We are six months away from election year and the political missiles are already being fired thick and fast. The fact that the Green Party is being heavily targeted by both National and right leaning journalists is a good sign that our Party has finally made it as a political force. We should be celebrating.
The last two elections it was difficult to get any media time at all and even though we ran a strong campaign and were the third largest party in 2011, it was Winston who hogged the TV with his drip fed revelations about the "tea cups" saga.
During the last election National flirted with the Greens as a potential coalition partner, they actually saw us as a more stable and rational group than the fractious Act Party and for three years our memorandum of understanding delivered some useful stuff (including home insulation, cycle tracks and the Tui Mine clean up). Our Party hasn't changed but National's tactics have. When we publicly declared an interest in a coalition with Labour, National almost wiped the home insulation scheme and, despite its obvious success, has scaled it back (it is interesting that they often mention the scheme as one of their main strategies to deal with poverty).
Now the Greens can do nothing right in the eyes of National Party Ministers, every other answer during question time ends with a derogatory reference to the Greens. It is obvious that they see us as a real threat.
The attacks on the Greens are verging on hysterical, especially when most of the policies we espouse are actually fairly mainstream and most have already been adopted by other OECD countries. It is National that is actually beginning to look out of step with the rest of the world. Whether it be a Capital Gains Tax, bank deposit insurance, addressing child poverty, the Kyoto Protocol, or even Quantitative Easing the possible solutions promoted by the Greens are widely used and conventional responses.
There have been extreme and bizarre reactions from Key and his Ministers, rather than directly comment on the Green solutions they have resorted to personal attacks and abuse. While Key is happy to defend and support John Banks, he feels comfortable referring to the Greens as "wacky, extreme, unusual". The Green's plan of managing electricity pricing was likened to something out of North Korea and was called "barking mad". Strangely the Government supports a very similar system in Pharmac, to manage prescription drug prices.
One National MP even accused the Greens of being dishonest because we were straying from our supposed core role of just commenting on environmental issues. He expressed the view that we had no mandate to meddle into social policy or economics and should stick to saving trees and snails.
It has been most entertaining to see the responses to Russel's AGM speech when he likened Key to Muldoon, it was very much the reaction one would expect when a playground bully meets someone who hits back. Russel got a similar response when he dared question the impartiality of Dr Brent Layton. It appears that the Green Party's refusal to turn the other cheek when under attack has unsettled many.
National is also desperately trying to label the Greens as "far-left" and the word communist is often used on right wing blogs. This is scaremongering in the extreme and one wonders if the dancing cossacks will make another appearance (yet another similarity between Key and Muldoon?). While Russel Norman is being widely lauded for being able to understand and articulate mainstream economics and business spokesperson David Clendon is traveling around the country supporting private enterprises, the far-left tag seems well off mark and a little desperate.
It isn't just Russel who has unsettled the Right, our Co-leader Metiria is also standing firm. Her blistering attack on John Banks and his Charter Schools gave him some of his own medicine (he regularly makes personal attacks on the Greens in his speeches) and he didn't like it. Interestingly his sexist references to Metiria's appearance were upheld by the speaker despite most women in the chamber standing because of the offense it caused.
All Green MPs are delivering intelligent and well researched rebuttal of the Government's failing policies and National is unable to respond in a similar vein.
By amalgamating the messages of the hysterical right we can summarise their spin:
The watermelon Greens led by a ginger headed Australian communist and his lipstick covered co-leader and their team of old fogies and young dudes are planning to subject the country to policies developed in North Korea. The Greens are going to use photocopiers to print truckloads of money and subject the country to other wacky and barking mad schemes. The Greens are devious and nasty and should never be given the reins of power.
While National's loyal followers believe every word of this nonsense and repeat it ad nauseum, most thinking voters will see it for what it is, the desperate dying throes of a Government well passed its use by date!