NZ Green Party
Herald approves, but gets some basics very wrong

Today’s Herald editorial seems keen on the new working relationship between the Greens and National.  But their positive assessment comes at the very end, while much of the piece discusses a supposed change in attitude by the Greens.

This agreement, under which the Greens and ministers will work together in several policy areas, clearly owes a great deal to the all-embracing approach of the Prime Minister, as well as to a new pragmatism in the Greens…The Greens went into the last election saying they could not support a National government, and watched John Key’s Administration quickly cancel several of their pet policies under Labour.

It is correct to say the Greens wouldn’t support a National government and the Memorandum of Understanding signed last week does not change this.  But the “pragmatism” is not new, it was signalled at the Greens AGM last year and mentioned often by the Co-Leaders during the election campaign.  The Herald speculates further:

The agreement may also owe something to the imminent retirement of the Greens’ co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons. Her unwillingness to compromise lent a certain purity to the party but also denied it a place among the decision-makers. Russel Norman, her fellow co-leader, was unconvincing when he sought to play down the major shift in the Green’s approach.

Except that Jeanette has been as vocal as anyone on how the Greens might work with National.  Not just before, but also after the election she often spoke publically of meeting with John Key to explore the options.  Key is also on record saying the same thing.

And Russel un-convincing?  I supposed that’s not surprising given he couldn’t effectively downplay a major shift when there was no major shift to downplay.  Where has the Editor of the Herald been for the last year?

But the piece ends on this positive note:

The party could even begin to appeal to a broader section of the electorate. The partnership may just provide the impetus to make the Greens a greater force.

The Greens have changed not a bit, but I’ll just say Amen to that.

30 thoughts on “Herald approves, but gets some basics very wrong

  1. Frog: I’ve gone clear through not believing the Paper – to hardly bothing to read one….it’s a marked improvement too!

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  2. I hope we can get National to improve on their abyssmal animal welfare record (almost as bad as Labour/Anderton’s) as part of an MOU. How about getting them to reverse their decision to consider live sheep exports for a start?

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  3. Have you bothered to actually read the MoU phil? It is simply a framework for engagement, with no policy content whatsoever. Both sides agree what issues will be discussed and either side can pull the plug at any time. There is no way National can impose a gag. And the initial issues listed in the appendix were chosen only because there was some obvious common ground. They were not the price of signing the MoU, the success or failure of which will only be known long after (in political time) these first discussions have been concluded.

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  4. I think the article is bizarre. The whole media spin on the agreement is bizarre.

    I don’t see this as a significant alliance between National and the Greens, and Labour being friendless, as the Greens will scuttle back to their natural Labour home as soon as that becomes possible.

    Key is the real winner. He convinces his environmentally inclined voters he is working for them, too.

    I don’t see anything more in it….

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  5. yeah right frog..

    ..just like those self-muzzling-agreements with labour..eh..?

    ..thought you’d pass on the chance of being a real opposition party..eh..?

    ..but..anyway..this is just p*ssing at the edges..

    ..have you gone vegan yet frog..?

    ..if not..

    ..why not..?

    (..”oh oh yes..i’m the green pretender..(aa–oo..ah-oo..!)

    ..pretending that i am caring and ‘kind..(aa-oo..aa-oo..!)

    but i eat the flesh..and the suffering i do not see..

    ..of the animals that are all around..

    …and ‘pretending’..as i chow them down..”..)

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  6. PS: Largely agree with Phils post, except the bit about being quiet. I doubt they’ll keep quiet, especially on social issues.

    The Greens are proving a really cheap date. You need to play the game a lot harder if you want to win, Frog.

    Perhaps that’s the problem.

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  7. Phils post on Whoar, that is…..

    His plant-murder stuff gets a bit tiresome….

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  8. Personally I think Labour and National are just as bad as each other (and Anderton is worse than both) because neither of them give a toss about the most wretched and dispossessed in our society; the 90 million lame broilers, 2.8 million bored hens, and 20,000 psychotic sows.

    But there is a difference between an activist group lobbying parliament from inside, and a political party, which often has to compromise with those it has very little in common with. Any political party has to strike a balance between sticking to its principles and being so pure they don’t do any good at all. Those who are interested in purity would be best to join an activist group than a political party (I am a member of both).

    I was critical of the Greens before for not attempting to get any concessions out of National, who it seems would rather have dealt with the Greens than the flaky ACT party. I should therefore congratulate the GP for finally getting some sort of agreement with the Nats.

    As an activist I prefer a society closer to the idealistic Green Party position combining social justice with environmental protection (though with a more vegan component). But as a member of the Green Party and a political pragmatist I think BP and BB are right; the voters mostly want a National style government, but would like the GP involved to give some environmental protection. I have no objection to giving the voters what they want; at least at this phase of the election cycle. Later we can distance ourselved from National, and run a campaign based on the idealist position again, having made some policy gains.

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  9. BP has it about right. This agreement is just not that big a deal in itself, though it could be if the Nats wanted to make some serious environmental improvements. Here’s their chance. Nat supporters will continue to hear only negative comments from the Greens about the govt’s performance on the environment if they don’t start actually trying. I’m assuming of course that these supporters are not so dumb as to think merely talking to the Greens is enough.

    I also largely agree with kiore1, though I can assure you that the Nats see their relationship with Act as the most important by far.

    phil, I don’t think you’re a pretender, just a bit ignorant on the politics. Fyi, I agree that much meat eating is unsustainable, though not all. I’m not vegan, but mostly vegetarian, which ain’t so bad for a frog.

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  10. i’m not vegan, but mostly vegetarian, which ain’t so bad for a frog.

    Running a political blog isn’t a bad effort either.

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  11. “..I’m not vegan, but mostly vegetarian,.”

    well then..you should know that the inner/mental changes/benifits from going from vegetarian to vegan..

    ..far exceed the already marked changes (as you know) achieved going from carnivore to vegetarian..

    the boy and i are staying on a farm at the moment..

    ..with about ten other vegans..

    ..we have the most ballistic evenings meals/feasts..

    ..and it is so liberating to be in an environment where i don’t have to keep the shutters up against meat ads/people eating/smells..etc..

    anyway..fwiw..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  12. I think it misleading for frog to say that “the Greens have not changed a bit”. Every political party changes over time, and the Greens are no exception. The changes taking place, slowly and incrementally, in the political approach of the New Zealand Greens mirror those that have already taken place within the European Green parties. Fact is the Greens are moving away from Labour, and towards National (the MOU falls short of being a political alliance, but it is an understanding between the parties). These changes are taking place for obvious reasons, and therefore are to be totally expected. Therefore, I do not see the logic in trying to deny that they are occurring…

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  13. It is an interesting strategic move by the Greens. Personally I feel like I sit about halfway between the Greens and Labour politically. I could support either party and in fact split my vote between the two last time around. I would absolutely love a Labour/Greens government, certainly a lot more than a National/Greens government.

    It is probably the Greens’ transport policies that won me over last election, though also because I knew that a vote for the Greens was pretty much also a vote for Labour. There are a lot of Greens supporters out there like me I suspect.

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  14. Geoff Fischer, of course parties change over time, but you’ve totally missed the point of frog’s post. The Herald claims that the Greens changed their stance re the Nats just recently when in fact the position hasn’t changed at all since before the election.

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  15. In response to Valis, I did not miss the point. Frog claimed “not a bit of change” and I pointed out that there has been a slow, incremental process of change in the Green’s political position. It is understandable, since the Greens were badly treated by Labour, and National is now the party in power, that the Greens should seek an accommodation with National. But this is a significant change point in the history of the Green Party. Denial may help keep some of the GP’s left on side for the time being, but the reality remains.

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  16. Jarbury sez:”a vote for the Greens was pretty much also a vote for Labour. There are a lot of Greens supporters out there like me I suspect.”
    Not as many as those who want to vote for an environmentally focused centre Green party. They want to be Green supporters, not red/green supporters.

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  17. Geoff, I can’t see the problem. There’s no denial in the article of change over the longer term, because the article is only about very recent history. The Green’s position re the Nats in 2008 was different than in 2005, I’m sure frog would agree. But the Herald seems to have missed this. Its editorial claims the change is very recent and possibly due to Jeanette retiring as leader, saying she was a barrier to such change. Frog simply points out that the willingness to work with the Nats was made public on many occasions going back before the election and that it was led by Jeanette rather than impeded by her. Frog’s “not a bit of change” refers only to the time frame in the article, which is less than a year by my reckoning. By arguing the Herald is wrong, frog in fact provides implicit support for your claim of incremental change, rather than a denial.

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  18. Jeanette’s willingness to work with National in areas of common interest was demonstrated very clearly by her invitation (supported by her co-leader and the majority of G Party members present) to National’s Nick Smith to attend the Green Party Conference in Nelson … back in June 2007 !

    This first clear evidence of a “change” in Green Party attitudes was widely reported in national media at the time … with photos (& TV coverage) of Nick Smith standing near the Green Party banner, seated listening to Jeanette’s speech, and chatting to GP members at morning tea.

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  19. As a parliamentary party, try as they may, the Greens will not be able to transcend the left-right divide. They will be obliged to offer either consistently “left” or “right” solutions to environmental problems, and it is the right-wing solutions which are more acceptable to the power brokers and the mass media organisations in the present political climate.

    In the longer term however right wing solutions (e.g using the market to drive low income groups out of stand-alone houses and private cars, and into apartments and public transport, while leaving high income groups free to own lifestyle blocks, beach houses, Volvo cars and motorboats) threaten to exacerbate social tensions and even to undermine the entire right wing political project.

    I can see the Green Party becoming quite comfortable with market-based solutions to environmental concerns. It has always been entirely predictable that the Greens would move further to the right of the political spectrum as they became more firmly entrenched in parliamentary politics. But if this is the direction that the Green Party is taking, it should really enter into a thorough-going and public revision of its ideology, so that people can know exactly where the party stands.

    From a more objective viewpoint the Green Party’s accommodation with the National Party is only a problem because there was a perception among the voting public that the Green’s were “on Labour’s side”. A similar mis-perception caused credibility problems for the New Zealand First Party when it joined a National government in 1996.

    Voters tend not to take a lawyer’s view of political party statements. They tend to vote according to their own perception, or mis-perception, of a party’s ideology. I would suggest that most Green voters would have assumed that the Green Party ideology was incompatible with the market ideology of a National/ACT government, and that many will be shocked or disillusioned not so much by the fact of the accommodation or “understanding” with the National Party, as by the ideological implications and the policy consequences which will only become fully apparent with the passage of time.

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  20. I think Green policy is pretty much incompatible with a market ideology of the Nat/Act sort, but they are in government. Not speaking to those in charge about the things that matter to you does not advance those causes at all.

    So, you start a conversation about the things you might have some common ground on. Why not? It may not go anywhere useful from a Green perspective but that is not an argument for not even trying.

    If, however, the party was to start changing its fundamental philosophy in order to have a seat at the top table, that would be a problem. I think the membership will keep its mps honest.

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  21. Janine wrote:
    “I think Green policy is pretty much incompatible with a market ideology of the Nat/Act sort, but they are in government.”

    I can not see how Green policy is incompatible with a market ideology of the Nat/Act sort. Can Janine explain?

    “Not speaking to those in charge about the things that matter to you does not advance those causes at all.”

    It is not a bad policy to speak to anyone about the things that matter to you. But a memorandum of understanding is different. It is, in effect, an acknowledgement that you cannot persuade the National government of the merit of your cause, and a statement of your intention to do deals. Only time will tell what the substance of those deals may be, although it is possible for outsiders to make some informed guesses.

    “So, you start a conversation about the things you might have some common ground on. Why not? It may not go anywhere useful from a Green perspective but that is not an argument for not even trying.”

    This is not a conversation. A conversation is very different to an understanding.

    “If, however, the party was to start changing its fundamental philosophy in order to have a seat at the top table, that would be a problem. I think the membership will keep its mps honest.”

    Well I would hope that they do somewhat better than the rank and file membership of the Labour Party managed over the past twenty five years. But I am wary of arguments that essentially say “We will go down the same path as the Labour Party, but we will end up in a better place, because we are people of superior moral fibre”. I believe that if you go down the same path you will end up in the same place. As the European Greens have.

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  22. iaroha Re Nick Smith
    That’s not the way I remember it . Smith invited himself
    I remember a hastily convened caucus to decide whether to let him in

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  23. Wekaontheroof … of course you’re right. However I was under the impression that the “hastily convened caucus” was a forerunner to a more “official invite”.

    I guess the point I was trying to make (echoing Valis and Frog’s statements) was that “contrary to impeding change” Jeanette was in fact “leading the charge” as far back as 2007 (and possibly even before that ?).

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  24. iaroha said: Jeanette’s willingness to work with National in areas of common interest was demonstrated very clearly by her invitation (supported by her co-leader and the majority of G Party members present) to National’s Nick Smith to attend the Green Party Conference in Nelson … back in June 2007 !

    No, no no, iaroha! rest assured, I know the details of incident intimately, I was on the spot when Jeanette received the call, alerting her to Smith’s cynical move in declaring to the media that he was attending. Jeanette’s handling of Smith’s ‘intrusion’ was everything Green supporters should expect from the Green MPs. The move was debated, vigorously and handled as well as any concensus type debate can be. I had then, every confidence in the decision reached and the way the MP’s handled the difficult situation. There’s a reason why those good folk got to where they are and that ‘incident’ illustrated their skills beautifully.

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  25. Thanks Greenfly … although I wasn’t in any way implying otherwise.

    I admit to being ignorant of the details of Smith’s self invite (that he’d issued it through the media) but recall being impressed with the way the situation was handled by Jeanette, the other Green MPs, and everyone else present … (in fact it made me feel quite humbled and proud to be associated with such a group).

    Am quite distressed to think that my words have obviously created the reverse impression to the one I set out create. I rarely comment here (or didn’t until that post) and was only moved to because of what I perceived as implied ageism in the Herald story … and my sincere admiration for Jeanette (whom I’ve always seen as a forward thinking and inspirational co-leader).

    My profuse apologies for any misunderstandings.

    Me rongo
    iaroha

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