party as the major party on the left but have been continually frustrated with their lack of vision and energy. Meanwhile the Greens membership and organisational capacity is growing (the Greens raised more money than Labour for advertising in the last election).

What we have isn't really an issue of shifting the opinion of middle New Zealand to the left because in terms of policy most New Zealanders are there already. Most people don't like National's philosophy or policies, and National is aware of this (The Hollow Men). The fact that our elections have been presidential contests has removed voter scrutiny from policy and is necessary for National to maintain power.

In the UK the Green's policies had more support than any other party so the argument here probably isn't about policy positioning but power.

For Nash to claim that Labour have to adopt sensible economic and social policy and keep the Greens "on a tight leash", is just political posturing. Suggeting that Labour needs to become more like National is nonsense. The Oil Industry is moving in the same direction as the coal industry, and we all know what happened to Solid Energy and what is happening in Australia. Oil Companies have got great wealth and power currently but they do not represent the future of energy. We would be jumping on board a dying industry.

It is in the interests of Labour and National to label the Greens as extreme because both parties are actually threatened by the broad support the Greens would achieve if they had greater public exposure. Currently more people have their perceptions of the Greens shaped by what Key says about them because he gets more exposure.

There is a lot that needs to change in New Zealand based on sound advice that the Government has already received from it's own commissioners and advisors and has been ignored. A truly progressive government is needed that isn't totally focussed on maintaining power at all costs and is prepared to stand up to corporate interests and the finance sector and bring some humanity back to governance.

Nash will not deliver that sort of Government nor others in Labour who are wanting to operate within National's power club and old boys network.

The change in male leadership of the Greens may create an even greater threat to the two largest parties and as the effects of climate change and inequality continue to grow and voters will be looking for an alternative that isn't tainted by its past.

The most logical longer term view of New Zealand politics is for the Greens to grow stronger at the expense of both Labour and National. The Greens are unlikely to ever form a coalition with National so that future Governments will likely to be National/Labour or Green/Labour coalitions.

Wayne Mapp said...


I know that it is conventional wisdom that middle New Zealand is left already. That is not as true as you would like to think.

And I think Chris Trotter knows this, which is why he keeps putting out items like this, even if they do not seem to reflect his personal views.

For instance most middle New Zealanders are suspicious of trade unions. Most middle New Zealanders believe in free markets, albeit with controls. Most middle New Zealanders do not want excessive taxation - top rates above say 35% have no real appeal. Most middle New Zealanders want to be able to "get ahead" without too much govt interference.

Of course most middle New Zealanders also want a fair deal, both for themselves and society generally, so US style capitalism holds little appeal.

Over a long period of time the National Part has been able to quite accurately represents these views, because a very large percentage of National MP's have precisely this background. Think of Bill English, Gerry Brownlee, Paula Bennet, Judith Collins as examples.John Key's background is a little more unusual, but in his childhood and youth he lived a completely middle New Zealand life, so he instinctively knows what it is like, even if he has moved a bit beyond it as an adult..

So do not be too quick to dismiss Stuart Nash. Sure he isn't your typical Wellington cool metrosexual, but then neither are most New Zealanders.

Dave Kennedy said...

Wayne, many people have bought what National has been telling them for years but all the nonunionised workers must be wondering why they are struggling on minimum wages, have zero hour contracts and are having their meal breaks threatened. They know that the balance has been tipped in the employers favour.

The taxation claim is also not true it has never resonated recently as a compelling reason to change votes. Many people would be happy to pay more taxes if it meant a better health service, better maintained regional roads, not having to pay large school fees and having a transport system that works in Auckland.

Middle New Zealand want transparent political decisions, less corruption and greater equity of incomes.

Over 50% of our country is female, far more woman become graduates each year than men and yet they are being pushed out of leadership roles (in 2004 wee we 4th in the world for women represented in management and now we are in the bottom 12 and dropped 13 places last year alone). Women are also represented in middle New Zealand and many want to get ahead in an environment not dominated by boys' clubs.

Most New Zealanders do not realize that free trade does not mean fair trade and the growing numbers taking part in TPPA protests signify a growth in understanding. New Zealanders are also uncomfortable about non-resident New Zealanders buying our businesses and property.

Middle New Zealanders are also sick of the way Australian banks are making huge profits out of unethical charges.

National does not represent the views of middle NZ any longer, they just pretend to. National used to come from the rural New Zealand heartland but despite what you say, five Ministers are lawyers and many are millionaires with large property portfolios. Many National MPs have corporate ties and two worked for Philip Morris. Small and Medium sided businesses owners in the regions do not see National representing their interests now.

The Greens have a solid mix of backgrounds from a DHB CEO, business owners, one with a masters in transport planning, local government, corporate law, PricewaterhouseCoopers business consultant, adult education... a beef and sheep farmer just missed out on being elected as did one of the facilitators for the Glenn inquiry. The Greens can't be dismissed as a fringe party that is not connected with middle New Zealand as National (and sometimes Labour) desperately try to do.

James Shaw is the only one who could vaguely fit your Wellington metrosexual and he is being talked about in positive terms in the media and by National supporters.

Nash comes across as an opportunist to me who is trying to ingratiate himself into National's corporate club of high rollers, big oil, rich Chinese businessmen and Hollywood magnates.

We need a return to the caring community values and egalitarian culture we once had. We will soon be moving into a third generation of a growing demographic called the working poor and what you call middle New Zealand is actually becoming a minority.

Davo Stevens said...

Stuart Nash is another 'Rightwing Socialist'.

Wayne Mapp; you're off the mark. Most Nz'ers want a decent society where everyone gets a fair go, if that means more tax on the high income earners then so be it. You need to get out and work with the ordinary people, those who work for the Warehouse and other almost minimum wage jobs. You're in for a surprise.

It's high time that the tax loopholes are closed for the wealthy and remove some of the burden from the backs of the middle incomers.

John Key was never a middle class person, his family was wealthy and his mother milked the system for all it was worth.

pat said...

you are all wrong....first you must define "most"....of those who voted (not most) 52% supported the National plan (have they got one?) however only approx 70% voted....Mr Trotters vision, the National partys vision(?) , Brendons support or Davos are all obviously off the mark....NOBODY knows (and nor can they) what the majority seek as they dont know may be fair to say however that the majority seek something other....IFany of the aforementioned truely had the answers then they would be running the most successful PR company in the world.....and none of them are.

Brendon Harre said...

Chris Trotter writes IF THE GREENS want a glimpse of their future with Labour, then they should listen to Stuart Nash.
I think Chris is wrong, Stuart only talks about oil and electricity neither of which goes to the core of what Labour is about.
Whereas a former Labour cabinet minister and current Mayor is going back to the Labour’s core values by focusing on opportunity and housing. This vision of the future will be much more challenging for the Greens.
Dalziel says the region is enjoying an insurance-fuelled economic boom right now - 5 per cent growth. But why can't the taps stay turned on for the next 50 years?
"This is our chance to actually see Christchurch for the opportunity that it is - and it is a massive opportunity,"…….
One of the keys is land supply. Manji (Lianne’s right hand man) says the number one economic problem for countries like New Zealand is inflated house prices. A decade of easy borrowing has simply been used to jack up the property market to unrealistic levels.
As an investment, it is a mirage. "We've got a huge number of working poor who just can't afford to buy. Or the only way they can afford to buy is because the credit system is turned on at max. There's huge systemic risks there."
Yet more than any other New Zealand city, flat Christchurch could offer affordable homes if the spreading out were done intelligently.
"We have the dream layout. We can expand as far as we like. The question is how can we get land prices down and remove this whole game of zoning and land banking that's been going on?"
Chris himself explains why housing and opportunity is so important to Labour.
"Thanks to Labour’s state housing scheme, the health of workers and their families improved dramatically – lifting their productivity and reducing the economic burden of disease and chronic illness. Fixing the share of workers’ income expended on accommodation at around 25 percent similarly assisted the employers. By curbing property speculation and rack-renting, Labour’s state housing scheme kept prices stable across the entire housing market. Affordable housing meant that the incidence of workers attempting to offset rapidly rising accommodation costs by ratchetting-up the price of their labour, was reduced. Money not spent on accommodation could be spent on other things. In all these respects, state housing acted as a significant wage subsidy."
I expanded on Chris’s article by discussing hope and opportunity in the comment section of the above article and immediately was criticised by a Green ideologue.
Nick J said...
"Brendon, your "hope" metaphor for capitalism no doubt grows out of Roosevelt's' line during the depression about the only thing to fear being fear itself. Unfortunately for us we are not Depression America where the issue was lack of money in the midst of overwhelming abundance. Chris' oblique reference to the laws of thermodynamics points us in another direction…….."
The choice for the Greens, Labour and New Zealand is the optimism of hope and opportunity or the pessimism of contained development.

peteswriteplace said...

Change is coming! The Greens had their opportunity to increase their overall political influence, but it is waning now Russel has announced his departure.

Don Robertson said...

Chris - I think you focus too much on the left-right divide. Labour and the Greens problems are not because they are 'too left wing' - people vote the way they vote for a lot of reasons and policy only plays a small part.

When a labour leader forgets they left 50 grand down the back of the sofa, or is seen to be lying about SIS briefings, or doesn’t know how to back up his computer, the policy isn't what gets discussed.

And - I doubt the left wingers really trust Labour anyway.

The Greens are in a different boat. While they are a small party, people will over look some of their anti-science aspects to send an environmental message. As they get more popular, people start to think they might actually get some power and start to worry.

Are we going to have emergency ebola clinics dispensing homoeopathic medicines? Are all vaccines gong to be banned, or just the ones produced with GM technology? If fluoride is so dangerous, will they ban it from toothpaste? Will we have to go back to raw milk?

You can already get ACC to pay for acupuncture - despite there being little evidence for it's effectiveness. What's next? State funding for Iridology?

There are claims the Greens are growing in Australia and the UK, but you only need to look at the broader political picture to see it may not be support for the Greens that is growing, but disgust at the other parties.

The British public seem to have fallen out of love with Tony Blair and 'new' Labour, they feel the Lib Dems betrayed them and the Tories - well, no-one likes a tory.

Hence Ukip and the Greens.

In Australia - Tony Abbot. 'nuf said. The Labour leader ... er, who is the Labour leader over there this week?

I can only speak anecdotally, but I know a lot of people for whom the rise of irrationality is their main concern - be that the rise of Destiny Church and their ilk, or the rise of magical thinking and the abandonment of science in, for example, health care.

That is the divide you should be looking at - unfortunately all our parties are happy to use science and evidence based approaches when it suits them and to abandon it when it is inconvenient.

Brutus Iscariot said...

@ Davo.

Yeah - try getting anyone to agree what "high income" is though.

I believe the top tax rate used to kick in at 80K during the last Labour government. Is that "wealthy"?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Be fair Don, I'm not a great fan of possum peppering, but the last time a green idiot came out with something stupid he was stepped on firmly. And noises were made about science-based evidence. So I'm reasonably hopeful there.

Davo Stevens said...

Oh Brutus you are talking bull. As some-one who was on a very good 6 figure salary for some years I can tell you that there are tax loopholes that you can drive a bus through. Even for salary earners. All you need is a good accountant! I paid the tax but got most of it back at the end of the financial year. Eventually paying less than some-one on a single dole!!!

It's past time that those loopholes were closed!

Loz said...

Roger Douglas could also lay claim to a grandfather in the first Labour government. As with Nash, Douglas was also bankrolled by wealthy business sector groups with interests not in keeping with the traditionl values of the labour movement. After the 1987 election, Douglas' repositioning of Labour was claimed to had made the political brand the "natural" party of government as it could (at that stage) rely on traditional Labour voters AND the support of the business fraternity. The recipe led to the worst defeat of any government in New Zealand's history with a disillusioned and disengaged Labour heartland.

For nearly 30 years Labour has remained wedded to the belief that deregulating corporate activity leads to prosperity, regardless of a string of market crashes and big business scandals suggesting otherwise.

New Zealand's experience with Labour switching to a big-money allegiance is not unique. Australian Federal Labor can now only muster 33% of the primary vote. In the UK, Labour is polling 34% while the New Zealand version sits around 31%. All three countries have completely different public relationships with the Greens, but, all in three countries free-market Labour/Labor continues to find difficulty in defining substantive difference between itself and the blue ribbon parties.

The upcoming failure of Labour in the UK general election has been founded on defining the party as having a “Better Plan for a Better Future”... not a rejection of free market ideas, just better management. Across the Tasman, Labor is as dismal with the slogan "We’re for a stronger, smarter, and fairer Australia"... as if the conservatives couldn't use the same slogan. NZ's Labour shares the mediocrity with "For a better NZ".

Walter Nash's "Conscious Purpose versus Laissez Faire" defined Labour's fundamental difference to the free market faith that had captured the established parties. The principles that created success for the Labour party remain completely misunderstood (and rejected) by the current politicians. They would love to believe that the Greens are responsible for the dismal appeal of the Labour party but they would be quite wrong.

Davo Stevens said...

Well put Loz and very true.

The fact that Roger, after he got nudged, set up ACT with his little mate Richard "Babbler" Prebble showed where his policies lay.

Kiwi's don't really like extremes in politics but they do like a choice of policies. The business backers of the 'New' Labour wanted the party to distance themselves from those Whacky Greenies. Whom they thought were just too radical! The end result is the Gnats and the Gnatlites!

Will Little Andrew pull them away from that disasterous course? Time will tell but I'm not holding my breath.

I recall your attempt at politics in Dunners Chris. It wasn't the time for New Labour though. Kiwi's were enamoured with Rogie until they woke up when the Gnats got in with a slash and burn policy in 1990.

Anonymous said...

This is a long time ago, but we always understood our classmate in primary school Stuart Nash was adopted--no one descended from brummie-land ever had such a good complexion. I may well be wrong, and even so surely it's irrelevant, but I make a point of not talking to my adopted nephews about any of the family they didn't know--why would they be interested? If the Nashes were the same and reality as I perceive pertains, then his connexion to the great '35 Laboutites is generational cultural, as Roger Douglas's turned out to be. Or, zilch.

Do you think, Chris, National cleared the way for Stuart in Napier by getting Chris Tremain to resign? To add to the Hootenry?
How , without an ego, could you look in your shaving mirror?

Brutus Iscariot said...

@ Davo - don't know what "bull" i was talking - i just asked you a question.

There is a lot less tax avoidance by salary earners now that the top income tax rate is far closer to the company and trust tax rate. Says to me we have the tax about right.

However, the ultra rich don't mind high income tax so much because their stated incomes turn out relatively low after they've been through the accountancy churner.

They would fear a wealth/capital tax though - that's where the focus should be.

In short, high income taxes don't really touch the super-rich, but kill the middle class.