Friday, June 17, 2005



Political strategies

Chris Trotter's piece in the Independent this week is full of gloom about the left's prospects of preventing a revival of the neo-liberal Revolution. It was also (in line with the NBR poll) full of gloom about the survival of the Greens. I don't share that particular gloom - I think there's a stable support base of 5% which will ensure their presence - but Trotter's column did raise some interesting questions about their best political strategy.

Trotter looks at the rise in Green support between 1999 and 2002 and attributes it to their stance on GE. He concludes that

[t]he lesson to be drawn from the events of 2001/2002 was that taking a staunch stance on just about any environmental issue is certain to expose the private sector's ingrained hostility to all forms of effective environmental regulation.

Carbon taxes? The roading lobby. Healthy eating? The fast food industry. Clean water? Agribusiness. Peak oil? The Seven Sisters.

With the merit of a cause often measured by the strength of the forces opposing it, such stand-offs could only have strengthened the Greens' electoral position.

Now, there's a few problems with this - most notably that (IIRC) the Greens were polling higher than 7% until their GE stance blew up in their faces. But the key problem there was not in taking a stand on an environmental issue - it was in choosing an issue that prevented them from working with Labour. Provided that sticking point is avoided, Trotter's suggested strategy looks fine. And conveniently, the perfect issue has popped up at just the right time: Kyoto. Labour likes it. Meanwhile, National and ACT want to dump it, NZFirst is hostile, and United Future think that repudiating it is "common sense". Farmers hate it. Big business despises it. The oil companies are threatened by it. And then there's the Americans...

As Trotter says, the merit of a cause is often judged by those who are opposed to it - and with enemies like these, the Greens can't lose. "Vote Green to defend Kyoto" should be their new campaign slogan.

13 comments:

Ummm, the problem with Chris' argument is that the Greens *already do* take stands on carbon taxes, roading, healthy eating, clean water, and peak oil... In fact, we're constantly being derided by industry bodies - whether the food industry or the roading lobby - for taking too trenchant a stance. So, I'm not sure what he wants us to do. Get redder in the face?

I/S: Yes, Kyoto is an important issue for us, and one which has the benefit of uniting the progressive forces in the House against the reactionary ones...

Posted by frog : 6/17/2005 07:57:00 AM

I don't see Kyoto working in the way that GE did for the Greens. And if I were a Green then I would hope it did not since the GE issue did the Greens so much damage.

The GE issue was significant because it brought up such strong emotions amongst many people about such basic things as what we eat. Kyoto is unlikely to do that - it is a bit too abstract. It lacks the emotional resonance.

And Chris Trotter has turned into a conspiracy nut - all those evil Big Things (Govt, Industry, Farmers etc) pulling the poor old Greens down. 94% of the population are not at the mercy of such a conspiracy.

And frog, calling people who think differenty too you "reactionary" may be emotionally satisfying to you but you probably won't win any one over with that point of view. I note Trotter is into the same type of rhetoric with his caliming the working class are susecptibel to "racists, sexists and homophobes". I wonder how that works. So one needs money to have liberal values?

Posted by Sock Thief : 6/17/2005 08:58:00 AM

frog - I think Chris' point (although I haven't read the whole article, just this post) is that on each of those issues the Greens crash head long into very powerful lobby groups who strongly oppose regulation and are not agin using money and lies to do so. Which makes life v hard for anyone standing up to say "hang on a minute," ie the Greens (and others).

sockie - it isn't about being a conspiracy nut, it's about recognising the reality that car manufacturers and petrol companies, to use one example, spend considerably more on advertising than Greenpeace etc ever could. it is an uphill battle to fight these people, which doesn't mean you shouldn't fight of course, but does mean it is hard and long, and doesn't fit into the "issue of the minute" view of life that the media often takes.

Posted by span : 6/17/2005 10:06:00 AM

Correct, the cause can be defined by those who oppose it. Surely that makes being "anti-Kyoto" the most moral position to take when you look at those who support that worthless and worse than useless piece of socialist boondoggling. Now we'll have to pay billions to the only countries with a definite surplus, the old Ex-communist states, thanks to some clever work in defining CO2 levels at the old communist levels.

If frog thinks that the greens represent the "progressive forces", then Mr Orwell's future has truely come to pass. Newspeak is here.

Spanner, I think a little bit of the "beam in ones own eye" thinking might pay off, I don't think citing Greenpiece as an honest organisation without many resources is somehow quite appropriate.

Posted by Bentley Strange : 6/17/2005 11:00:00 AM

Sock, last Friday you were accusing Trotter of a different conspiracy (over at Frog's blog). Time for a new tune, perhaps?

Posted by Huskynut : 6/17/2005 11:01:00 AM

So bentley, you think it is OK to poison the air, I take it??

The Kyoto Protocol may not be perfect, but its better than having to wear gas mask to work every day.

Posted by Millsy : 6/17/2005 11:07:00 AM

I'd just say that the Greens GE policies are one of the reasons I don't automatically vote for the Greens.

I find it silly, Luddite, head-in-the-sand stuff that shows little knowledge of the technology and processes involved.

Unfortunately there are just as many 'reactionary' un-thinking types on the left as there are on the right.

However, that being said, I'm considering voting for the Greens this time anyway, because while I don't agree with everything they represent, I would be much happier knowing they held some power, than having a parliament without them.
:)

Posted by mundens : 6/17/2005 11:11:00 AM

No, it was the same conspiracy -

Back then Trotter was saying that there are "Institutions with a vested interest in eliminating the Greens as a political threat".

Now he's stating "The combination of Big Government, Big Science and Big Business which took the field against the Green's anti-GE stance served only to make their movement stronger."

Posted by Sock Thief : 6/17/2005 11:12:00 AM

mundens,

The Greens GE policies are a typical Greens effort.

There's hard science underlying their concerns. But it's also all mixed up with a mystical love of nature and distrust of 'unnatural' technology and 'evil' multinational corporations.

Just when I'm cheering some incredibly sensible Green policy based around real long-term planning rooted in careful science (eg, carbon tax, eg, a real clean-water policy), then out comes some some Luddite conspiracy-theory attack on immunization.

Posted by Icehawk : 6/17/2005 02:02:00 PM

Yes, demote Kedgley and promote Nandor.

Posted by Sock Thief : 6/17/2005 02:14:00 PM

don't worry Bentley, i hold few illusions about Greenpeace - i was a member for a while but was pretty pissed off at their anti-democratic structure so didn't renew. I just used them as an example everyone would know of :-)

Posted by span : 6/17/2005 02:32:00 PM

Just noted there seems to be a two million dollar campaign against the Government in relation to Kyoto from a group calling itself the Kyoto Forestries Association "The association is planning to announce next month the first stage of a $2 million advertising campaign to expose the Government’s incompetent approach to Kyoto and explain a better path forward." That would be more than any political party is likely to spend on election advertising...

Posted by Davros : 6/18/2005 11:47:00 AM

davros, any ideas if their "better path" is to dump our commitment to Kyoto, or to be greener? cos they are a big way apart, politically... any links or info much appreciated :-)

Posted by span : 6/18/2005 05:57:00 PM