Friday 23 March 2018

Asking The Right Questions.

Mouth Wide Shut: James Shaw is hoping that if he and his caucus colleagues are seen as good team-players, then by 2020 the Greens will have earned the voters’ respect and, more importantly, their votes.

THE BEST WAY to characterise the Greens curious policy on parliamentary questions is as a gesture of good will. Not, as some might be thinking, towards the National Party, but to their partners in government – Labour and NZ First.

So long as those one or two questions per sitting day remained, the temptation would always be there for the more radical members of the Green Party caucus to use them. Indeed, Marama Davidson has made it clear to Green Party members that she regards it as her duty to ask the questions they need answers to – no matter how embarrassing.

If elected as their new female co-leader, she sees herself as ideally placed to keep the Greens’ brand sharply and safely differentiated from every other party in Parliament. Unlike her opponent, Julie Anne Genter, she is without ministerial responsibilities. That leaves her free to speak truth to power.

Being “spoken to” by a Green Party co-leader determined to raise aloft Metiria Turei’s tattered banner is not, however, anywhere near the top of either Jacinda Ardern’s or Winston Peters’ to-do lists.

Like all political leaders, they fear even the perception of disunity. As far as they’re concerned, most voters do not draw a distinction between the well-intentioned and principled criticism of a government’s friends and the uncompromising and ill-intentioned opposition of its foes. To raise doubts about the Government’s overall policy direction will only weaken it. In the context of electoral politics, dissent is almost always interpreted as treason.

The Greens’ decision to give up their questions to the National Party (and just how that decision was made, and by whom, remains unclear) suggests that at least some of the party’s MPs also fear the prospect of disunity and are keen to keep dissent on the down-low.

Clearly, they are of the view that only by presenting the voters with an image of industrious and effective teamwork can the Greens hope to elude the historical hoodoo of small parties being destroyed on account of their association with large ones.

Whether it be the fate of NZ First’s, Act’s and the Maori Party’s doomed associations with National, or the Alliance’s messy divorce from Labour (the only known case of the kids deciding who should have custody of the parents!) the precedents are far from encouraging!

Paradoxically, Marama Davidson’s and her fellow fundis’ (fundamentalists) view of this problem is very much the same as James Shaw’s realos (realists). Both factions are convinced that the best way to escape the small party curse is by drawing the voters’ attention to the nature of their party’s relationship with its larger partners.

Shaw hopes that by being good team-players the Greens will earn the voters’ respect and, more importantly, their votes. Davidson believes that it is only by differentiating the Greens from Labour and NZ First, and by reassuring the voters that their MPs have not “sold out” their principles, that they will be returned to Parliament.

Neither of these strategies are likely to prove effective. The first reduces the Greens to docile little lambs; the second makes them look like irritating little bastards. That the voters will, almost certainly, reject both of their survival “solutions” is clear to everyone except the Greens themselves.

What both factions need to grasp is that the Green Party has always been about ideas. Forthrightly addressing the big questions confronting people and planet and offering uncompromising answers. That’s the “special sauce” in the Greens’ recipe for electoral success.

The more clearly Greens describe the challenges confronting humanity, the easier it is made for the voters to accept the radicalism required for their remedy.

Getting back into Parliament is not about keeping your head down and working hard; nor is it about shouting slogans and throwing stones.

The unchanging objective of all Green parties is to make it known to the voters that while they are willing to achieve as much as they can in co-operation with other parties; their focus will remain forever fixed upon the measures required to address the injustices identified by the human conscience and to resolve the problems identified by human science.

The Greens’ message from now until 2020 must be: The steps we are currently taking are in the right direction – but they’re too small. If we’re to travel further, our vote must be bigger.

This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 23 March 2018.


greywarbler said...

The end paragraph makes the really important point. The voters must see the Greens as a party of ideas that can work, and of which they have 80-20 confidence enough to trial them and monitor for required results.

I believe that we have to trial many new approaches and monitor them closely against a handful of criteria. There is often a fundamentalist approach which disses something if it isn't 100% in matching the desires of the entity driving the campaign. Let's go for improvement that is measurable plus not absurdly costly in money or loss of respect and goodwill in the public. And also assess; are good outcomes likely to increase in the medium term to a higher (but still not perfect) outcome?

This could apply to vaccinations, car chases, reducing smoking and alcohol consumption, decriminalising drugs and medicalising the condition, concentrating on reducing harm and raising social involvement and self respect. For starters!

And Marama looks like a hot shot for the peeps and someone who is needed, but needs to learn Metiria's difficult lesson. There are so many preachy middle class people whose hobby is raising their own profile by dissing anyone 'not succeeding' who they as snobs can snub, even excoriate. At
present it is more important for the Greens to work well at what they can, with a good relationship with the other two parties, and just keep pressing for better, practical systems that are forward-looking.

She might even take up charter schools, for the outliers of the education system, and see that they are brought under the government education's basic controls and standards. I dislike them as a USA system grabbed by the mindless Nats and implemented with such holes in the net that sharks could swim through, and I think they did. But innovative ways could result in reaching the core of many who have been cheated by our neglectful unsupported family system, or the bad underfunded health system for children. Those young ones who have missed out on early hearing treatment and therapy which has stunted their childhood advancement. Prisons could become mature charter schools, with some crashing good debates by aware prisoners, physical trades, second language, psychology development which helped people find their trigger points and ways of ceasing their bad

All of them would be taught gardening, and even if they then grew their own marijuana, it would be a positive skill, and they could put tomatoes in with cannabis as a companion plant or something. This would be very effective once the stupid prohibition on cannabis was altered to a better approach.

Innovation like this is not new, it has been talked about for years. We just have not had governments who had the guts to do something for the people, rather than retreat from firm, manly, bold decisions. For too long we have been rodent-plagued in parliament, and not with scurrying though troublesome mice, but bold rats who have gnawed at the bones of NZ>

Richard Mayson said...

Chris in the main its a thoughtful article trying to make sense of the non sensible. In some ways you've enlightened "us" but in other ways you've just added to the confusion as evident in your summation where you acknowledging the Greens must stay true to their core beliefs or die, and then one of the most obvious vehicles for this which is question time, you suggest that the category of fundis as personified by Marama Davidson will only irritate the electorate at large.

On this I strongly disagree and have had some experience. Voters may appear at times to be dumb or swayed by prejudices/ignorance but they also have a sneaky respect for principles.The Julie Anne s called pragmatic realistic wing is a cop out and should be called the "expediency wing" of the Greens.And if James Shaw should choose to lean with this group he signs his own political death warrant and those thousands of us who have supported the Greens because of their principles and idealism we will abandon them.They just become another craven for power political party.