Dire Predictions for NZ Green Party...
One thing that I have learned about politics over many years is that it always lives in a microcosm of ignorance that has little connection or reference to the past. Very few political commentators use historical perspectives on which to base their opinions and the media generally prefers extreme and emotional reactions to those that are more measured and circumspect.
The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand has just elected Marama Davidson as its third ever Female Co-leader since the Party began in 1990. Here is a sample of the reactions to this news from mainstream media:
"The Greens swing left with Marama Davidson in the co-pilot seat" - Henry Cooke
"Expect fireworks with Marama Davidson Elected Green co-leader", "...a radical social justice warrior..." - Kate Hawkesby
"All they'll be is a far-left party that condones beneficiary fraud and wants to make it easier to stay on the dole", Why the Green Party will be gone in a decade - Heather du Plessis-Allan
Before 1995 and the election of Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald, the party had no formal leaders and relied on official spokespeople. Since 1995 the Green Party has had a total of 6 Co-leaders, although only having one leader the National Party has had 7 over the same period and the Labour Party has had 6. The length of time the past Co-leaders remained in their positions ranges from 8 years for Metiria Turei, to 14 years for Jeanette Fitzsimons. The Green Party leadership has a history of stability.
What most commentators do not appreciate about the Green Party is that none of its leaders or MPs can dictate policy or our election campaigns. The Green Party's policies have to align with its principles and all policies are established through membership consultation and democratic process. While each leader will have their particular interests and personality, they are always constrained by the expectations and mandate provided by the membership. At every AGM the Co-leaders must be re-elected to continue in office. When political commentators make claims of wild changes in direction it just exposes their ignorance of the how the Green Party operates.
Much that is reported is also a just a reflection of spin from the two largest parties that wish to ensure the Green Party does not threaten their status. The highest the Green Party has polled is 17.5 % (just after the 2014 election), just 2.4% away from National's lowest election result in 2002. In a May 2017 poll (before Jacinda Arden become leader) the Green Party was snapping at Labour's heels with only 7.5 percentage points between them. In the month before the Greens had gone from 11% to 16.5% in successive polls, while Labour had plummeted from 30% to 23.75%. The Greens were already earning more in donations than Labour at that time and must have made its members feel very vulnerable.
When Jacinda Adern became Labour's leader the priorities she championed in her speeches were green heavy in a clear attempt to recapture the ground lost to the Greens (a successful ploy). Both Labour and National would rather the Green Party just focussed on the environment and had no aspirations other than being a useful support party to the big two.
National openly criticises the Green Party for having any social policy at all and many National supporters spin the idea that the Green Party is essentially a communist inspired party with a "green" facade (watermelons). John Key continually labeled the Greens as "wacky" even when many Green policies had been adopted by National and claimed as their own, like the home insulation scheme.
Most Green Party members don't join the party because they are environmentalists, they join because they understand that social and environmental issues are always connected and the solutions to the multiple crises we are faced with need to be addressed in holistic and sustainable ways. Social responsibility is a core part of the Global Green movement and the New Zealand Green Party has championed social justice issues successfully since its inception and this will never change.
No matter how much du Plessis-Allen and other conservative commentators attempt to dismiss and label the Greens, it is becoming clearer by the day that it is only green solutions that will solve our current problems. I can remember Bill English trying to scare voters with the threat "imagine a Green Minister..." as if such an outcome would threaten the very fabric of our society and tip us over the brink. Well, we now have four Greens with ministerial portfolios in the current government, dealing with multiple crises largely caused by the inaction of the previous one. Imagining what would have happened if National retained the government benches is now a more terrifying thought.
From media observations so far, Marama Davidson continues the tradition of strong and capable Green leaders. She is obviously passionate about the issues of inequality, corruption and environmental degradation as were the leaders before her. Her election is clearly not the end of the Green Party, but a renewed commitment to what is important for the future of our country and the planet.
Kia kaha, Marama!