Unf**k the World – The Perils of Being Green

I was greeted by a poster this morning when I entered work urging me to attend a talk being given by Gareth Hughes, the Green list MP about the world and how Green solutions could unf**k it.  For the record,  I like Gareth, he has struck me as a hard working and honest MP.  I also have voted for the Greens in the past, as they are, currently, the most progressive option on offer in Parliament.  However, the meeting struck me as slightly ambitious mainly because while the Greens do have a number of progressive policies, what they really lack are progressive solutions.

The slogan of the Greens used to be neither ‘left nor right, but out in front.’ A Green MP once explained this to me as meaning that the Greens eschewed the traditional ‘materialistic’ left/right economic spectrum. Of course, one cannot escape the spectrum that easily, but it allowed the Greens to recruit a number of people who believed in the Green ethos even if they had vastly different views on the economy and social policy.  The situation changed after the 1990 elections. The Greens moved to the left in the 1990s due to their membership of the left wing Alliance.  Consequently, the deep Greens left and formed the Green Society, a short lived political grouping and the market Greens left mostly to the newly formed Blue Greens in the National Party.

For the most part the Greens have maintained a left position since they departed the Alliance in 1998.  That is the Greens are to the left of Labour in parliament and are seen as their natural coalition partner or allies.  Of course, being to the left of the Labour Party is, actually, relatively straight forward.  One only needs to believe in a more progressive economic policy which advocates regulations and controls, more rights for workers and the poor and fair over free trade and viola’.  The point I would make is that the Greens are to the left of Labour because Labour is not a social democratic party in the traditional sense and the Greens have moved to partially full that placement.  However, they would be considerably to the right of the Bill Rowling led Labour Party of the late 1970s and early 1980s and, of the Values party, which was their Green predecessor (and the world’s first Green Party) in the 1970s.

For example, the Green’s tax policy was actually to the right of Labour’s, this largely due to the Greens pendant for resource taxes.  From a Green perspective they make sense, unfortunately, these taxes are also indirect taxes and can be passed along until it ends up being paid for by those unable to pass it on. Also, as Bryce Edwards noted last year in his blog ‘Liberation,’ the Green’s alternative budget had accepted the 15 % GST increase and the party had included it in their costings.  However, these things in themselves do not cause me concern.  What does concern me are the issues that may arise in the aftermath of an election which nets the Greens more seats, but leaves National firmly in control as the largest party in the House.

And such an issue might arise for the Greens in the aftermath of this year’s election, especially if National (if expected) becomes the largest party in the House but lacks plausible coalition partners (read no ACT MPs and 1 Maori Party MP).  It is always been my impression of Key that he wants to be a long serving National Prime Minister (aka Keith Holyoake) and if that means that he has to strike a few deals and water a few policies down then he is prepared to do it.  In political terms this is called being a ‘statesman’.

But, would the Greens go for such a deal?  It is worthwhile noting that even though people (and Green Party members) assume that they would only go into coalition with or cooperate with Labour, the Greens have not, at this point, ruled out a deal with National.  Further, it is rumoured that in the aftermath of the 2008 elections, the Green caucus briefly entertained the idea of cooperating with National and allowing them to govern.  Such a deal was torpedoed by left wing members of their caucus

Certainly, a formal coalition with National would gain the Green’s Ministerial portfolios, and palatable influence within a National led Government.  But, it would almost certainly earn them the approbation of a large number of their voters and their members and either end the Greens as a political force or significantly weaken them.

A more likely scenario would be a similar deal which the Greens struck with Labour and the Alliance between 1999 – 2002.  In which they agreed to abstain on votes of confidence and supply thereby allowing Labour/Alliance to govern as a minority government.  They could strike a similar deal with National, freeing them from a formal coalition.  In return the Greens could gain some select committee chairs and have key policy aspects put into the Government agenda.  This would probably be the more palatable option for the Greens, but the results would be the same the Greens would be responsible for keeping the Tories in power and they would suffer for it at the 2015 election.

Of course, rumours are dangerous things and I think that the Greens will probably (at the end of the day) back a Labour led Government.  Certainly, I think that their policies and their membership would demand such an outcome.  But, I need certainty.  With the days counting down until the election and the choices to me closing in terms of voting preference, I am reluctant to cast my vote for something that could be used to support the Tories, even as a minority government.


3 Comments on “Unf**k the World – The Perils of Being Green”

  1. stevedore says:

    Hi Q, A few quick responses from an active left-wing Green member.

    I agree with a lot of what you say. I *hate* the ‘neither left nor right, but out in front’ bullshit. I’d also say though that, in my experience, it is relatively non-existent within most active Green party volunteers, officials and all (as far as I am aware) MPs.

    It always annoys me that the Greens get told we have to declare unswerving fealty to the Labour Party to prove our credentials, but the Labour Party, which policy-wise is much closer to the Nats than it is to the Greens, is not asked to do the same thing. Why not ask Labour to state that it will definitely not do a deal with National before the election? After all, let’s check which of the two parties have voted the same way as the Nats the most over the last three years.

    It’s hard to blame the Greens after being screwed by the Labour Party so many times for not wanting to state undying loyalty to Labour. And yet that is exactly what we did before the last election. Despite knowing it was a bad bargaining strategy we were one of the only parties to say publicly before the election which other parties we would and would not work with. As far as I know the Greens intend to do the same thing again this year. But what we did say is that we would, like last time, make that assessment on policies and past performance rather than just assuming that Labour was and is always more left-wing than the Nats (not a safe assumption I think).

    Finally, a debate for another day – I don’t think it is possible to be truly social democratic party anymore unless you have, at the core, a belief that economic growth is a damaging concept. That one precept is the single biggest difference between Labour and the Greens at present. I also use it as my test of support for other left wing movements and parties as they emerge.


  2. […] (For another good discussion on the ‘neither left or right but out in front’ slogan check out this New Masses blog post.) […]

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