Tuesday 29 September 2015

A Green Offer National Couldn't Refuse

"Fredo, You Broke My Heart!" Michael Corleone would not tolerate disloyalty - not even from his own brother. Will Labour forgive the Greens for doing a deal with National's 'Godfather', John Key, over the 'Red Peak' flag? Or will Labour's decades old strategy of "no enemies to the left" set in motion a 'hit' against their supposed Green brothers?
THERE ARE PEOPLE in the Labour Party who take an almost forensic interest in the Greens. They can discourse at length on the “fundi/realo split”; “Deep Green” versus “Red Green”; and whether the electorally perilous potential of “Blue Green” will ever be realised.
Labour’s ongoing surveillance of the Greens should not, however, be compared to the twitcher’s hobby of watching birds. Labour’s interest in the intricacies of green politics is much more akin to the FBI’s interest in the intricacies of the Mafia. Agents may be able to rattle off the names of the heads of the Five Families; which gangsters are on the way up; and where the gangsters who used to be on the way up are buried; but this does not mean that the FBI loves or admires the Mafia. Far from it! The FBI is interested in the Mafia only because it intends to destroy it.
A Labour Party that drew its electoral support, overwhelmingly, from the poorest and most marginalised members of society would have little to fear from green parties of any kind. If they thought about them at all, it would only be as an eccentric off-shoot of middle-class politics, whose electoral participation was as likely to damage the Right as the Left.
The fate of the Values Party (arguably the world’s first “green” party) demonstrates the point nicely. Though it made a big splash in the news media, the newly-formed Values Party attracted only 1.9 percent of the popular vote in the General Election of 1972. This was, of course, the election in which the Norman Kirk-led Labour Party romped home with 48.4 percent of the votes cast.
Values did better in the next election, but only because Labour’s popularity, over the course of the intervening three years, had plummeted. In 1975, Values’ share of the popular vote swelled to 5.1 percent. Labour’s share, by contrast, fell nearly 10 percentage points, to a dismal 39.5 percent.
Between 1975 and 1984, however, Values’ support collapsed. In 1978 it polled 2.4 percent. In 1982, 0.19 percent. And in 1984 0.20 percent.
In spite of the fact that New Zealand’s two-party system had largely broken down by 1984, Labour was still able to capture 42.9 percent of the popular vote – on a record turn-out of 93.7 percent of registered voters.
The General Election of 1984 would, however, be the last in which Labour entered the race as an unequivocally social-democratic party, and was swept to power with the support of the poorest and most marginalised voters. In future elections an increasing percentage of Labour’s support would come from middle-class electors. This demographic shift in Labour’s electoral base would, increasingly, bring it into head-to-head competition with the Greens.
Labour’s electoral base is, however, broader than the Greens’. Though middle-class voters now comprise an important chunk of Labour’s constituency, its residual support among Pakeha, Maori, Pasifica and immigrant industrial and service-sector workers is still high. These traditional loyalties usually ensure that Labour’s vote is two-to-three times that of the Greens – enough support to make it a major party, but not yet enough for it to form a government without first securing a voter-antagonising guarantee of Green Party support.
Labour’s problem may be summed up in two words: proportional representation. New Zealand’s MMP electoral system allows minor parties to thrive, thus removing the pressure on opposition supporters to transfer their allegiance to the party best placed to defeat the Government. By denying Labour the 5 to 10 percentage points it needs to become a credible competitor to the National Party, proportional representation and the Greens are encouraging the Right to contemplate permanent political ascendancy.
In these circumstances, it is hard to blame the Greens for engaging in a little contemplation of their own. If, by its very existence, and by positioning itself as Labour’s “natural” coalition partner, it is keeping the Left out of power permanently, then wouldn’t the Green Party’s chances of achieving at least some of its critical environmental objectives be improved by repositioning itself as the potential coalition partner of either Labour or National?  Certainly, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is exactly what the Green Party membership was contemplating when they elected the young, business-friendly, social entrepreneur, James Shaw, as their co-leader on 31 July 2015.
The same Mr Shaw’s adroit handling of the Red Peak flag issue in the House last week will not have lessened Labour’s forensic interest in the Greens’ ultimate intentions. His parliamentary “deal” with National, relatively insignificant though it may have been, was seen by Labour as an alarming portent of things to come.
If Labour operated like the Mafia it would know exactly what to do. Without seeking permission, Jimmy “The Business” Shaw, and his Green Gang, made approaches to a rival family.
Whack ‘em!
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 29 September 2015.


Stan said...

Greens take votes away from Labour. Many People who may want to vote for Labour may actually hesitate to do so, because of suspicions about some Green party's mad economic ideas. It may be easier and better for Labour and New Zealand First to work together rather than with the Greens. The Greens do not have exclusive rights on environment/climate change policies. The greens can go take a hike on a lake...along with National.

peteswriteplace said...

Labour should ignore the Greens and create policies for all centre left sectors of society. Labour has to aim for 40% of the vote to regain its major chunk of the vote.

Nick J said...

I have always struggled with the concept of the Greens as a party of the Left. I have fought in various conservation issues over many years and understand that the supporters of these causes come from across the political spectrum. You will find there are as many working class as there are owners / employers who want to develop and destroy the environment for economic gains and jobs. Sure the Right is at the forefront of environmental destruction, they own the means of destruction, but the rest of us follow along and reap the benefits.

I also struggle with the Greens environmental concepts of being part of techno modernity. My view is that you cannot have a modern economy and the associated social benefits and be truly "Green". Environments cannot be compromised "partly" or "sustainably" in the sense that allows humans to exploit, extract and live our current lifestyle. It is a compromised position at best, truly unsustainable politically because the end result is that the beast that exploits stays strong and slips the lead elsewhere.

Perhaps the Greens are the feel good pressure relief valve for the hand wringers who know that we are doomed but still want to enjoy the guilty pleasures of the party. The bill is global warming, species extinction, wrecked environments etc. The detritus sites tend to be toured and lamented from diesel 4 wheel drive SUVs (with emission control technology of course)often driven by concerned Greenies.

BTW I may complain but I am typing on a PC that took a barrel of oil to make, and am on the internet that is estimated to use 10% of worldwide power generation mainly by fossil fuels, and I did catch a vehicle to work over smooth streets constructed of petrochemical by-products. We are all compromised.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

There are a few people in the country who give a shit about the flag – but they do make a lot of noise. That's all it is. Personally I'm going to vote for the old one, not because I like it, but because this whole thing has been a charade and a distraction. Plus of course they are spending $23 million on the damn thing. A plague on all their houses.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, more fighting on the left, as though that will deliver them government. What's actually needed is the opposite, for Labour and the Greens to work out a programme and narrative of what the next govt will stand for and do, so that this can be presented to the electorate as a real alternative to National. Labour's strategy has been to wait for National to fail. Well they may be waiting for some time yet if a clear alternative isn't presented to voters. One thing is absolutely certain and that is that National will be gearing up to run the same sort of red/green wedge campaign they ran in 2014. Is Labour going to have an answer this time?

Andrew P Nichols said...

The article and comments above illustrate Labours myopia. The binary politics era is over and we live in an age where traditional left right political issues will become mere noise compared to the existential threat of Anthropogenic Global Warming. The Greens are the only party who truly take this seriously. So if the LP wants to be on the right side of history it must firmly ally itself with the Greens.

Tuấn said...

There were +700,000 people who didn't vote in September 2014. I was sorely tempted to join them. Why? There were only different shades of neo liberalism on offer: blue, red, green etc... all sucking up to the rich 1% and the corporate welfare bludger fascists. We need a Kiwi Jeremy Corbyn, an inspirational straight shooter with strong moral and ethical convictions capable of going directly to the voters to fire up the hope in their belly, and bypassing the freaking media altogether.

Teensey said...

I'm not clear why this is a product of proportional representation. Labour was able to form governments for three elections under the system we have now. But you appear to be arguing that it would be preferable for Labour to have a system where people have no choice but to vote for them if they don't like National -- perhaps it's this attitude, and not MMP, that's Labour's problem.

James said...

Irrelevant history. Gross assumptions. Labour's problem is not MMP. Labour's problem is Labour.

In an age when a serious left wing candidate swoops into the leader's chair in England, the best NZ Labour can produce is a union boss who speaks out in favour of capital. Who's going to vote for that? Low income workers? Nope. Capitalists? Nu-uh.

Besides, Labour's entire strategy in the last 15 years has consisted largely of whacking the Greens. Right now, NZ is about to sign up to the worst trade deal imaginable, Christchurch is nowhere, the flag is in shreds, and the only popular things the government has done lately (more refugees and a better flag option) have been other people's ideas. Labour - still the biggest party in opposition - has dropped the ball every. single. time.

Anonymous said...

People here don't seem to understand that in recent months under Little's leadership Labour has allied itself with the Greens. The Greens went and shat on that. Calling back to history doesn't change that fact, it just shows that the Greens are behaving how Labour used to back in the day and you all that was bad.

Daniel Copeland said...

Where is Labour's outrage at the 18-year underpayment of the welfare benefit? I vote Green because the Greens care about social justice. If whatever fiscal policy it is that currently differentiates Labour from National will achieve social justice, hey, I'm open to being convinced. But it will take more to convince me than "This is an authentic historically Left position, therefore by definition it's socially just." And the more energy Labour puts into stomping on its potential allies instead of doing what needs to be done, the less I can be bothered with it.

Kat said...

Unless Labour sorts the Greens then NZ First is going to be the obvious winner. I personally would not object to Winston in the PM role. I bet a fair number of Kiwi voters blue, red or green would most likely accept Winston as PM. At least he would genuinely stand up for New Zealand......and he is (still) much better looking than Key or Little!

Charles E said...

What a directionless bunch of comments above.
Chris is absolutely right. The Greens are the clearest impediment to a Labour government there could be. They have stolen 10% of your vote and made a bit more vote National or Winnie First to keep them out of government.
And what is more, the Greens are useless for the environment, not just because they have never had power. They have only just recently realised coal is the big evil whereas for decades they have banged on about nuclear power instead which is of course the answer to AGW. If their ilk had not opposed it everywhere on the planet for the last 60 years the excess CO2 level would be half what it is now. Look at Germany, it's riddled with greenies and is busy closing down its nuclear industry. Not surprising as the first greens were the Nazi Party, who worshiped nature or more particularly their special spiritual place in it as folk of the land. Very like modern greens. They are pure slime. Stomp on them Labour!

peterlepaysan said...

All this is conjecture.

The result of the next general election is not known.

Any coalition is determined by voter preference.

Why the hell would any party committ to another party before the election results are in?

The biggest problem for Labour is the non voter bloc. I venture to suggest were once upon a time (long ago)staunch voters for Labour.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Labour has been pretty consistent in dismissing the Greens. I think out of fear that they might become associated with the "extreme" left – which of course the Greens are not. So why on earth should the Greens care about dissing Labour?

Bruce Tutty said...

Social Media Democracy (SMD)

Representative democracy models were only required up to the point in history where we can now all fit into a single webpage. They are now obsolete, and dying by the force of social media.

Allow the current political system to exist, but give the power to vote on bills to the public.

Give the power to vote on issues back to the voters, and allow politicians to be purely debaters.

They could still be bribed by to argue a certain way, but the bribe would not guarantee a bill vote.

Anyone who thinks this won't work, should consider if the current system is better or worse.

Nick J said...

Charles E, jeez you are a concern. You get some peripheral things quite right, but your reasoning and shallow information is somewhat disturbing.

Lets take two things you comment upon and deconstruct the jumping to conclusions bit.

First: nuclear power which you appear to support over fossil based power generation on the basis that it would half AGW. There is some information missing from that calculation: first nuclear plants consume vast amounts of embedded energy from fossil fuel output to make the steel and concrete required, to extract the ores and radioactive fuels etc. Some experts contend that they can never be energy positive. True or not the production of nuclear plants and fuel consumes fossil energy that has an impact on AGW. Second is the accounting and risk management factor. Long Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are good examples of false accounting methodologies and risk assessment. Nuclear plants produce spent fuel and radioactive waste that has a half life of 000,000s of years. This has to be stored, managed and actively handled by countless future generations for whom the financial equation of today takes no account. They get all the cost and none of the benefits. The risk lasts for the whole time period so becomes exponentially bigger than any current calculus.
My point is Charles that you might have known this if you had read more.

The Nazis as the original Greenies is interesting, what could be an acute observation but when examined it does not stack up. We've all seen Hitler Jugend happily hiking through the Black Forest in what appears to be a joyous union with nature. And we go off similarly to tramp our mountains and forests. If you examine the Nazi fascination with their environment (as opposed to environmentalism) you will find a romantic attachment to some imagined German past and some jumbled pseudo spiritualist mumbo jumbo turned ideology.

Please Charles before you damn people at-least have the ability to back up claims (whose conclusions I often agree with for totally different reasons).

greywarbler said...

There's no point in widely spacing your sentences to give them gravitas. Not when they are such trite and known to be untrue dicta.

Why the hell should any voter commit to any party that can't act wisely, thoughtfully, practically and transparently about its future aims, and which parties it would coalesce with?

It's this wishy-washiness about Labour that puts off labourers and people who get a sweat up working and building things that are definite, hard-edged, real and visible, not amorphous possibilities, models and theories which might apply at a certain level, or time, or place. That is why many men particularly, were impatient for Shane Jones to step up. He was real to them, and someone they could get behind, and they hoped, push in their chosen direction. I thought he would fail the test myself. But he seemed to know what he was doing and sounded as if he had a 'cunning plan'. That was very attractive to the doers in our society.

Let's have talks amongst the progressive parties, if it is not agreed that all are left, or even if that is a suitable adjective any more. Let's have memorandums of agreement on matters agreed upon and directions. Let's have a Labour that puts on its loincloth, gathers its muscle and gets out into the sumo ring with some real force and effort.
Andrew Little looks a bit light for that sport, but he may prove to be a Tardis, in hiding.

However the Time Lord is counting and its time to prepare for takeoff Andrew. And bloody talk to the Greens whatever the other Labour 'players' or the 'stakeholders' think. Forget about using that jargon from the business class, and talk about the 'people'. This is no game, no place for being objective and cool, (though some calculation is definitely needed). Any deals done will be playing with our lives not with the legal papers, bonds, derivatives, interest swaps or company takeovers.

Jigsaw said...

Nick says that he has always struggled with the Greens as a party of the left - but that's exactly where they are. Especially in the early days the conservation thing was secondary to their policies of the left. People like Sue Bradford and Keith Locke already had a history of left politics and little interest in the green side of the party. Their certainty that people can be forced if not convinced to change their ways to suit their policies is a clear indication of whjere they stand. They embrace MMP fiercely because this is the only system that will give them representation. As a voter in the only electorate they have ever held I can tell you that it was chance and a hugely weak and unpopular National party candidate that gave them this seat and the chance of it ever happening again is just non-existent. They area one of the main reasons that Labour will stay in the wilderness -that and the really dumb things that Andrew Little says.

Unknown said...

Yes Jigsaw I do struggle. Its because I dont see "green" (environmental) issues as exclusive to Left or Right. The old fashioned Leftists of the Greens might genuinely hold these very same views but so do some Nats I know. The Greens should perhaps have called themselves the Social and Environmental Justice Party.

Charles E said...

I have done my reading on the carbon problem Nick and do know that some nuclear tech does require a lot of concrete and steel, both of which have bad footprints. Partly that is due to over the top safety requirements imposed due to excessive risk adversity which is politically tricky etc. And the waste issue is not minor and they can go wrong and cause damage. But these are all way lesser issues than the death and destruction caused by coal. Way way less. Large modern nuclear plants can run for decades non stop and will displace many times the coal required to build them. And there are new types coming right now that do not produce waste. Etc etc. But the world has been spooked about nuclear due to the weapons connection and hysteria about the risks, both stirred by the left. These are not environmental issues yet the greens of the world and similar worriers have successfully put the industry back decades so that today there is one hell of a lot more coal burnt instead. If governments had poured more into nuclear energy we would be in a better position to transition out of fossil fuel. Nuclear is great base energy to compliment solar and wind....
Anyway my point is that greens are not good for the planet and neither is nature worship which they share the tendency for with nasty bedfellows. Science is better and the greens always exhibit stunning scientific illiteracy. A typical green has an arts degree yet they are spouting on all the time about biology, ecology, physics & chemistry, let alone economics.
So Chris is right, the left needs to kick them out. Kick them into the non political middle where the environment belongs. Where they are now damages you guys and achieves negatives for the environment as too many people still associate environmental issues with bloody greenies, thereby red-necks are reinforced.
True environmentalists are conservative people, like much of the current Cabinet who have just voted for near the biggest marine reserve in the world. Nixon was a great environmentalist too btw.. and there are many other examples from the right where actually things get done rather than just waffled about which is all greens have ever done.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

True environmentalists are conservative Charles? Maybe so, but in the US Conservatives have consistently undermined measures to curb pollution, and most of them don't actually believe in global warming. Whereas those awful communists in China are beginning to come round to the idea that maybe they had better do something. Mind you, they are a gerontocracy and therefore conservative. If not in the political sense that you mean.

Bushbaptist said...

Oh Golly Charles you just can't help yourself!!

Firstly, a nuke station needs an input of 800Mw to get 1Gw out, a net gain of 200Mw, hardly efficient!

Secondly they were never designed to just generate electricity,their purpose is to produce Plutonium for weapons, perhaps one of the most poisonous elements that has ever been produced. With it's subsequent storage problems.

Thirdly they produce huge quantities of excess heat and waste water.

Yes, people are spooked by them because of Chernobl and Fukushima not to mention Long Island. The land around Chernobl is poisoned for perhaps 1000years and god knows the damage Fukushima has done to the environment but it ain't insignificant.

If they are so good and safe, why are they placed away out in the boonies? Why not put them right in the middle of a city where the power is needed? There has to be a good reason why and I will leave it up to you to figure that one out.

For a long time the Greens were the only 'Left' party here but in the latter years they have moved to the centre. They have stopped being the Hair Shirt and Sandals party and become centre mainstream. Which puts them to the left of where Labour is right now.

J Bloggs said...

re: Long Island - I believe you mean 3 Mile Island (which is in Pennsylvania)

Victor said...


I don't think James Shaw has been particularly deft over the flag issue. It's just that Andrew Little has (not for the first time) been remarkably un-deft.

Meanwhile, if the Greens are preventing Labour from optimising its vote, then ACT, the Conservatives (if they're still around) and NZ First are performing the same service for National, although the latter also takes some votes from Labour.

Its called 'Proportional Representation' or, more simply, 'Democracy'! It ensures that my vote counts, even if I disagree with the majority of my neighbours, which is invariably the case.

Charles E and GS

Environmentalism is indeed inherently conservative but so is Social Democracy.

Neo-liberalism, in contrast, is a restless, radical creed that is constantly seeking to uproot established expectations, institutions, social capital, standards and practices.

The sooner the Centre Left, both Social Democratic and environmentalist, acknowledges its inherent conservatism and drops its spurious, almost purely rhetorical radicalism, the better.

Only then will people understand that it stands for common sense and its right-wing opponents for destructive nonsense.

Guerilla Surgeon said...


True environmentalists :-).

Bushbaptist said...

That too. Long Island is in the UK and suffered a radioactive leak serious enough to warrant the moving the locals away for some considerable time.

Charles E said...

What bollocks you spout Bush......
Nuclear in the last 38 years has saves CO2 emissions equivalent to 35 years of current US coal emissions and 17 years for China. Source: NASA
There are 100s of nuclear power stations close to cities.
Many are being built today in China, India, even the US & Europe .
Radiation is zapping through you right now, mostly from the sun and it's way more significant than any man has unleashed.
The accidents so far have been almost irrelevant to human health overall, whereas coal has killed many millions of people below and above ground in the last 140 years.
Most of man's CO2 emissions are from coal, next is oil then gas.
Nuclear has plenty of issues for sure, mostly its cost and mining uranium pollution. And it will get short. But thorium may replace it and actually use up waste.
But the key point here is that if we had a heap more of it we would be way better positioned to phase out coal before we get too hot. We don't partly due to economics but in my opinion, partly due to hysteria, and the useless red neck creating greens are masters at fomenting that malady.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

There's not much room for hysteria when fossil fuels are being subsidised that something like $10 million or more a minute. That's why IMO Jeb Bush is a bit cheeky to talk about black people wanting "free stuff" :-) Subsidies not only encourage use of coal and oil, but wasteful use of coal and oil.
Nuclear power is debatably cleaner I guess, but in some countries there is risk of a terrorist attack on a nuclear plant, and I wouldn't want to be living next to one if that happened. And we still haven't solved the problems of nuclear waste, eutrophication, or for that matter decommissioning nuclear plants. As far as I know we haven't actually done that yet. And before anyone leaps down my throat about panicky Greens, I got my information from a university physics website. And I'm pretty much neutral about nuclear power.

Bushbaptist said...

Obviously you have never been to Chenobl. You need to take a trip there and see or yourself (in case you are wondering, yes I have been there). A huge area around it is not safe.

We have evolved to live with background radiation but you already knew that. It's the introduced radiation that is the problem. Something you knew too. You still haven't answered with what do we do with all the Pu that we are making? The only thing it's good for is making bombs. Something else you should know. Try to keep up mate.

Fukushima has poisoned fish along the coast of Canada and it is spreading throughout the Pacific too. How many have died or are going to die because of it Charlie boy? Hundreds? Thousands? Who cares as long as it's not us.

"Benjamin K. Sovacool has reported that worldwide there have been 99 accidents at nuclear power plants from 1952 to 2009 (defined as incidents that either resulted in the loss of human life or more than US$50,000 of property damage, the amount the US federal government uses to define major energy accidents that must be reported), totaling US$20.5 billion in property damages.[7] Fifty-seven accidents have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster, and almost two-thirds (56 out of 99) of all nuclear-related accidents have occurred in the US. There have been comparatively few fatalities associated with nuclear power plant accidents.[7]"

From here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accidents_and_incidents

Simi Valley US; Partial core meltdown.

Sellafield UK; 750 terrabecquerels released into the local area.

Frenchtown US; Core meltdown.

Lucens Switz.;Partial core meltdown. Station sealed.

Sosnovyi Bor Rus; Partial meltdown.

Griefswald Ger.; Electrical fault caused the coolant pumps to fil.

Three Mile Island; Radioactive gasses released.

Jaslovske CR.; Reactor leak total decommision.

Brown's Ferry US; instrument malfunction suspended operations at all units there.

Tokaimura Jap.: two workers died and more were exposed

Oak Harbour US; Corroded control rods forced a 24 month shutdown.

Nowhere did I say that a Nuke station was nearby a city what I did say was in the middle of a city. There is a difference! They won't be put there either because they are too dangerous.

Yes, coal has killed many people so has oil. So, according to your thinking, we should use nukes and save all those people. Remember PU has a half-life of 240,000 years and we are producing it by the tonne. If all that money was spent on fusion we would have that by now or even Thorium reactors but they don't make bombs matey!

Bushbaptist said...

Agreed GS.

The Guardian has listed 33 serious nuke incidents from data via the IAEA.

Worth a go through;