Sunday 7 August 2011

Will History Repeat Itself?

"You'll fit in nicely, Russel, just over here - on the left." Could the New Zealand electorate be about to do to John Key in 2011 what it did to Helen Clark in 2002? Apply an ideological check on otherwise unbridled power?

WILL THE GENERAL ELECTION of 2011 be a repeat of 2002? That contest also began with the governing party coasting along smugly in the stratosphere of popular esteem. It, too, was burdened with a bitterly divided coalition partner which had ceased to exist as an effective political force. Its principal political opposition, under a new leader, also seemed incapable of putting a foot right and was plumbing new depths of unpopularity.

If the polls were accurate, said the pundits, the election looked set to deliver the impossible: a governing party with more than half the popular vote, ready to govern alone.

In the end, the political scientists who warned that, under a system of proportional representation, it was next to impossible for a single political party to secure more than half the popular vote, were proved right.

Over a period of six weeks, Helen Clark’s Labour Government shed 14 percentage points. It may have begun the campaign in the low-50s, but the final election tally was just 41 percent. That was a creditable increase of 3 percentage points on its 1999 share of the Party Vote, but still well short of half the votes cast.

There were many reasons for Labour’s rapid shedding of support in 2002 (not the least of which was the utterly unforeseen “Corngate” scandal). The most plausible explanation, however, is that the New Zealand electorate was unwilling to see one political party wielding “unbridled power”.

That unwillingness put a large number of voters in the market for a party ready to act as a political brake on Helen Clark and her Labour Government.

Enter Peter Dunne and his pledge to bring a much-needed measure of “common sense” to the business of government. Overnight, Mr Dunne’s United Future NZ Party was catapulted from margin-of-error territory to a balance-of-power wielding 6.7 percent of the Party Vote.

BUT WHICH PARTY, if any, is in a position to act as a brake on John Key’s National Party in 2011?

If it was to follow the 2002 precedent exactly, the electorate would saddle Mr Key with a coalition partner as far to the left of National as Mr Dunne was to the right of Labour.

The only party which fits that description is the Greens.

This rather startling prospect is clearly one that has already passed through the minds of the Green’s own strategists. It would certainly explain the Party’s steady, three-year shuffle towards the political centre, and the decision of its conference to leave the door to some sort of accommodation with the National Party just ever-so-slightly ajar.

It is certainly a prospect that would appeal to the Kiwi sense of fair play (not to mention our rather quirky sense of humour).

The Labour Party is obviously not ready to govern again and a painful kick up the bum from the voters would probably do it the world of good. By the same token, the Act Party and its pale neoliberal rider should not, under any circumstances, be allowed within spitting distance of the levers of power. The Maori and Mana parties can, reasonably safely, be allowed to slug it out in the Maori seats (where, if God has a sense of humour, the voters will return en masse to Labour). Mr Dunne would, of course, love to be the soufflĂ© that rose twice, but even the voters of Ohariu aren’t that generous.

No, if a brake is to be applied to National’s plans to sell-off state assets and gut welfare, the Greens are the only party that can do it.

And just imagine the Right’s consternation on election night. Even with the support of Act, United Future and what remains of the Maori Party, Mr Key simply doesn’t have the votes to govern. But, with the 15 votes of the Greens, a stable, centrist government beckons.

While a solid majority of New Zealanders chuckle wickedly behind their hands, Mr Key reluctantly picks up the phone.

“Russel, maaate, let’s talk.”

This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 5 August 2011.


Philoff said...

Really? Why do you so readily discount Dunne? He's an opportunist if ever there was one.

People keep talking as if Chauvel is going to beat Dunne, but I haven't seen any convincing evidence yet.

Anonymous said...

The fact that it is very difficult for one party to govern alone, though minority government should appeal to Key, is actually about the only change that MMP brought. Come on, it's still basically a two-party system, all the minnows that have gone into government have been annihilated at the following election. The political scientists actually led the small parties astray by saying that only the party vote mattered, when there are only 55 party list seats. By not trying to win electorate seats, we continue to see two very large parties based on the electorate seats, and the other parties have to rely on deals to win an electorate seat. Only the Greens have consistently got over the 5% threshold, and they have never got into the Cabinet, hence the hint of doing a deal with National. If they do fall for the illusion of Executive power they will go the same way as all the other minor parties. But as experienced MPs their party leaders should be able to win an electorate seat over a major party backbencher.

Brendan McNeill said...

While eating our greens has always been espoused by those who 'know what's best for us', there are large sections of the electorate who have no natural affiliation with broccoli, cabbage, or brussel sprouts.

Hopefully there remain sufficient self confident, red meat eating males, in the electorate who view morris dancing as the domain of the effeminate, and will vote with their natural instincts, or not vote at all, if there is no party on either side of the spectrum that truly represents their interests.

Perhaps the time is right to launch the 'BBQ party' as an rational alternative to the Greens. At least it would add some sizzle to an otherwise predicable campaign.

Andy C said...

You've been at the organic homebrew again Chris :)

"WILL THE GENERAL ELECTION of 2011 be a repeat of 2002?" .. er no.

IMHO the hard left will be going Mana and the Green party vote will drop. I think the two will cancel each other out in terms of MP's.

I think the Maori party vote will increase as the Hawareia family will polarise the vote and drive bums off seats to the Aunt and Uncle party.

"If God has a sense of humour, the voters will return en masse to Labour". Oh maaaaate , does he or what !! Given this last week I think its fair to say (s)he's been stiring it up no end. Although I have to say, I think (s)he is still on the Israeli side.

Anonymous said...

The green party would be much wiser to forge an Alliance with Te Mana and in time enter into a green left government with the Labour Party.

Maybe someone like David Parker could be a good labour leader and push green left policies for such an arrangement to work. Metiria Turei for Conservation Minister...? Charles Chauvel as Climate Minister and Russel Norman as Assistant Environment Minister (and also assisting the Finance Minister in greening the economy and promoting green jobs).

Face it: National and Gerry Brownlee and their climate denier mates in the Act party do not care about the environment. The natural allies of the green party of Aotearoa are on the left and are common New Zealanders and everyday working people and also Iwi.

Green Left is where the green party belongs... not bluegreen-wash.

Anonymous said...

The economic situation is the big difference between now and 2002.

People become more conservative in hard times because they have more interest in making sure that their own bills are paid rather than other people's. They would rather state assets get sold than their own. Those who have nothing have an interest in what Labour are selling, but this is for the most part a property owning democracy by design.

National will romp home and the left vote will collapse as the base will stay at home (the real story of the election will be the collapse in turnout, but it won't be properly reported). Phil Goff is a born loser; even if Mana had a coherent policy platform it would alienate most of the population; and the Greens are aiming for a yuppie constituency that isn't really there.

The real up and comer of the election will be "Didn't Vote", which will again demonstrate that democracy is becoming increasingly irrelevant to solving political problems.

Dave Kennedy said...

I can imagine Key making that call, but when trying to imagine Russel (or Metiria) making a positive response images of flying pigs and frozen flames come to mind instead.....

Chris Trotter said...

Well, bsprout, I think you need to give your imagination a bit of a workout.

Ask yourself why the Greens have, over the past three years, very sweetly, but quite ruthlessly, purged themselves of their left-wing MPs?

Ask yourself why their image managers have consistently repositioned their leaders as mainstream, non-threatening, politicians?

Ask yourself why their conference, flying pigs and frozen flames notwithstanding, refused to rule out a coalition agreement with the National Party?

Believe me when I say that, having asked yourself those questions - and answered them honestly - you will read my posting in a very different light.

Brendan McNeill said...


Despite the exorcisms, I suspect the ghost of Sue Bradford still haunts the Green caucus.

It won't matter how much lipstick the image makers put on the greens, so long as they embrace the politics of the absurd, they will remain the ugly sister at the ball.

Even labour declined to dance with them in the past, so odious are they to the electorate at large.

I'm predicting they will continue to win the vote of the 'educated' youth, but reality is an excellent antidote for eco-totalitarianism. Eventually people grow up and move on in their political tastes.

Dave Kennedy said...

Oh dear, Chris, I think you are showing your age. You appear to be defining what constitutes a leftwing politician based on a generational image, not on substance or intent. To claim that the Greens have “...quite ruthlessly purged themselves of their leftwing MPs” is laughable, when all that is occurring is a changing of the guard to the next generation.

If one considers our youngest MPs and candidates, like Gareth Hughes or Holly Walker, their passion for social justice, supporting stronger leadership from the state and advocating for the disadvantaged is no different from before. The leftwing of earlier generations (60s, 70s and 80s) defined themselves through protesting, placards and police confrontations while those of the current generation operate differently. Our youngest Greens are extremely well educated and highly skilled at debating policy and the minutiae of the legislative change process, to organising street demonstrations and social networking. These same young people share the same kuapapa as those before, have been mentored by their senior Green MPs and have the utmost respect for the likes of Sue Bradford, who they hold in high esteem.

If you were inferring that Sue Bradford’s resignation is proof a deliberate strategy to rid us of the more strident activists of the last generation then why has Catherine Delahunty jumped from eighth to fourth on our list? You also ignore our membership driven process for electing our leadership team, the plotting and coups that define leadership change in other parties have no place within the Greens. Your conspiracy theory has no basis in fact I’m afraid, Chris.

I was also highly amused at your statement “their image managers have consistently repositioned their leaders as mainstream, non-threatening, politicians?” To imply that somehow Russel’s and Metiria’s image is softer and less threatening than Jeanette’s and Rod’s (really?) has meant you have somehow missed the passionate and cutting performances that often defines their speeches in the house.

Your suggestion that because the Greens will consider a coalition with National is a sign of a substantial shift within the party demonstrates a lack of understanding of our history and culture. The Greens have been in parliament for over 15 years and have built up considerable experience and institutional knowledge. We have never been in government and have watched many minor parties’ demise through coalition agreements with considerably larger partners. While we have already achieved much through memorandums of understanding or agreements in areas of common ground, entering into an agreement on confidence and supply is an entirely different matter. The fact that we spent considerable time at our last AGM debating the wording to describe the likelihood of a coalition with National with in a range from “unlikely to “never” speaks volumes. To totally reject considering a coalition with anybody could actually demonstrate a lack of confidence in our ability to decide on any offer on its merits and accept or reject it as we wish.

To be open to an offer of a coalition with National is actually a sign of political maturity and growing confidence. We don’t need a coalition with anybody to be a successful political force and if National wishes to form a coalition with us they would need to significantly change their policies and how they operate, perfectly possible, but highly unlikely.

Anonymous said...

bsprout represents the grassroots view of the Greens. They will not go into coalition with National. Not now, not ever.
At their annual conference, not ruling out such an accomodation was simply offering a degree of comfort to those centre-right voters with green tendencies, a lifeline if they cannot vote for anybody else, part of a ploy to scramble over 5%.
Sue Bradford was the face of beligerence that was never going to be co-leader of the Greens. She is ideally suited to Te Mana, alongside Harawira, Sykes, Minto, and MacCarten.
Without the motherly Jeanette Fitzsimons, even Sue Kedgley, the Greens need to soften their image to score well enough to get over the MMP threshold, particularly as a select committee will examine the electoral system next Parliamentary term.
Helen Clark recognised that Greens have nothing to offer coalition Government. Their position on any Green policy is intractable to the point of stubbornness, so of little use in a Government which needs to make progress on any given issue.
The Greens would not be a handbrake on National.
The Greens are a roadblock.


Anonymous said...

I think welfare beneficiaries have "gutted welfare" by producing a demographic of degenerate ferals who terrorize the rest of the population.
Perhaps I'm wrong and this beast doesn't exist, but we see and hear of those sort of people a lot: bludging + criminal + violent.

Dave Kennedy said...

Anonymous-Isn't it amazing that the "belligerent" Sue Bradford managed to push through more private members bills than any other MP through negotiating support from other parties.

"Their position on any Green policy is intractable to the point of stubbornness..."

Intractable, or principled? We have supported much legislation that went part way to a achieving a Green Policy and have not supported others that would do more damage than good. Considering we are not likely to go into coalition with National it is amazing what we can still gain while in opposition:
I wonder if even their actual coalition partners achieved as much?

"The Greens would not be a handbrake on National.
The Greens are a roadblock."

I would hope so too, given what National are planning to do. A roadblock on many of the $11 billion "motorways of national significance" would be a good start.

jh said...

A problem for the Greens as a left-wing party is confronting biological determinists. The two groups may see application of the DBP differently.

Anonymous said...

A recent poll showed a surprising number of Greens actually preferred National to Labour as a coalition partner.
Certainly Metiria campaigned for the position of co-leader on the basis she would be happy to go with National while Bradford was seen by many as too inflexible, and lost partly because she said she would never support National. Clearly the party as a whole preferred the more pragmatic approach.
Russel is a Tony Blair clone with his 'neither left nor right' and his 'smart economics' and 'modern party'.
None of this is to say there is anything wrong with shifting to the right - a party has the right to position itself anywhere it chooses to. It just means left voters are taking the risk of being disappointed if they vote Green.

Dave Kennedy said...

Anonymous- Lots of sweeping statements with very little substance!

What poll and what percentage of Greens preferred National as a coalition partner? The Greens are a fairly broad church in terms of membership and we do have internal debates about what defines "left" but nothing I have seen shows a substantial support for National, especially when much of its policies are diametrically opposed to ours.

When you compare the leadership team of Rod and Jeanette to that of Russel and Metiria there will obviously be differences in personality but the direction and focus hasn't changed dramatically. Were Rod and Jeanette so inflexible and lacking in pragmatism?

The focus on economics seems to be used as a sign that we have shifted ground and has disturbed many people's view that we should be an "environmental" party only. The environment is central to all green policy but because we always look at things holistically the interdependence between sound economic management and the long term sustainability of our natural resources is a fact that can't be ignored. The Green's economic strategy has not come out of nowhere and many people appear to forget our strong support of New Zealand based industry with the "Buy Kiwi Made" campaign that Sue Bradford fronted.

The comparison between Russel and Tony Blair is highly offensive. While Blair had a strong relationship with secret lobbyists and did backroom deals, Russel is all for transparency and public scrutiny of lobbyists. Blair had no scruples about the businesses he supported, including corrupt tobacco companies, whereas Russel is driven by high ethical standards and has questioned state investments in corporates that have concerning connections. Blairs economics focussed on what was good for his mates (the war in Iraq was all about gaining opportunities for British business), Russel concentrates on what is good for the country as a whole.

The use of the phrases "smart economics" and "modern party" to establish Russel as a clone of Blair is a huge stretch and these are phrases used by many and, depending on who says them and in what context, they can mean very different things.

For the Greens, smart economics is all about long term planning for future prosperity rather than quick fixes that create long term debt. Smart economics is where we maintain sovereignty of our resources rather than give them away for a quick buck and we look at the most sustainable use of those resources to provide certainty for business into the future.

Being a modern party is all about being connected to this age and century not one reliant on the likes of coal (industrial revolution?) and finding modern, contemporary solutions to our problems. It is all about using current science and evidence to base decisions on, rather than dated ideology. A modern party looks to support the generations ahead rather than to support the wealthy elite of today.

Victor said...

A few thoughts.

Firstly, on current polling, National is unlikely to need the Greens' permission to govern.

Secondly, in the unlikely event of the Greens holding the balance of power, they would be foolish to enter coalition with National, as they would then share the blame for the Gadgrind policies that would inevitably ensue.

The fate of the UK Lib Dems should be an awful warning to the Greens of the dangers of coalition, as, of course, should the fate of those smaller New Zealand parties which have held a smidgen of office in recent years.

Even so, it's legitimate to ask of the Greens approach to coalition building: "if not now, when?"

A sensible answer might be when they think their coalition partner's policies are likely to wax in popularity over the ensuing three years.

My guess is that the popularity of neo-liberalism is likely to wane in the course of the next parliament, both because of that ideology's moral and intellectual bankruptcy and because of the inevitable movement of the pendulum from left to right and back again.

Does this mean that the Greens should deny confidence and supply to a minority National government? I think that's a different matter, as they could then be (and be seen to be) a humane modifier of otherwise inhumane and anti-social policies, without sacrificing their independence.

Should non-partisan opponents of Gadgrind neo-liberalism therefore vote Green rather than Labour?

That's rather harder to answer. If Labour seems to be heading for, say, 25% or more of the popular vote, it might be better to stick with them, as this might help ensure the survival of of New Zealand's increasingly fragile Social Democratic tradition and place a revived Labour leadership in a reasonable position to win in 2014.

If, however, Labour continues to slump in the polls, the Greens might be the only centre-left game left in town, both in their own right and as a break on National.

Anonymous said...

bsprout said at
August 10, 2011 12:17 AM

"The Greens would not be a handbrake on National.
The Greens are a roadblock."

I would hope so too, given what National are planning to do. A roadblock on many of the $11 billion "motorways of national significance" would be a good start.

Yep, has to be a coalition partnership lurking in there somewhere.


Loz said...

"The left-wing of earlier generations (60s, 70s and 80s) defined themselves through protesting, placards and police confrontations while those of the current generation... are extremely well educated and highly skilled at debating policy and the minutiae of the legislative change process"

That’s not what I would have said. There was a lot of radical policy promoted by very intelligent and well educated people during that time... I wouldn't suggest that legislative debate under the current zeitgeist is in the same league.

I might have stated that the left-wing of earlier generations (1840's - 1960's) defined their cause as the "common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange". I might also have suggested that the left wing believed in the moral necessity of participatory democracy and equality of voice. These concepts of left-wing are noticeably different to the definitions in use today. Almost universally, the New-Left prefer to not suggest that economic power is the primarily determinant privilege within a capitalist world. Without that assertion the new left can be quite adaptable to any shade of neoliberal government that takes shape.

This current crisis (like many before) is due to the upward redistribution of wealth through virtue of ownership. No remedy can be attained without focus on rejecting private ownership itself and asserting democratic control over essential institutions. I note that bsprout states “smart economics“ is about "sovereignty of our resources" although that’s a still very long way from affirming collective ownership principles or extending socialisation to the institutions that benefit from resource use.

The Green Party policy platform, like Mana and the Progressive Party and even New Zealand First have a smell of neoliberal reform although none have put forward economic policies that could be seen as a direct challenge to classical economics. Until that happens, I can't see how the economic situation of the nation can be meaningfully changed nor do I find it inconceivable that an understanding couldn’t be reached between the Greens and National.

Dave Kennedy said...

Loz - I probably didn't express myself well but i was referring to a general perception of what defined a left activist in the past. When Chris stated that the Green Party was purging itself of left wing MPs I had the impression that it was in reference to the likes of Sue and Keith and while both of them are highly intelligent etc the opportunities for engagement in their early careers were largely limited to the street. I see little difference in the core beliefs and philosophies of our younger MPs from our retiring ones but the levels and opportunities for political engagement have changed.

Pre MMP a young Sue Bradford had no opportunity to become a member of a political party that could conceivably get an MP into parliament and public protests and civil disobedience were the only avenues available to get her messages heard. We are now in an age when what was considered radically left or highly liberal is now almost mainstream and the forums for progressing political change have shifted from the street into debating chambers and select committees. There are now private members bills that can promote what used to be only discussed in smokey rooms behind certain bookshops.

I may be doing Chris a disservice, but I had the feeling that he believed that once our retiring MPs left those that remained would no longer hold the same beliefs or determination to progress the same causes of the left. The difference between our retiring MPs and our younger ones is not so much their philosophies but their history and past activism, I assumed that because Chris' shares much of that earlier history he was making judgements of our younger MPs based on that. Our younger MPs are not visibly doing the work in the same way it was done before but it doesn't mean it isn't happening.

I agree with you that prior to the 60s collective ownership and communist/socialist economic models were dominant, from then on social justice and participatory democracy became more important. From the 70s the environment became a dominant element in the Values Party and the current Green Party.

Your comments on wealth redistribution were well expressed but barring revolution, shifting private ownership to collective is not immediately practical. The redistribution of wealth can occur when more realistic economic values are established for work, resources and services, and the state takes more responsibility for setting those values. The management of shared resources or public services should not be left to the private sector either.

Once our natural resources are managed in sustainable ways, businesses pay for the full costs and value of shared resources or services and workers are paid a fair wage, true trickle down will occur. I think progressing collective ownership is a complicated issue, but collective responsibility would be easier to achieve and get similar results.

While the Greens believe commercial/economic markets can be used to progress green ideals, there is no way that we would support neoliberal economic models. A comparison of our economic policy with Nationals would surely reveal the huge chasm between us that would make the idea of any real understanding between our parties inconceivable.

jh said...

The left-wing are a bunch of turkeys. For example I went to a residents meeting last night where i learnt that tangata whenua (Nagi tahu) opposed every thing the residents wanted (low income area).

Chris Trotter said...

You did me no disservice, bsprout, indeed you proved my point.

Such is your ignorance of your own country's recent political history that you do not even know that both Jim Anderton and Sandra Lee were elected to Parliament (on very radical NewLabour and Alliance tickets) in 1990 and 1993 respectively - i.e. before the introduction of MMP.

It was also the case that extraordinarily progressive - world-beating in fact - legislation, such as that establishing ACC, was conceived, introduced and past in the 1960s and 70s.

Indeed, so different was the political and social climate in the years of the post-war boom that both ACC and the DPB were originally mooted under a National government.

A generation with so tenuous a grasp on their nation's recent political and social history not only represents a highly untrustworthy repository of progressive hopes and dreams, but is also clearly at risk of hailing what are actually non-controversial neo-liberal responses to events such a peak oil and AGW as pinnacles of progressive achievement.

A party comprised of such ill-informed, yet self-congratulatory, individuals is, I believe, perfectly capable of throwing in its lot with the National Party - and hailing the result as a victory for "Green" ideas.

Anonymous said...

I'm very interested in what bSprout is saying, but as a left wing voter who has been party voting Green, I still think that cosying up to National is either the wrong signal, or a signal to find a new party vote home. One quick question, is "smart economics" still capitalism; and is it smart for governments to borrow massive amounts before necessary? Would the Greens automatically accept economic advice from Treasury, despite the fact that they still appear to act like a right wing think-tank, not apolitical public servants?

Victor said...

"We are now in an age when what was considered radically left or highly liberal is now almost mainstream"

Tell me which planet you're on, Sproutie.

I'll point my space ship in that direction.

Dave Kennedy said...

Chris, please don't judge our younger MPs based on my historical lapse or senior moment (I am of your generation). However, while not quite historically accurate (Sue Bradford even served as President of New Labour 89-90) the tenor of my argument remains valid. My history was sloppy but it would have been unlikely for a 20 something, leftwing activist to have had any influence in a political party (with representation in parliament) from the 60s to the 80s. I can imagine that if MMP and the Green Party existed in the 60s a young Ken Douglas may even have joined rather than languishing in political fringes.

I also agree that progressive legislation was passed in those earlier years, in fact throughout our political history, but few young activists were directly involved in progressing those (unless your superior knowledge can retrieve some).

You have diverted the argument through your historical point scoring and have not provided any evidence that the Green Party is deliberately purging itself of its leftwing MPs. Who specifically are the "purged ones" and what evidence do you have that the ones remaining, including our youngest MPs are not leftwing? I made some assumptions about the criteria you were using to identify "leftwingers" and you haven't disagreed.

You sweepingly accuse us of providing noncontroversial neoliberal responses to events, I assume you are referring to our list of recent achievements rather than policy? Can you describe some examples so that I am clear what you mean by this?

You accuse me (and my party) of being ill-informed and self-congratulatory but I think this description very aptly describes your own position when commenting on the leadership and political direction of the Greens.

Dave Kennedy said...

The Sentinel and Victor, perhaps one of the issues we have is what now defines the left. Is it to do with collective ownership and higher levels of state services and control? How much does social justice and environmental advocacy fit into the definition? It may be that we are talking at cross purposes and all live on different planets.

Victor said...


I don't consider myself a left-winger and, unlike others on this thread, do not advocate collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

But, if, by social justice, you mean a concern for the material wellbeing of all members of our society, including the poor and vulnerable, then this has palpably been on the retreat in the political life of New Zealand and most other western countries over recent decades..

As I wrote in another recent thread, if the conservative leaders of the 1950s, e.g. Churchill, de Gaulle, Adenauer, Macmillan, de Gaspari etc., were to come back from the dead, find themselves restored to office and then seek to resuscitate their previous administrations' social and economic policies, they would be denounced as communists, if not as the Antichrist.

That's how far our politics have shifted to the socio-economic Right!

With regard to 'environmental advocacy', there was, of course, very little of that before the late 1960s.

I'm not, however, aware of it having become significantly more mainstream in recent years than , say, ten years ago.

In any event, I don't think environmental advocacy on its own makes a party part of the 'Left', assuming that's important to you.

So, yes, I can accept that the Greens have some credentials as a party of the centre-left. But only if I accept that today's centre-left is considerably further to the right than the centre-right used to be.

Anonymous said...

Thanks sprout, good analysis: not a slippery ship's show of the Greens enabling a NACT govt. One thing they're not is dumb - the Alliance, Lib/dem, MP, even Winnie experiences are not lost on em. They may still be a bit woolly, and still a tad tainted by the morris-dancing-quiche-muncher meme, but the counterculture roots are still there - and hence they're poised to er sprout on the current ruins of the demonstrably failed neolib empire.

Those roots are the Hippy movement and Values: for years they lacked mongrel, but it's there in spades now (thanks Rod, Sue, Keith). Along with a history on the moral high ground and - most importantly - a massive sub-radar environmental mind-shift that is truly staggering, even among antique lifelong tories. Couple that with high curent angst among youth and the technological nouse for all this texty intertweetery stuff they showed on Mining, and not even the press can beat them this time round.

Chris is right: this could be the Green's election; but if he thinks they'll do a 4th Lab or an MP, he's dreamin. Go you good green things!


Anonymous said...


we may be at cross purposes, but since I have voted Green it should at least be interesting as to why I will not be this time. I was trying to raise quite a practical issue, that will come up if the Greens join Cabinet. Not only will they have to accept the major party's policies, but also the advice of bureaucrats, if not the framework then certainly the numbers provided by Treasury. All recent finance ministers seem to have accepted the borrowing policy which benefits the financial industry. Russell Norman has been critical of the perks that the Debt Management Office get as a result, but will he take this further and not accept the substance of how Treasury and the Reserve Bank have been operating. If he goes into Cabinet he will have to accept their mode of operation, and thus inevitably higher interest rates.

Dave Kennedy said...

Sentinel, you assume that most advice from bureaucrats is bad, in actual fact this government has received some good advice and ignored it all to pursue its mad ideological direction. They have ignored:
-The Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright's advice to leave the lignite in the ground.
-Sir Peter Gluckman's advice to invest more into early Childhood.
-The Government's main Education Advisor, John Hattie and the Parliamentary library's report against Nation-Advice Standards
-Departmental advice regarding expressing concerns about mine safety.

What the Greens won't do is follow the advice of secret lobbyists who generally promote purely neoliberal business interests and we won't fabricate endless crises to drive unnecessary change. We will also front up and and actually listen to the people we represent.

Victor said...


Overall, I think you make a good case for your party on this thread.

Might I suggest, though, that you steer clear of generalisations about history.

Clio is a tricky muse and us old codgers are always poised and prone to say: "No, I was around at the time and it just wasn't so!"

Time really does alter perspective.

Dave Kennedy said...

Victor, I may have included the odd historical inaccuracy, which I have readily acknowledged, but the main threads of my arguments remain unchallenged.

There are far more opportunities for young "leftwing" activists to be influential in the frontline of politics now than twenty to thirty years ago.
Chris has provided no evidence to back up his claims of a deliberate strategy to get rid of our left wing elements and has not been open about who he regards leftwing, why those remaining aren't and what criteria he uses to determine what constitutes a leftwing MP. Chris's apparent lack of knowledge of the Green Parties internal management and party history weakens his argument.

The fact that Chris has used his superior knowledge of political history to score some minor points and deliberately avoided my questions is telling.

Chris Trotter said...

I'm sorry, bsprout, but if I responded to every comment demanding I do this, that, and the other, I'd never do anything else.

If you are interested in learning why I think the way I do about your party, then I suggest you read a few of my many postings about the Greens on this blog.

Remember, you're the guest here.

Dave Kennedy said...

I have read all your posts on the Green Party over the years, Chris, and they all reflect a great fondness for the original leadership. Your open admiration for Rod Donald also comes through clearly to the extent that I am concerned it has clouded your objectivity when evaluating our new leadership. In your criticism of Russel's Tibetan protest you forgot that Rod's right to protest was support by a security guard and two police whereas Russel got no such protection. Chinese security were blocked from interfering with Rod while Russel, although standing in a similar fashion to Rod, was manhandled and his flag forcibly removed.

I have concerns that you are making assessments of our new MPs and leaders based on your attachment to those with whom you had a close relationship. As someone who has connections with the "old guard" of the party and the new, rather than feeling a sense of loss for those who have gone before and concern for continued direction of the party, I feel encouraged and confident.

There will never be another Rod but I see his infectious enthusiasm bubbling out of Gareth Hughes and his political pragmatism present in many of our MPs. What you admired in Rod in terms of his positioning of the party outside of the left/right continuum and working across parties you now appear to criticise.

The connections between the generations of our party are strong and the relationships ongoing. When debates at our AGM are around semantics rather than philosophy there is obviously no shift in core direction or weakening of purpose.

When Holly Walker states "I am motivated primarily by a strong commitment to social justice and an understanding that this is inextricable from environmental and economic justice. In particular, I have a strong focus on reducing inequality for the benefit of the whole society." I see no difference in what motivates Holly to what motivated Rod.

Another generation from now political commentators will be lamenting the loss or retirement of another dynamic and respected Green leader and expressing concern that those following will never truly replace them...

Chris Trotter said...

Ah, bsprout, the betrayals of politics always lie between what politicians say - and what they do.

Dave Kennedy said...

True, Chris:

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris

You make an interesting point about the possibility of a National/Green agreement after the November elections but do you really think the Greens will follow the example of the Lib Dems in the Uk in working with a Right-Wing party instead of going for what is still considered by the great majority of people to be a Left Wing party? (The Labour Party).

If so i would expect that the Greens would receive a huge backlash from their voter base in 2014 if they ever did go into Govt with the National Party.

Chris Trotter said...

You might have thought the German and Irish Greens would have reached the same conclusion - but they didn't.

Victor said...


Germany and Ireland both have political cultures based around these countries' long experience of proportional representation. Building coalitions is what their political parties do.

In Germany, even the two major parties have gone into coalition twice during the Federal Republic's history. Imagine that happening here!

Moreover, in Ireland, both the two dominant parties are, broadly speaking, conservative and essentially divided by the heritage of their country's civil war.

For Irish Greens to support Fine Gael against Fianna Fail or vice versa does not therefore constitute an ipso facto betrayal of their voters' left-of-centre sympathies.

New Zealand, in contrast, has superimposed proportional representation on top of a political culture that is still essentially that of First Past the Post.

We remain firmly gladiatorial and voters understand the various minor parties to belong in one camp or the other.

Minor parties that attempt to buck this understanding end up as jokes, as Peter Dunne has found out and as the Maori Party may soon find out.

Confidence and supply agreements and the like have therefore become institutionalised as part of the way that New Zealand marries its FPP culture with the realities of MMP.

The Greens know that their avoidance or exclusion from coalitions has served them well so far.

Their leaders, though young and comparatively inexperienced, do not seem to be foolish or insular people. They will certainly have noted the odium the UK Lib Dems have brought on themselves by becoming accomplices to cuts more swinging than any Margaret Thatcher imposed.

You will recall our clash of last year over how the Lib Dems should have responded to the UK election results.

I remain firmly of the view that they had no alternative to offering the Tories a confidence and supply agreement. However, it was patently obvious at the time that a formal coalition was the path of electoral folly.

But, then, the Brits have no recent experience of minority government. And the truth of the matter might that New Zealand's experience of minority government might also be coming to an end.

Loz said...

The Great Depression caused the two traditional main parties go into coalition together "for the good of the country' here. For risk of sounding like a broken record, it was "responsible" economic policies that brought the Liberal and Conservative parties to act together. In terms of economics, all of the mainstream parties adhere to the same market orthodoxy that the Liberals and Conservatives did when their coalition began.

It was an unwillingness to challenge market independence that split Ramsay MacDonald's Labour Party in Britain and caused the split between Lang's NSW from Scullin's Federal Labor government in Australia. The crisis of all these parties was how to promote progressive policy during a depression. It’s almost impossible to see how a depression is avoidable in the very near future.

In New Zealand, 1930’s Labour was united in intervening to limit and control the scope of independent markets. The government introduced the Mortgagors and Lessees Rehabilitation Act to limit the chargeable interest on credit 4% for those experiencing financial difficulty. The Act restricted the ability for banks and creditors to evict New Zealanders from homes and businesses. The Fair Rents Act was legislated to ensure that property speculation didn’t produce unaffordable housing. If the same market limiting legislation was introduced today it’s not clear exactly where the Greens would stand.

For the Greens to move into Coalition with National would be unlikely but there is no reason an agreement to support National couldn’t be devised in return for policy assurances over energy efficiency, conservation and youth apprenticeship programmes.

Victor said...


I don't disagree with you on any of the above.

We're almost certainly going to end up with National still in government after the election.

Moreover, the Greens are unlikely to take the potentially suicidal step of entering a coalition with the Nats.

So its worthwhile speculating on what the Green's bottom line might be in a confidence and supply arrangement.

I agree with you there's a question mark over whether the Greens would be willing to champion measures that interfered with market forces if these seemed likely to rock the boat too much.

There may still, though, be centre and even centre-left voters who view National modified by the Greens as preferable to National pushed by ACT.

Frankly, however, I suspect that the Greens will be, at best, window dressing, as National will have an overall majority and/or will have called ACT to heel, whilst pursuing increasingly ACT-like policies.

That Chinese curse about interesting times keeps coming back to me.

Anonymous said...

What about the Greens stance on immigration?:
"anti imigration sentiment has no place in the Green party " says Mr Locke

New Zealand now boasts one of the highest rates of home unaffordability in the world as a result of prices rising far faster than incomes, and the government's Savings Working Group blames that squarely on the policies of successive governments.

Although "the favourable tax treatment of property investment" accounted for about 50% of house price increases between 2001 and 2007, the working group said, there was also strong evidence that rapid swings in immigration brought about price-rise "shocks".

There was a sharp spike in immigration in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and, said working group committee member Dr Andrew Coleman, it appeared that property prices did not fall anywhere near as greatly when immigration fell again.

The report added that there was little evidence that immigration boosted local incomes. In fact, the need to build roads and schools meant that net migration contributed to the national deficit.