Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Greens and National

The Greens held their AGM over the weekend, in which the membership endorsed a pre-election negotiating statement which potentially opened the door to supporting a future National government. This has caused some predictable wailing and gnashing of teeth from lefter members and commentators, who accuse the Greens of betraying their values and shifting to the right. Really? The Greens have always been a party of policy, not tribalism. They've always made it clear that they will work with anyone they can find common ground with to advance their goals, and they've come up with several innovative ways of doing so outside of the traditional Winston Peters-style coalition agreement. And this is what they're continuing to do. Right at the beginning of that negotiating statement, they say:

(i) The Green Party is an independent and distinct party, which in order to urgently advance Green Party policy goals, will attempt to work constructively with, and challenge, whichever party leads the government after an election;

(ii) To enable any party or parties to form a government, we would need significant progress on Green Party environmental, economic and social policies and initiatives that would give effect to the Green Party Charter.

What follows is an assessment of the major parties' chances of providing that progress: Labour, maybe. National, not bloody likely. So cooperation with them would be limited to the sort of deal that they have at present: working together on specific identified goals. Now, you can argue about whether the Greens have got a good deal from National this term (I'm inclined to think they have on insulation, and they haven't on other issues). But to argue that they should refuse to work with a party to advance Green values because there are (large and important) areas where you disagree is simply Labour-style tribalism.

What makes the opposition even more tribal is that that "not bloody likely" is predicated on National's current positions and track record. So, the Greens are specifically challenging National to change, and holding out the offer of support if it does. I don't think that is likely - not just because they're the party of farmers, but also because anti-environmentalism is a right-wing shibboleth - but in the unlikely event that it did happen, I cannot see what would be wrong with it. The Greens are happy to cooperate with Labour; why shouldn't they cooperate with a hypothetical Labour-like National Party if it offers similar gains? The only reason to oppose it is tribalism. The Greens are supposed to be better than that, and I certainly thought Sue Bradford was.