The NZ Green Party's election posters. Are the Greens making the mistake of putting image before substance? Have they lost their radical edge?
by Ondine Green
The Greens had their chance to put some real excitement into the election campaign at their annual conference at Queen's Birthday weekend. And they muffed it.
Rumour had it leading up to the conference that the Greens were going to call for price controls on milk for domestic consumption. While this would not have had nearly as much of an impact on working people's skyrocketing food bills as – say – RAM's proposal to remove GST from food, it would have been at least a small step. Plus, it would have fired a warning shot across the bows of big agribusiness, easily New Zealand's number 1 producer of greenhouse emissions.
And what did Green leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons finally announce in her speech? That she was going to (get this) ask Fonterra nicely to bring milk prices down.
This is exactly why the Green Party has reached the limits of its claim to be any sort of radical alternative to the two-party duopoly. Even a tiny and easily achievable goal has to be trashed if it gives the appearance of bucking the almighty free market in any way. The Rubicon was crossed on this issue when they endorsed Labour's plan for “emissions trading” - also known as bribing big business not to wreck the planet quite so quickly.
Of course, the Greens are behind the eight-ball in this campaign anyway. They've traded off most of their distinctiveness and radical image (let alone any radical policies) to become “acceptable coalition partners for Labour”. Those with long memories might remember what happened when the Alliance did that ten years ago. Why exactly should struggling families vote for the Greens if it's just Labour policies with extra political correctness?
And this has happened with the Green's so-called “social justice” wing (represented by such high fliers as co-leader Russel Norman and MP Sue Bradford) in ascendancy. If the “blue-green” wing (represented by people like ex-MP Mike Ward, who did his best to stop Russel Norman taking over Nandor Tanczos's seat in Parliament) had their way, it would be even worse, and we might be seeing the Greens emulate their German cousins and hooking up with the right.
The Green leadership have been inside the bubble of Parliament for twelve years now – long enough to “go native” and forget that there's a real world of real working people with real hardships out there. Only that can explain why Jeanette Fitzsimmon's speech went out of its way to tick off who they seem to think are their real enemies – Parliamentary journalists like Guyon Espiner. Certainly those people don't particularly like the Greens, but then the Parliamentary media are in the entertainment business above all and the Greens aren't nearly as “fun” for them as Winston Peters. Which is, of course, why his political career keeps rising from the dead.
The Green's weak campaign gimmick - “Some things are bigger than politics” - shows all the signs that they've decided to play for the attention of media moguls and political journalists, not ordinary people. It's all icing and no cake. Only a party which puts concrete, achievable proposals for making ordinary people's lives better – no matter what the spin doctors and boardroom boys thinks – has any hope of motivating working people to the polls this October, and stopping a nasty Nat victory.