Friday 25 August 2017

It’s A Question Of Values, My Friends: What The Greens Must Do To Survive.

"People Are More Important Than Progress": The Values Party's 1972 "guerrilla" TV Commercial electrified younger voters. To re-energise their 2017 campaign, the Greens need to dig deep into the bedrock of environmentalist ideology and produce an equally uncompromising political testament for the voters of the twenty-first century.
THE COLLAPSE in Green Party support – down to 4.3 percent in the latest Colmar Brunton poll – can be reversed. But, halting the slide, and building the Green Vote back up to its 1999-2014 average of 7.65 percent, will require James Shaw and his campaign team to dig deep into the bedrock of green ideology. They will have to reach back through time to the very first stirrings of the post-industrial political project in the early 1970s and rediscover what it was that so captured the imagination of that young and turbulent generation of voters. Then they will have to distil it into campaign propaganda powerful enough to snatch their party from the jaws of electoral death.
They will be sorely tempted to resist this advice. To re-tool their propaganda at this late stage is not only a very big ask, it is also a very expensive one. They have a re-cycled slogan, re-designed signage, and a re-edited TVC (television commercial) in their campaign kit-bag. The urge to just run with what they’ve got will be very strong. It will also see them bundled out of Parliament.
What they need to absorb is that the “core vote” of any political party is zero. (The Alliance used to tell people that its core vote was 10 percent – what is it now?) Once the belief takes hold that: ‘A vote for the Greens is a wasted vote’; the party is doomed. With the “Jacinda Affect” at full-throttle, and Labour ruthlessly stripping the Greens’ of their most valuable policy assets, the party’s current pitch to the voters: “Love New Zealand”, and a TVC describing Green New Zealand as “a place where businesses are booming in a thriving green economy”; simply isn’t enough to stop the slide.
Right now, what all those deserting voters need is a clear and compelling restatement of what the Green Party stands for and why, now, more than ever before, it needs to be represented in Parliament. The Greens current TVC doesn’t do that. It has the look and flavour of an ice-cream commercial. Oh sure, all the milk is sourced from free-range cows, grazing freely on organic farms, but, when all the selling-points are laid to one side, what we’re looking at is still just another item of confectionary.
James Shaw and his campaign team’s No. 1 priority, therefore, should be to settle themselves comfortably in front of the nearest computer screen and watch the Values Party TVC from 1972 – fear not, it’s on YouTube.

The script is 45 years old, but it still possesses the sort of intellectual toughness that makes you stop, listen, and think:

Economic growth equals more productivity, more people, more pollution.
It also means more money – so we’re told.
Can money buy us a new planet?
Economic expansion is not the answer. The world’s wealthiest nations can attest to that.
New Zealand twice led the world in social reform – it can again.
Are we to have a quantity of life – or a quality of life?
Let’s preserve the good things we still have.
People are more important than progress.
“Wow!”, I hear you say, “Which ad agency made that? It’s brilliant!”
Yes, it is, but it wasn’t the work of a paid copywriter or an ad agency. The whole thing was thrown together in a few days by Hugh Macdonald and Rob Ritchie, a couple of young cinematographers working at the National Film Unit (a state-owned movie studio based in the Wellington suburb of Miramar). In a strictly undercover and emphatically unofficial effort, these two “guerrilla” filmmakers captured to perfection the core message of the Values Party founder, Tony Brunt. Broadcast on the country’s single television channel at the commencement of the 1972 election campaign, it’s effect on young voters was electrifying.
Co-director of the Values Party TVC, Rob Ritchie (centre) with two of his National Film Unit colleagues, circa 1972.

If the Greens are to come back, it is a message of this quality, simplicity and audacity that James Shaw and his colleagues need to craft – and quickly. They must reach out beyond the formulaic offerings of the advertising industry to the vast pool of talented Kiwi film and video makers. They must appeal for the help of people like Darren Watson and Jeremy Jones – the guys who created the extraordinary “Planet Key” music video. Not only do they need to ask for the help of Robyn Malcolm, but of every other progressive artist in the country. Beg them to activate their networks, punch their speed-dials and rustle-up the talent required to create a Greens campaign TVC every bit as good – if not better – than the Values Party TVC of 1972.

The most important lesson to draw from that historic 1972 Values ad’ is how little a message dates when its content is both real and relevant. Forty-five years on, and confronted by the looming catastrophe of global warming, the reality and relevance of the pivotal question located at its heart: “Can money buy us a new planet?” is as undeniable as it is urgent. What’s also clear, is that a world dominated by the philosophy of “More!” is, indeed, a doomed world.

New Zealand needs the Greens in Parliament. Not to turn New Zealand into a “thriving green economy” filled with “booming businesses”, but to remind us, at every possible opportunity, that “people are more important than progress”, and that a better world is possible.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Saturday, 19 August 2017.


jh said...

I joined the Greens after looking at the way the world was changing:
From The Boston Globe 2004 - New zealand at A Crossroad
Up the road in Queenstown, nature is in full flight.
Queenstown advertises itself as "The Adventure Capital of the World," where you can bungy jump, heli-ski, jet-boat, or sky-dive. The confines of the modest town can no longer accommodate the throng of thrill-seekers. Soaring mountains still fringe the lake, but condos are creeping along the shore, a snake of traffic clogs the road into town, and Louis Vuitton has set up shop along with Global Culture, a clothes store.
If your idea of a holiday is a seething mass of cars and people, topped off by a cacophony of helicopters, Queenstown may be for you. Otherwise, it serves only as a warning of the perils of overdevelopment.

However, I found that "Anti-immigration feeling has no place in the Green Party" (therefore numbers don't matter). They're position is globaiist (migration is neutral world-wide). I also found that Pakeha were like people holidaying at Rarotonga. Maori culture was an uber culture; hapu wouldn't do a deal with a property developer - (yeah right). Metiria Turie supported ownership of the foreshore and seabed. When you look at things today there are "buses holding 50 people" coming up to fish for crabs on Uretiti and Ruakaka beaches. Is it any wonder Maori never took off with the Greens (except in academia that is)?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I thought the greens were already back up to 7 or 8%?

Jens Meder said...

But could not "people are more important than progress" lead to a loss in the quality of life unless it also limits the quantity of life ?

Anonymous said...

jh, I too joined the Green Party some years ago but am no longer a member due to the points you made. The values party was formed when people had an understanding of the "population bomb", which has not been defused; instead the fuse has been lengthened while bomb has gotten bigger by humans living in ever greater planetary overdraft.
NZs saving grace is its low population density, its relatively peaceable and urbane society and its distance from the mess that is the rest of the planet. The first 2 of have been slowly but surely eroding away over recent years and the last would be a major disadvantage if the former 2 were destroyed.

Patricia said...

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

B'art Homme said...

Rob Ritchie is accompanied by Bailey Watson (RIP) and ??? People are more important than progress. may as well include profits and petrol eh? Brilliant ad. The world's first green party standing in a national election.

Anonymous said...

Those were the days, good memory or good insider knowledge Chris. As the notionally designated Chief Organiser for the 72 election, I had blatantly misled the then D-G of Broadcasting Major-General McKinnon (and father of Don)by advising him we already had 30 plus candidates and wanted TV time on a pro rata basis, and threatened to take out a court injunction if this was not forthcoming, and so stuff up the TV shedule for political advertisements. (we ended up with 42).
Be careful what you wish for because we were given about 20 minute slots,but nothing to put in anhd no money. Then like the cavalry over the hill came Hugh, Rob and others asking "can we please make your TV ad?" Can you what!!! And so, using the resources of the National Film Unit where they worked (now it can be told) and with them each putting in some money, the ad was made. As a nice closing of the circle, for the Values Party 40th re-union held alongside the Greens annual conference which I also organised a couple of people offered to film the event and duly did so - let's hear it again for Rob and Hugh. Norman Smith

Tony Brunt said...

Nice. Good points. Agree. Small thing: I know I was quite blunt back in those days, but an 'r' not n 'l', thanks Chris.

David Stone said...

The most important thing in the world is people from the point of view of people. From the point of view of the planet and every other form of life on it not so much.

B'art Homme said...

Ha Anonymous is Norman Smith!!! also John Hoyle is the other person in your photo above with Bailey Watson (Died c. 1992)and Rob Rithie

Chris Trotter said...

To: Tony Brunt.

My sincere apologies for misspelling your name, Tony. It will be corrected immediately.

Oh, and thank you for 1972.

You changed my way of looking at the world.

greywarbler said...

Hello Tony Brunt
I followed Values for decades. And now following those values as they continue in the Greens but expanded to include consideration of the importance of healthy people as well as a healthy environment.

This is a comment from a past interview, NewsHub 1/6/2012 relevant to now:
Values Party co-founder Tony Brunt says that the foundation of the party was a response to the political culture in New Zealand in 1972.
“We were idealistic extremists some people called us, yes, we were, but it was a response to the barren and miniaturist political culture that existed in NZ at that time,” he says.

Archive footage shows Mr Brunt speaking passionately of the party’s founding principles.
“The mediocre and shallow goals of Labour and National have just about killed the faculty of imagination of the average New Zealander,” he says in the footage.

If anyone has a flash memory of Damn the Dam from the early days - if you put that up on TradeMe you will see a number of John Hanlon CDs. Good for remembering then and inspiring now.

Christine said...

Thanks for this post, Chris. Here is some more relevant information for you/your readers on the matters raised.

Hugh Macdonald is still directing films about and for New Zealand and New Zealanders - see for what he has done since being involved in making the world's first Green TV ad - and for his latest film, 'No Ordinary Sheila', currently screening in North Island venues in the NZ International Film Festival and due to go on nation-wide general release from October 19.

I am the producer of that film - and I was also the last paid employee of the Values Party (1978-79). I can thank Norman Smith (Values organiser extraordinaire) for advising me of that job - and also for introducing me to Hugh following the Values Party 40th reunion in 2012, where I was asked to give the after-dinner speech on 40 years of Green politics. This was based not only on my personal involvement in both Values and the Greens, but also on having studied them and written a Ph.D. thesis on them ('From earth's last islands: The global origins of Green politics.' The whole thesis is on-line at At the reunion I saw the 1972 Values ad for the first time, and like Chris I thought it was very powerful, and also that (with a bit of tweaking and of course being filmed in colour) it would be just as relevant and powerful today. Hugh and I got to talking about how he makes films, and before I knew it I was making them with him!

Meanwhile, the Green Party (which I helped found and for which I worked so hard - with the late Rod Donald and others - to grow and get into Parliament) has in the past two years lost its way - in leadership, policy and vision, and in the creativity and nous required to communicate a unique vision and original policies in captivating ways. Whether and how it can recover will be up to the many good people who still understand and support that vision, and want to continue to work in or with the party that was founded to bring it to Parliament. And that will depend on the Party having an effective 'recovery' process post-election to get it back on track. As Chris correctly says, there is no 'core vote' for any party that cannot articulate in words and images, and exemplify in deeds, their core political vision.

Christine Dann