Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A few thoughts on the Greens

This week's Listener had an editorial entitled Endangered Greens, pointing out problems with the Green campaign and questioning the future of the party. This has spawned an interesting discussion on Frogblog (which the Herald today described as the "rank and file" talking "revolution" - despite few of the participants actually being Green Party members). So here's my two cents.

Firstly, the Greens "problem" is lack of votes, pure and simple. Yes, their campaigning could have been better. Yes, their billboards don't seem to have made enough of an impact (I prefered the earlier "give a damn" slogan myself). And yes, some of this may have been because of the lack of a big issue like GE to kick up a stink over. But IMHO most of it is due to an extraordinarily tight campaign, in which the minor party vote flowed to the majors in a way that we haven't seen before. The good point is that despite all this, they suffered the least of any minor party - demonstrating once again that of all the minors, they have the most solid core of support (though some of this "core" composes Labour voters who consistently vote Green to provide a coalition partner to labour's left - but its reliable nonetheless).

They shouldn't take this core for granted, and they should work to build it - but I don't think the future is as dismal as the Listener claims.

The Listener also had this to say on list selection:

Forget about Labour's quest for new blood, though. If the Green MPs were on a supermarket shelf, you would be studying their "use by" dates very closely indeed, since their line-up is virtually identical to what it was in 1999. The Greens' caucus is nearly 53 years old on average, and has just lost Nandor Tanczos, its main youth emblem and drawcard. Fresh talent may be waiting in the wings, such as Russell Norman. Yet the talent will always struggle to make it into the parliamentary arena without big changes occurring in how the Greens compile their party list – which does few favours to its more urban and more sophisticated candidates, and which has promoted the likes of Mike Ward in the past.

Not being a member, it's not really my place to comment on list selection - but as for the lineup being nearly identical to what it was in 1999, here the "problem" seems to too much talent, rather than people who are "past it" refusing to yield their places. Yes, the loss of Nandor is a tragedy - but a higher rank for him would have meant a lower rank for someone else, and I cannot think of a single one of those six MPs who I would like to see go. All work incredibly hard; all have excellent media profiles for minor party MPs - especially when compared with MPs from United Future or NZFirst. Every single one of them is an asset to the Green Party. Which is why I think the problem ultimately comes down to "not enough votes" and the two-party squeeze, rather than any lack of talent in the Parliamentary lineup.

The Greens do need to bring "new blood" in, but given the talent of the current lineup, this relies on either growing the party vote, or on retirements. Clearly, I'd rather it happened through the former, but as a list party, the Greens can always use the mechanism of a mid-term retirement bringing in the next available person on the list to renew themselves. But again, I can't think of a single MP I'd want to go in this fashion.


I don't think the Greens did anything wrong myself. A couple of people I know who would have voted Green changed their minds at the last minute and voted for Labour because it looked so touch and go for Labour in the last couple of days before the election. It had nothing to do with the campaign the Greens ran.

I realise, of course, "people I know" is hardly scientific but on the other hand these are people in the Greens prime demograph - left-ish, urban, and environmentally concerned.

Posted by Amanda : 10/12/2005 01:40:00 PM

A couple of people you know were foolish, since without the Greens Labour would have no chance of forming a government.

The billboards were out there, but hardly attention grabbing. From a distance, some of them looked like they'd been vandalised and were missing a big chunk off the corner.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 10/12/2005 03:51:00 PM

I liked the Give a Damn slogan to Idiot/Savant. There was debate about the offence it might cause some people however. Clearly the 'don't want to offend' crowd won out on that one.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/12/2005 09:00:00 PM

"since without the Greens Labour would have no chance of forming a government."

Come on... labour plus NZ first plus maori would beat national plus act anyway. whether you like that or not depends on your political position of course.

Posted by Genius : 10/12/2005 10:15:00 PM