Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fundamental incomprehension

Its a slow news day, so naturally we have the Herald's John Armstrong trotting out one of the old media standards: that the Greens need to be able to work with National to gain power:

The Greens face an old dilemma: remain pure but powerless. Or go centrist and compromise and get things done.

If the Greens want to be able to negotiate with National as well as Labour, they are going to have to compromise by putting much of their social justice agenda on the backburner and pushing their environmental credentials harder.

One possibility would be to move to the cross benches and abstain on confidence and supply motions, thus possibly making National less reliant on Winston Peters and New Zealand First.

What the Greens cannot afford is to be sidelined again in 2017 in the way they have been in 2014. Tough decisions lie ahead.

This displays a fundamental incomprehension on two levels. First is the assumption that the Greens want power. They don't. They want change. Power is just a means of achieving that change - and not worth pursuing if it costs them their policy agenda and their credibility with their voters.

And there are other means. At the moment the Greens are playing a long game of patient advocacy and winning the argument. And its working. Compare the policies of the parties in 2005 or 2008 with what they're offering now. A lot of the significant changes are Green policies. Labour has basically adopted the Green Party's agenda on child poverty, on clean water, on public transport, on energy efficiency and rental housing. Even National has been won over on home insulation, and has to pretend to care about the rest. But seeing that requires more than the five-minute attention span of the goldfish in the gallery.

Secondly, there's the idea that there's ground for cooperating with National purely on the environment. There isn't (or rather, they're so unbelievably narrow as to not be worth the price). This is the most anti-environment government I can remember. Its entire vision of the future rests on drilling, mining, and filling our rivers with cowshit. Its a government which has gutted the RMA, refused to act on climate change, and eroded the Conservation Act to pillage wood from protected conservation land. Oh, it makes a few concessions to public opinion - a marine reserve here, a slight expansion of a national park there - because they have to. But basically they're a party of orcs, pillaging and destroying. They are unlikely to want to give away their entire agenda, and the Greens will not support any part of it. The idea that the Greens could support such a government is insane. The idea that they could survive it as a party is insaner. But its not because they're National, or right-wing - its because they don't pass the policy test.

But that's the problem with the galley: they don't think policy matters. They don't think keeping faith with your voters matters. For them its all a horse race. The idea that some victories aren't worth winning is something they just don't understand. But then, should we really expect anything different from people who are just marking time and building their CV before their inevitable shift to a higher-paid job as a government or private-sector PR flack?