Tuesday 23 February 2016

Green Vote Down! Is History Repeating Itself?

Red Pressure: Is it possible that the same reckoning that caused Values supporters to return to the Labour fold in 1978 is at work again? Even in the era of Mixed Member Proportional Representation, have the supposedly redundant arguments of FPP reasserted themselves? Have centre-left voters come to the realisation that, if they want to get rid of John Key’s National-led Government, then they are going to have to push Andrew Little’s Labour into a credible second place?
THE GREENS’ DRAMATIC FALL in the latest Colmar-Brunton should be a matter of considerable concern to the whole party. If it continues, then we may see the Greens fall victim to the same political phenomenon that led to the demise of the Values Party.
Voting for Values peaked at the General Election of 1975 when it attracted 5.19 percent support. Not surprisingly, its members were ecstatic. Anticipating an even bigger surge of support in 1978, they began the process of firming-up and paring-down the policies contained in their extremely popular 1975 Manifesto, Beyond Tomorrow.
This turned out to be an unexpectedly fraught process. A large and well-organised fraction of the Values Party argued strongly that the system-changing objectives set forth in Beyond Tomorrow would never be acceptable to New Zealand’s ruling-class, whose power would have to be substantially diminished if the party’s core environmental policies were ever to be implemented.
This eco-socialist position did not sit altogether comfortably with the party’s pure ecologists, who believed that once people understood the scientific rationale for radically reorienting Western values, then radical change would follow naturally – and without the class conflict predicted by Values’ eco-socialist wing.
Better organised and superior in debate, the eco-socialists gained the upper hand, leading Values into the 1978 General Election with one of the most radical manifestos ever presented to the New Zealand electorate. The votes they hoped to plunder with this document were those of Labour’s more left-wing supporters. On paper, it seemed like a winning strategy.
What the eco-socialists hadn’t counted on, however, was just how fed-up the non-National-Party-voting half of the New Zealand electorate had become with Prime Minister Rob Muldoon. Under the First-Past-The-Post electoral system, the sort of oppositional vote-splitting which Values was advocating almost always ended up advantaging the incumbent government.
Recognising this, the left-wing idealists who had flocked to Values banner in 1975 underwent a decisive change of heart. In the name of getting rid of “Piggy” Muldoon, they were willing to abandon the idealistic dreams of Beyond Tomorrow. Accordingly, in 1978, the Values Vote almost exactly halved: falling from 83,241 to 41,220 – just 2.41 percent of the votes cast.
The eco-socialists’ strategy of taking on Labour had failed dismally. The pure ecologists rallied their supporters and drove the eco-socialists out of the party. But, if they were hoping that a Red purge would recover their fortunes, they were wrong. In the General Election of 1981, Values was more-or-less wiped out. From 41,220 their vote fell to a risible 3,460. In 1984, the party attracted just 0.20 percent of the popular vote. Game Over.
Values’ rebirth, as the Green Party, in 1990, saw it win an impressive 6.85 percent of the popular vote. The old FPP realities remained, however, and they were forced to join forces with the left-wing NewLabour Party in 1991 under the rubric of Jim Anderton’s “Alliance”. With the introduction of proportional representation in 1996, however, all the old FPP rationales against vote-splitting became redundant. In 1999, the Greens stood under their own banner and received 5.16 percent of the Party Vote – just enough to secure them 7 seats in Parliament.
Between 1999 and 2008 the Greens’ Party Vote fluctuated between 5.16 percent and 7.0 percent. With the defeat of Helen Clark’s Labour-led centre-left government, however, and the onset of what would be six years of internal conflict and lacklustre politics from Labour, the Green vote soared: from 157,613 Party Votes (6.72 percent) in 2008 to 257,356 Party Votes (10.70 percent) in 2014. It looked as though the old eco-socialist strategy of luring away Labour’s left-wing voters was on the point of being vindicated.
And then, in February 2016, Colmar Brunton’s pollsters registered a drop of 4 percentage points in the Greens’ numbers. The party had shed one third of its support: falling from 12 to 8 percent.
Is it possible that the same reckoning that caused Values supporters to return to the Labour fold in 1978 is at work again? Even in the era of Mixed Member Proportional Representation, have the supposedly redundant arguments of FPP reasserted themselves? Have centre-left voters come to the realisation that, if they want to get rid of John Key’s National-led Government, then they are going to have to push Andrew Little’s Labour into a credible second place – i.e. somewhere closer to 40 percent of the Party Vote than 30 percent?
If the answer to all these questions is “Yes”, then the Greens had better brace themselves. They have a lot further to fall.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog on Monday, 22 February 2016.


Nick J said...

I remember the time well when Green was luring socialists away from Labour: Chris, can you comment upon what this did to the Labour Party? Did it have any bearing upon the ascendancy of the Douglas faction in 1984?

As for the Greens I have long been an environmentalist: this covers all spectrums of politics. We have fought together, National and Labour supporters together against the exploitation of our natural environment. I am not sure that having a "Green" party ever helped our cause, I suspect it worked against us as "environmentalists" then got tagged "loony Left" by the MSM and the agents of environmental destruction.

Anonymous said...

Could be that the election of whatshisname as new coleader has given left voters the impression the Greens could help prop up National after the next election.

jh said...

I voted values in my first general election. The message I took was the one about there being more to life than economic growth. At that time I never questioned the legitimacy of myself as a New Zealander or of what i saw as the core of NZ society(good, honest people pulling their weight).
Later I joined the Greens and discovered I was the enemy. What Aotearoa needed (apparently) was an over riding Maori political structure (undefined and a bit "scary"). In addition Aotearoa needed more foreigners ('our policy is the opposite of Winston Peter's") that being the opposite of the message I took from the Values party advert as i had somehow imagined peace, tranquility and an abundance of nature to enjoy. The Greens (along with Labour) have been useful fools for the rat-bags of real estate. John Key stands smiling outside a block of apartments; that is the result of their agency. You can bet they (the apartments) that evolve will be crap (i.e "affordable").
On another note isn't it funny how Nine to Noon's Monday slot with Mathew Hooten missed the rise of NZ First. NZ First is anathema to the property/construction sector (market solves everything) fat cats? You would think Hooten would have spotted the Black NZ First sail nosing past the Green sail?

peteswriteplace said...

40% would be close to the mark.

Duncan said...

Seems to be NZFirst, rather than Labour, that's gained the most from the Greens loss...

Tiger Mountain said...

…“the loneliness of the long distance columnist”…

in the same poll cycle the Roy Morgan reckons Greens are up and NZ First are down–so what should be made of those onions?

personally I think the polls are both bent (in terms of being for profit organisations that help create opinion as well as measure it)
and accurate to a point on what they do measure–slicing and dicing people who by and large are going to vote in parliamentary elections

Greens have taken a rightward turn, though it may take the 2017 election to read their trajectory properly

Joe Hendren said...


The problem with your thesis is that Labour only shifted up one percentage point. Its possible some soft Labour support drifted back to National and NZFirst after Goff and Shearer supported the TPPA in spite of their party, hiding the slow decline of support for National that is already underway. Rather than false electoral arithmetic for an election in 2017, I suspect the Greens loss of support is more to do with the loss of Russel Norman, and a stronger than expected show on the TPPA issue from NZ First (Fletcher Tabuteau gave a good speech at the Auckland TPPA town hall meeting)

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the Greens have lost quite a bit of confidence in Labour and James Shaw is trying to get traction for a shift to the right.
They are sixes and sevens at the present time and there will be more to come in the future, lookout for Labour to start making positive overtures in an attempt to squash Shaw and the blue streak.

Sophie said...

From Wikipedia:

"The Greens contested the 1999 election as an independent party, with Fitzsimons and Rod Donald serving as co-leaders. Fitzsimons was placed first on the party's list, and once again contested the Coromandel seat. To observers, it seemed that the Greens' chances of entering parliament were dependent on Fitzsimons' performance in Coromandel; in order to receive proportional representation, the party needed to either gain five percent of the national vote or win an electorate seat, and it appeared that the former option was unlikely. Labour Leader (and Prime Minister after the election) Helen Clark openly encouraged Labour supporters to give their constituency vote to Fitzsimons[3] and their party vote to Labour.[4] When normal votes had been counted, it appeared that Fitzsimons had been defeated in Coromandel by National's Murray McLean, but when special votes were tallied, Fitzsimons had a narrow lead. This guaranteed the Green Party seats in parliament regardless of whether it crossed the five percent threshold (as it eventually did).

In her second term, Fitzsimons promoted bills to extend New Zealand's nuclear-free zone[5] and to reduce road traffic.[6] Both were defeated at their second readings.

In the 2002 election, Fitzsimons was defeated in Coromandel, placing third."

Helen Clark's "Epsom" deal to Fitzsimons won her Coromandel in 1999. Without it in 2002, the incumbent Fitzsimons finished third behind National and Labour candidates.

greywarbler said...

I can see that the position you suggest could be the case Chris.
Have centre-left voters come to the realisation that, if they want to get rid of John Key’s National-led Government, then they are going to have to push Andrew Little’s Labour into a credible second place – i.e. somewhere closer to 40 percent of the Party Vote than 30 percent?

From what I have read and thought, the Party that doesn't have a good grasp of political factions and strategy when planning campaigns and messages, is just playing with helium balloons which float away out of reach unless firmly controlled.

The Greens might decide that though they would like a proper green vehicle to take them to parliament, it is a time for pragmatism and instead turn out to crank up Labour's old model, with a change of oil and some new spark plugs. Better to arrive on time in the old dunger, than have the flash new one run out of cooking oil or battery power before the finish line.

jh said...

The media paint NZ First as the Bad Party whereas the Greens while a little whacky are progressive and they remain delightfully vague on many issues and are never pushed. Take this for example:

And in my opinion in Canada we have a very, very fortunate turn of circumstances in that we have no clearly defined national core culture, nor do we have a clearly defined other and this is exactly the opposite of Europe. In Europe you have all these countries that have very tightly imagined core cultures and when people think of the other it's the Muslim other, it's the Moroccan other, it's the Turkish other or whatever the case may be. We have neither of those things which makes for a much fuzzier kind of society which in my opinion is all to the good. Like when people ask me: 'Don't you think there should be like a core Canadian culture?' I say 'Absolutely not'. We have to completely avoid the idea of having a core culture because all forms of inclusion are equally forms of exclusion. So the minute you make a so-called inclusionary core culture you've excluded a whole bunch of people. Of course that makes it complicated because when newcomers come to Canada they're not quite sure what they're supposed to integrate to because it's this fuzzy thing. But again, I think that's all to the good.

These sort of agendas get a free pass in the media and the voters don't get to connect the two.

jh said...

How can the Greens gain traction and credibility in the face of unprecedented inward migration when Jan Logie says:

Let me say clearly now: the housing crisis is not the fault of recent migrants; the unemployment rate is not the fault of recent migrants; and asylum seekers are not a threat to us.

No doubt there is some truth to that but a half-truth is a lie.

Dave Kennedy said...

What nonsense, Chris. One dismal poll result and you are predicting a downward trend. At the same time Roy Morgan has us on 14.5%. We had had the odd rogue result many times over the years and they are often followed by other poll results that give us over 14%. Given the margin of error, I think you are leaping to some impulsive conclusions.

The media refer to the Labour/Green opposition and centrist voters will shift to both parties (as has happened before) if they see a good working relationship and a credible alternative. The real sticking point is Labour's stubborn refusal to realise that the Greens are no longer a minor party and they may have to compromise a little more than they have. Labour has been resting on its laurels for too long and its membership/volunteer capacity is much reduced. The Greens are now more financially successful (having raised more in campaign donations in 2014) and has membership numbers not much different from Labour.

The Greens suggestion of Treasury costing all parties' election policies was well received but Labour has not sold its free education policy well.

To suggest that we have shed 1/3 of our support after one poll is pure fantasy.

Dave Kennedy said...

jh, when European New Zealanders will be in the minority in the near future (according to Mai Chen's Super Diversity Stocktake) what will our core culture be?

The old Rugby, Racing and Beer culture disappeared some time ago and already you would struggle to define a core culture here. Spend time in central Auckland and see how things are changing. We used to be thought of as the Scandinavia of the Pacific and a fair egalitarian society but all that is lost too.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

You shouldn't take so much notice of just one poll.

Unknown said...

"Of course that makes it complicated because when newcomers come to Canada they're not quite sure what they're supposed to integrate to because it's this fuzzy thing. But again, I think that's all to the good."

Hey! what about the working class in "receiving countries" who have to move over for the influx from the "sending countries". The benefits must seem.... "fuzzy"?

Don Robertson said...

The Greens didn't form until 1989, and the first election they stood in was 1990, so you can't blame Douglas on the Greens. The Douglas faction propelled the Greens, not the other way round.

Don Robertson said...

Well to be fair, half the parliamentary green party are immigrants, so of course they are in favor of immigration.

Don Robertson said...

Well I just resigned from the Greens. I like the policies, but I can only take so much homeopathy and GMO alarmism.

The final straw was the way any debate about 'sensitive' subjects gets shut down, so questioning homoeopathy to cure Ebola or GMOs isn't allowed.

I know a lot of people who support the Greens but are concerned about the anti science tenancies of the membership. They are the people labor should be going after. Save the environment and our vaccines.

jh said...

@ bsprout.
Trust a Green to not be aware of the difference.
As places like Browns Bay are turned into high
rise centres, natural elements will be replaced by man-made structures; parking and access to
the beach will become more difficult, and the gentle beach culture will be replaced by
something very different. Intensification represents a significant change in New Zealand’s
life-style, as stand alone dwellings have been, by far the most popular form of dwelling
(Auckland Regional Council 2003). But does change signify a cost? In Australia and North
America, there is strong evidence of community resistance to intensification in an effort to
preserve the character and heritage of neighbourhoods. This suggests that to at least part of
the community, it is a very real cost, but how widely are those values shared?

One simple way to assess whether intensification is a cost or not, is simply to compare what
people are prepared to pay for a stand alone housing unit compared to what they will pay for a
multi-dwelling unit. There is a need for more research, but an indication can be provided
from an interview with a local real estate agent who stated:
It is hard to make a direct comparison because values can vary from suburb to suburb and
street to street within those suburbs, but a stand alone building can be 30-90% more than an
equivalent one in a unit. To get the same price, townhouses have to have other features like a
view or very modern interior (Mahon 2006).

The fact that people are prepared to pay substantially more for a stand alone dwelling
suggests that intensification has a very real cost.


In Queenstown the Chinese bus drivers "do a run" to the Southland Coast for Paua. How do Maori feel about that? Where is the reciprocity in that transaction?

Unknown said...

Blogger Adolf Fiinkensein said...

You shouldn't take so much notice of just one poll.
NZ First is a big hairy dog to the development sector.

6:17 AM. Queenstown is having to turn away tourists at peak times, and is losing conference business because it is short of hotels and still does not have a convention centre.
"leader ship in partnership with the council and central government " is doublespeak for a taxpayer/ratepayer subsidy so developers can make their rightful killing. Every new job in tourism makes us poorer as a nation.
Boycott Queenstown

Unknown said...

NZME and Chen Palmer Launch ‘Cultural Bridge’
With almost one in four* people living in the Auckland region identified as Asian ethnicity, and more than 200 ethnicities calling New Zealand home, Cultural Bridge will provide an end to end service that enables organisations to communicate to all New Zealanders with the right messaging and translation.

NZME News outlets

but superdiversity is double speak with no basis in social science. It was invented to avoid the kick back against multiculturalism.

A: All this is very fundamental stuff. The second question is about diversity as perhaps just a Zeitgeist term – a post-multiculturalism policy catch phrase or a corporate tool for diversity management. The question is: can it be a concept that can help to structure an advanced social scientific analysis. You partly have answered that question.

B: Yes. I mean it's clear that it is all of those things. It is a fashionable catch word. “Super”-diversity, in particular, is becoming extraordinarily sexy as a notion to use, even if what is hidden behind it has nothing whatsoever to do with super-diversity as we understand it. It is also becoming a marketing tool and what not. The word is just all over the place, you see.


Follow the money

Lindsey said...

I noted at the Pride Parade on Saturday that Labour had a very large representation, two vehicles and lots of people marching, whereas the Green Party had a much smaller representation - a straggle of people marching - a number of whom appeared to be mixed up with the Vegans so you could not tell who was what.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Don – the thing that put me off the Greens was possum peppering. But I thought the homeopathy for Ebola thing had been knocked on the head? The idiot that suggested it was in public at least told in no uncertain terms? We rely on evidence-based stuff et cetera et cetera?

Unknown said...

Lying is institutionalised

Superdiversity, or super-diversity, is a social science term and concept often said to have been coined by sociologist Steven Vertovec in a 2007 article in Ethnic and Racial Studies,

Article goes on to promote Mai Chens organisation so I assume there is a linkage. I looked for Diversity in glossaries of social science terms but was absent.

B: Is ‘diversity’ just a Zeitgeist term – a post-multiculturalism policy catch phrase (as in ‘integration and diversity’ policy), a corporate tool (as in ‘diversity management’), or can it be a concept that can help structure and advance social scientific analysis?
K: I think that depends. It’s a bit like in Alice in Wonderland when Alice in Wonderland confronts Humpty Dumpty and Humpty Dumpty uses the term ‘glory’. And Alice says to Humpty Dumpty “Well, you’re using that term wrongly”, and Humpty Dumpty says “Well, I can use it when and where I like”. It means whatever I chose it to mean. It is who rules that counts. The point is that I think at it’s worst it displaces a set of unclear concepts with another set of unclear concepts and I think there is a danger to that. Having said that, I mean as with all social scientific concepts it’s contestable and the contest is always as important as the empirical representational accuracy of the term itself. So I think it’s provocative and intellectually provocative in a largely useful way but I think we need to be cautious about issues as well.

H: Maybe diversity opens for the possibility of thinking of any group of human beings as being fundamentally diverse; maybe it opens for thinking about people who are otherwise defined as white or “non-ethnic” – the supposedly neutral ground on which the nation stands - as actually not homogeneous, as always shot through with differences. It's true that diversity is fashionable. Diversity is used by companies, public authorities etc. to make themselves appear appealing and modern, with the times and all that. I think diversity can be an advance, especially if used to dissolve or challenge some of the hidden presuppositions about the homogeneity of the native populations in Europe. We need to get beyond the notion that minorities ‘have’ diversity whilst the natives do not. Conceptually, we may point out that the notion of the “normal citizen” is a kind of sociological fiction that is widely deployed in the social sciences. But diversity as such is not really a social science concept.

Victor said...

One of the problems with the Greens' push for "boardroom credibility" is that the man most touted to perform that function (viz. James Shaw) doesn't really look all that boardroom credible.

The Left (including the Eco-Left) tends to wax disapprovingly puritanical over issues of visual presentation. But, if you want to appeal to the corporate crowd and their subservient minions, you need decent, conservative tailoring and appropriately coloured socks, however pathetically trivial and culturally repressive you believe such bourgeois foldirols to be.

Towards the end of his sterling performance as Co-Leader, Russel Norman seemed to grasp this elementary truth, perhaps thanks to tutoring by his movie-star sister-in-law.

A terrible fate might await the Greens if they end up too mushilly centrist for their lefty supporters whilst remaining too scruffy for the mushy centre.

jh said...

That super diversity research is an insidious beast. It is a movement masquerading as academic pursuit with all the support the banks, property developers and media can throw at it. The "research" will fill the media with the lived experiences of migrants to the exclusion of New Zealanders. Will anyone expose this coup attempt and it's guerrilla tactics?

I come from a group of societies that have always used immigration as a way of nation-building and therefore it's part of the discourse of the nation. Migration and migrants are important contributors to the construction of a nation and sense of nationhood. They are seen in a positive sense
nation-building is a fine example of double -speak?