In My Opinion: Henry’s word | Issue 6

In My Opinion: Henry’s word | Issue 6

The Green Party — Pragmatic Progress or Ethical Stagnation?

T he Green Party is naming a new co-leader come July. The appointment of a new face also brings forth the possibility of a new direction. Over the past decade the Greens have made huge strides in growing their support and refining their message. Yet it’s a fair assumption that this may be the end of the road.

The Greens have a place sitting comfortably with between 10 and 15 per cent of the party vote for the foreseeable future. This would be a place of achievement for the party’s counterparts on the crossbenches. Peter Dunne stays awake at night dreaming of 10 per cent. But the far left has become an ideological ghetto for the Greens. A place that cannot accommodate their aspirations.

The Green Party campaigns on environmental sustainability and social justice. They’re the defenders of the vulnerable, whether that be lower socio-economic New Zealanders or natural and the environment They have a good message. However, their inability to find their way into the executive prevents them from ever making their ideas a reality. For anyone else this may be fine. But the Greens champion themselves on standing up for the voiceless.

Time and time again the party has seen its submitted bills fail. The “Feed the Kids” Bill has just been voted down, which comes as no surprise. No government in their right mind would vote through an opposition bill, scoring points for the other team while also harming its fiscal budget. But the proposal was not a bad one. National struggled to produce formidable arguments against it, although in the end it succeeded somewhat.

This is an example of where the Greens could make a difference. Having the ability to co-operate with either major party opens up massive opportunity. The Greens need to refine their message even further and push for it to be implemented. Pragmatic progress or ethical stagnation. That is the choice the Green Party ultimately faces in deciding where to go from here.

The co-leadership race has produced a number of different camps. James Shaw and Vernon Tava have offered a new direction where they are more open to compromise, whereas seasoned Greens, Gareth Hughes and Kevin Hague, pledge to continue promoting the Green message, offering little in the way of compromise. Undoubtedly the two latter candidates are anticipating a Labour coalition in 2017. This isn’t an unlikely expectation. But it isn’t a smart one.

For the party to cut through the noise of the National–Labour election contest, it needs to present the possibility that its ten to fifteen per cent could go either way. This is the game that minor parties play to become significant. Many have argued against this notion, believing sustainability of the minor party vote rarely resides in the centre of the spectrum. So the Greens have to decide, are they going to stay in their comfortable corner, or are they going make an attempt to change the game?

This article first appeared in Issue 6, 2015.
Posted 1:39pm Friday 10th April 2015 by Henry Napier.