Insight into Green party positioning

James Shaw calls this “one of the most on-the-money insights into the political positioning in relation to other parties I’ve yet read”.

But it appears to indicate that the Greens fear what will happen to them if they get into government, and would rather play safe and remain pure.

Newstalk ZB – Alex Braae: Greens would be fools to court National

Around this point of the electoral cycle, the demands begin for the Greens to flirt with National. The siren song of government sounds. Unless they move to the centre, they will always be Labour’s hostage.

The logic is appealing. Labour will likely need both the Greens and New Zealand First, and Winston Peters will have a stronger hand. It’s happened before too – during the Clark years the Greens were repeatedly ditched. The Greens therefore have no choice. If they are going to wield power, they must play National and Labour off against each other.

While that’s a beautiful proposition to Very Very Smart Political Commentators, it doesn’t actually make any sense. It’s a fantasy, a demonstration of the hard nosed beltway chops of the VVSPC. Alas, actual voters tend to hate that sort of behaviour, and hate parties that do it.

But do voters really hate that? The biggest rise inb support this term has been for NZ First, and that is what Winston Peters bases his strategy on.

Such calls look at politics as a game in which one less valued policy can be traded away for a ministerial role, where politics can be modelled, sculpted, and scenarios of the perfect parliament simulated as if it were a computer game.

Ah, no. It’s how politics works when more than one party have to find a way of working together. It necessarily involves compromise, something the Greens seem averse to, but they have never experienced the reality of being a part of a government.

Could the Greens not occupy that space? 

The reason why they couldn’t is about the people that actually elect governments. Voters aren’t stupid, but the average person on the street probably couldn’t say for sure what National’s position on genetic engineering is, or name number five on New Zealand First’s list. They might not even know that David Seymour is in favour of charter schools, or that Peter Dunne is technically the leader of a party. 

So when you aren’t reading detailed policy manifestos, or digesting every tweet sent out by MPs, what does cut through? Successful parties are able to give clear, unambiguous statements of what they stand for. What does National stand for? Being dull and sensible. ACT? Less government. Labour? The messages have recently been mixed, and the party’s reputation suffers accordingly.

And the Greens?

Like it or not, they are about purism over politics.

Government is politics. So do the Greens put more importance over ‘purism’ than being able to implement some of their polices?

Green members are typically baffled by the idea that anyone could rationally support a different party, because, don’t they know about climate change/inequality/filthy rivers etc. Lower information voters who care about those issues currently know that even if they don’t keep up with the detail of the policy, the Greens are the one party that hasn’t yet tried to screw them. This strategic maintenance of principled stances matters far more than any tactical decision ever could.

Non Green members are baffled by the idea that a party would rather promote 100% of their policies without implementing any rather than progress 20% of their policies as a part of a government.

For it to work for the Greens, they would have to extract huge concessions from National in areas like agriculture and tax.

So the Greens want all or nothing. If the Greens went into coalition with National they should be able to have a 20-25% say in what policies actually happen. That’s a bit better than 0%.

Same if they form a coalition with Labour and NZ First.  Labour and Winston are never going to let them implement all their polices completely.

Granted, the Greens have stepped away from the radical left during their time in parliament. But one only needed to look at the gritted teeth of members when the leadership signed up to the Budget Responsibility Rules pact with Labour – a document that could make it difficult to implement their policy if they make it to government.

So Braae concedes compromise is necessary even with a party supposedly closest to them, through gritted teeth.

Unless Greens get 50% of the party vote and form a government on their own it will be very difficult to implement all their policy if they make it to government.

To borrow one of their favourite words, the only sustainable option for the Greens is to simply continue doing what they’re doing. Keep growing slowly, keep the base happy, keep winning the odd skirmish from opposition.

Green MPs may not get a chance to ride in ministerial limos this time around, or even the next. But if they are careful, by the time they do get there, they’ll be big enough to actually wield power. Only then will the party be able to survive government.

Braae seems to also concede they are unlikely to get into government after this year’s election. I wonder how insightful Shaw thinks that is.

If they are this sort of careful they will never get into government and will never wield power.

What’s the point of just surviving in Opposition?

Do they Greens lack confidence in being able to be part of a government? They seem to fear the consequences of not being the dominant party in a coalition.

Are they really afraid of getting into power? Does Shaw share this fear?

This is an insight into the Greens into their party positioning, a remarkable one that the Greens don’t seem to fully understand, unless they don’t actually want to be in government.

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27 Comments

  1. PDB

     /  June 5, 2017

    So what happens when you are anti-everything, want to throw free money about and to pay for it all have to heavily tax those already propping up the current welfare system – and then become govt?

    You last three years, are thrown out on your ear and spend 20+ years trying to rebuild the party. Far better to do nothing and con 14% or so of the population each election that you have all the answers if only you could get into govt.

  2. chrism56

     /  June 5, 2017

    The Greens don’t want power unless it is absolute. Under a parliamentary system, political parties in Government have to be responsible for their actions and utterances. Can one really imagine Ms Delahunty or Mr Hughes wanting that? Currently, they are the darlings of the news media for being young and fresh. If they had responsibility, they would be found out as the charlatans with muddle headed thinking that the specialise in.
    Better to stay pure, out of Government and keep raking in those salaries for being Parliamentary footnotes..

  3. unitedtribes2

     /  June 5, 2017

    “This is an insight into the Greens into their party positioning, ”
    It is also an insight into how they see anyone else who dosnt agree with them.

  4. David

     /  June 5, 2017

    Minority parties always seem to nearly get wiped out after being in government maybe thats why Labour want to govern with them. Personally I would love to see a Labour/Greens/nz first government with support from Hone it would be huge fun.
    I am jealous of the US and all the drama around Trump and what do we get here just years and years of probably the best run country on earth with no sign of deviating from the path of ever increasing surpluses, shorter waiting lists, reductions in teen Mums, 99% vaccinations, most kids in early childhood education etc etc its all just a bit too fantastic and boring.

    • Dave, you need to lay off the kool-aid! Sure we’ve had growth riding a wave of fake wealth increases generated through land and property speculation but there are a lot of downsides to that strategy, not to mention an increasing dependency on foreign banks, worsening wealth inequality and malinvestment in non-productive assets.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  June 5, 2017

        “malinvestment in non-productive assets”

        Hard to beat our social welfare system for that.

        • People are productive assets. The social welfare system is an integral part of the Kiwi culture and was hard fought for. It’s one of the reasons New Zealand is considered a great place to live.
          I hope you’re not on the super, Alan?

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  June 5, 2017

            It’s also a major generator and recycler of social problems and unproductive citizens.

            • Blazer

               /  June 5, 2017

              you are on the Super Al…social welfare..paid for by ..hardworking…taxpayers.Hypocrisy..writ..large.

            • Only if implemented badly… sometimes you have to investment more to get a better long term return. There should be no excuse for people not working or, at least, contributing to society, and you are correct that leaving people to rot away while unemployed is not healthy.
              The amount spent on the unemployed is actually quite low. More is spent on welfare for parents, i.e. working for families. As much will be spent on fixing the highway down in Kaikoura as is spent on unemployment in one year.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  June 5, 2017

              Relax, B. I still pay plenty of tax for you.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  June 5, 2017

              @clone, the professionals much prefer a medical or maternity benefit:

              An actuarial valuation conducted as part of the Government’s welfare reforms shows the average total cost of all who had received a working-age benefit in the year to June 30, 2011 was $78.1b.

              Of that, $17.8b came from those who started out on the DPB, $19.1b from those on an invalid’s benefit and $7.2b to those who were on a sickness benefit.

              Just five per cent of the total cost, or $4b, was from those who started out on an unemployment benefit.

              The evaluation took in the cost of payments to beneficiaries as well as the administration of the scheme and other payments such as childcare subsidies and employment interventions.

  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  June 5, 2017

    This just covers what we said here the other day. The missing link in Braae’s analysis is that if you prefer posturing to implementation because your voters will desert you if you ever get into government you will never get into government, nor will you get electoral support beyond the fringe minority that want to virtue signal rather than implement.

  6. artcroft

     /  June 5, 2017

    Good to hear climate change is such a distant problem that the Greens can wait several election cycles before trying to solve it.

    • They also claim government policies are responsible for illness and deaths. But again purism is more important than urgency?

  7. It’s an interesting one. I’m sure NZ First voters love being in the kingmaker situation they are but NZers, in general, hate messy coalitions so you would have thought the Greens would have tried to bring stability to a general left-wing coalition by creating a solid partnership with Labour while leaving obvious room for NZ First to slot in. I know there’s bad blood from the Clark days but I don’t get the toying with National thing either unless there’s a view that even right-wingers are seeing preserving the environment as a political expedient. I definitely can’t see English playing that game as he only sees the cost and not the value of such measures…

    • PDB

       /  June 5, 2017

      Your mistake (like the Greens) is thinking National in 2017 are particularly ‘right-wing’……

      • They’re certainly right-wing in supporting the neo-liberal economic model which backbones the economy, to wit, orthodox monetarism. Reading from their website their core values are “Less debt, more jobs, strong stable government”, which doesn’t really give much away although if they were right wing they’d be pushing for less government so I’ll give you that. They are certainly centrist having regained the centre-right from Labour after the Clark years and I guess you could argue they represent the typical Kiwi who is quite conservative and a bit suspicious of new fan-dangled idealogies.
        Where they’re right wing, in my mind, is that they believe wholeheartedly that free market economics is our saving grace despite the massive danger in selling our assets to the highest bidder, basing our economy on bank driven property speculation and seeing a slow degradation of the social fabric due to income and wealth inequality.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  June 5, 2017

          the massive danger in selling our assets to the highest bidder

          No, holding assets is risky. Selling them off and holding cash is risk-averse.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  June 5, 2017

            Not understanding basic economics is a prime cause of income and wealth inequality.

          • Depends on the type of asset. Holding cash is risk averse but you might find in a year or two you can’t buy very much with it, i.e. when you’ve got asset inflation of 20%.
            Holding real assets, such as land, is also risk averse as unlike fiat money there is a limited supply.
            My point is that we need to do more than use “basic economics” to run the economy, like seeing it as a household, as Bill English does.
            Basic economics doesn’t recognise the role of debt in our economy as it falsely assumes that one person liabilities is another’s asset but banks actually create money out of thin air through loans. This pump primes the housing market leading to a wealth effect and, eventually, economic growth but the downside is an economy addicted to debt.
            Foreign investment provides an immediate injection of cash but in the long-term it can lead to a net negative flow of funds due to having to pay for the use of capital through dividends, etc. There are also downsides in terms of security in selling your assets, in that you give up control of how they are used.
            One pertinent example is the potato famine in Ireland where half of the 1 million deaths could have been purportedly prevented but the English parliament allowed the foreign owners of the land to sell their produce offshore rather than feeding the local population. I could certainly see this happen here and I’m sure
            the little people would be blamed for not understanding basic economics.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  June 5, 2017

              I could certainly see this happen here

              Hardly. The local population votes and the offshore clients don’t. The Irish had no control over their governance.

            • We all know that democracy doesn’t count for much. The politicians tell you what they think you want to hear and then don’t even do that when they get elected.
              And what are they going to do? Nationalise the assets? Not after we’ve signed the TPP. There are many corporations with more financial clout than our country and power is only becoming more centralised. The top 12 richest people have more wealth than the worth of all of our property.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  June 5, 2017

              NZ is still sovereign and Parliament has full control over assets and activities within it. There is no need to nationalise such assets to control them. Should it ever become an issue the TPP could be repudiated at any time. Financial clout doesn’t trump sovereign power.

              There is no evidence power is becoming more centralised. Rather there is evidence in Brexit and Trumpism that excessive central power is being dethroned.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  June 5, 2017

              I must concur Alan. The evidence suggests that nobodies opinion matters. At all…

  8. patupaiarehe

     /  June 5, 2017

    The Greens will always get over 5%, due to the large number of expats, who don’t follow NZ politics, but want to keep us ‘clean & green’.

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