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Not good for the Greens

[The election bombardment will end soon, I promise…]
I was disappointed with the showing made by the Greens at this election. Given the general environmental crisis and the promise of support for Labour, leftie voters who were disillusioned with Labour should have had a natural home with the Greens. The departure of sadly controversial Green MP Nandor Tanczos would have dispelled some fears; the Green party has stood up for itself over the last three years, retaining independence from government but still able to enact smart legislation, and showing through the waste management bill and the “anti-smacking” bill (among others) that it could work broadly across the house. Add to this what everyone agrees was a wonderful campaign, and you have a political party that didn’t put a foot wrong.
And with all this, it still didn’t make it to 7%. Disaffected voters clearly wanted Labour out of government, so the Greens didn’t benefit from their desertion of Labour. The “anti-smacking” bill, rightly identified as the turning point for the nation’s support of Labour, cast a shadow over the Green party as well (and National, who had also supported the bill, somehow waltzed free without being tainted). The general resistance to “nanny state” (how I hate that term) caught the Greens as well, with their advocacy for a low-footprint lifestyle.
Is 7% as high as it’s ever going to get? Will the Green party always be this small? Co-leader and chief asset Jeanette will likely be gone next election, and what then? No other party is even close to taking the environmental crisis seriously. Heck, ACT have 5 MPs in government coalition and they’re led by someone who thinks climate change is a scam.
Perhaps this is it, then. I don’t know what they can do differently.
Green % vote at the last four elections:
2008: 6.43%
2005: 5.30%
2002: 7%
1999: 5.16%

{ 19 } Comments

  1. Scott | November 10, 2008 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m not convinced than 7% is as good as it gets. One thing that’s worth noting about that the 5.16% the Greens got in 1999 was that was the same year the Alliance got about 7% in it’s own right.
    I’d think the left-of-Labour block should be able to get 10%, at least.
    I think there is two key challenges the Greens need to address.
    1/ Why the difference between the polling and the vote itself? Either something is causing people who sympathise with the Greens to either change their minds in the booth, or to not turn up to vote (most likely a combination of both). How many of the 21.31% of registered voters who did not vote this year would’ve voted Green if they had gone to vote? Finding out why ‘soft-Green’ supporters either don’t vote at all or change their mind on the day will be vitally important.
    2/ This might sound strange, but I think the Greens need to move beyond being Green, in the publics mind. You’ve said it yourself, Morgue – the green dialogue is pretty well ahead in the debate – if it hasn’t won, it’s being very broadly heard. So, the Green party needs to make it very clear that it’s not just about being Green – everyone is doing that. It needs to emphasise it’s redistributiveness. It’s social policy. In short, it needs to be seen as being a serious left-wing party, not just a kooky-leftie-green party. For one, I think the Greens should’ve made a LOT more of them being the only major party advocating a Capital Gains tax this time.

  2. Dan | November 10, 2008 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    I was pretty disappointed too, particularly as the polls were as high as 12% in the week prior. I really had hope.
    Unfortunately the Green Party retains this kooky image you mention, particularly in the form of Sue Bradford (arguably the most successful Green MP of the past 3 years) who many more moderate voters see as the epitome of the “nanny state”.
    And from the looks of the people at the Wellington Greens election night bash that I dropped in on on Saturday, there is still plenty of the kooky about them.
    The hardest thing about voting Green is that it requires sacrifice, which is not something people want to do. People don’t want to give up their things, their lifestyles, their ability to do as they choose because the impact of these sacrifices will not be felt by the individual, in that individual’s lifetime (so they believe).
    We are a selfish and greedy nation. We have a misplaced sense of entitlement. We (by which I mean those who failed – yes, FAILED – to vote green) want tax cuts, and cheap mass consumer products, and fast cars, and we don’t think that any party has the right to take those things away.
    That is why NZers fail to vote green. Because as far as the average Joe Plumber can tell, they have more to lose than they have to gain by doing so.
    What to do from here? I really wish I had that answer. I’d be on the phone to Jeanette right now.

  3. Maire Smith | November 10, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    There’s always ‘continuing to exist’.
    It’s surprising how people think things are more legitimate if they’ve been around for a while. And I think, unlike parties like NZ First, the Greens are mostly seen as a group, not a leader and followers.

  4. Adrexia | November 10, 2008 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m just happy that the Greens got over 20% in Wellington Central. Labour and National only got around the 30% mark themselves, so that’s a rather good result. We just need to bring the other electorates up to the same level…
    Specials haven’t been counted yet have they?

  5. dritchie | November 11, 2008 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    “I’m just happy that the Greens got over 20% in Wellington Central.”
    Plainly some people are happy to not have their electorate votes matter. Has anybody done any analysis of what Parliament would have looked like if Green electorate votes had gone Labour’s way?

  6. Dan | November 11, 2008 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Beware the electorate vote, however! The split between the Green and Labour candidates in many long-time Labour seats meant that National took them instead, which, while it made little difference to the overall result, hammered home the impression that this victory was a mandate for change away from the left. Perhaps this was the best time for such a surge in Green electorate votes, since Labour were being crushed anyway, but it has given National a boost they didn’t deserve.
    I think the biggest concern we have now is not how the Greens fared (that’s behind us now anyway) but National’s plan to scrap MMP. If they succeed, returning us to the primitive FPP method which allows a party to possibly control parliament with barely a third of the country’s votes, then we have a lot to fear indeed, because that will be the end of the road for the Greens and thus, the planet.
    Idiot-Savant is aiming to propose an amendment to the MMP legislation which will help remedy some of its foibles, specifically the 5% threshhold issue, and there is already an organisation being formed with the intent of protecting MMP from draconian powermongers. Both deserve the support of anyone who values democracy.

  7. morgue | November 11, 2008 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I think that this election will make it hard for any anti-MMP movement, actually. It has plainly delivered us four consecutive terms of effective government that reflects the will of the people (counting this one in advance).

  8. karen | November 11, 2008 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I think Maire is right… sticking around is going to help. The imminent predictable betrayal of all those people who thought they could get rid of Labour and still have Working for Families, subsidised childcare, subsidised GP visits will help. And climate change isn’t going away… and oil/energy prices will continue to rise,so what people are giving up will start to seem less valuable than what they gain in terms of public transport and improved energy saving technologies. We WILL have our day.
    On an aside… GM debate excepted, I am surprised by how sensible the Greens science policy is, and how similar it is to what I would want…

  9. karen | November 11, 2008 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Science policy here, for those who still care about such things after the election… http://nzas.rsnz.org/elections/2008/GreenParty08Policy.pdf… For comparison, other parties policies are here http://nzas.rsnz.org/elections/2008/

  10. Scott | November 11, 2008 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    @ karen.
    The phrase “GM debate excepted, I am surprised by how sensible the Greens policy is on [insert given policy here]” is probably one of the most common things thought about the greens.
    Their anti-GM stance, which so defined them (especially in the 2002 election), is a big part of their problem in the public’s eye. It comes across as irrational, unscientific, ‘kooky’ if you will.
    It was still a big part of their 2008 campaign literature. But I really *really* don’t think it’s a policy that gets them any more votes than they were going to get, and perhaps loses them more than they might realise.
    I, for one, vote for them DESPITE said anti-GM stance.

  11. karen | November 11, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Scott… yup this time I voted for them too. I decided that in an imperfect world I could accept a policy that invalidates my entire existence (she exaggerates slightly) to further other much more important ends…

  12. dritchie | November 11, 2008 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Some basic number-crunching which may turn into a blog post:
    Two sitting Labour MPs lost their seats to National MPs by a small enough margin that, had the Green voters voted tactically, they wouldn’t have lost.
    – Tizard lost Auckland Central by 1181 votes. 31% of the 3695 Green voters would have had to have voted Labour in order to keep her in there.
    – Damian O’Connor lost West Coast / Tasman by 975 votes; 1822 Green electorate votes were cast there.
    Furthermore Mahara Okeroa lost Te Tai Tonga by about a third of the 1803 Green electorate votes, but that was to lost to Rahui Katene of the Maori Party. Analysing that outcome in terms of left/right is a can of worms I’m unlikely to want to open.
    The other electorates which sitting Labour MPs lost were lost by a margin greater than just the Green vote. But Wellington Central was very nearly one of those electorates!

  13. Pearce | November 11, 2008 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    dritchie: I voted for Rahui Katene. 😛
    Totally agree about Green splitting the electoral vote = bad; it isn’t as much of a problem in Maori seats ’cause National don’t run in those.
    At this stage I’d be interested to see Maori make a deal with National. That might help temper the Act influence. I can’t see it going as badly as the N First/National deal.

  14. Dan | November 11, 2008 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    thanks for the number crunching – I didn’t have time to check it over but I knew it had happened in places.
    As far the Greens policy goes, what many fail to rationalise is that they are in fact not radical but restrained. It is the society of excess consumption that we live in which makes us see social and environmental prudence as an unfair restriction of our freedoms.
    Getting back to the MMP fears I raised above, lets consider what National would have to do to change the current arrangement: Get a positive response from the 2011 referendum, and win a clear majority without the need for coalition partners. No minor party will support a law change which renders them obsolete, and Labour won’t support it because they know how to make MMP work for them from a minority position. Once the honeymoon has worn off for this government, and the public are faced with the shafting that National-Act are sure to bring, they can kiss their highest-ever vote-take goodbye.

  15. Dan | November 11, 2008 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    National-Maori = Tempt the noble savage with the poison apple.
    Key wants to lure the Maori Party into a position that will destroy it politically, and the irony is that the Maori Party have set themselves up for this.
    By not declaring their allegiances before the election like the Greens and Dunne did, the Maori Party are now in a position to be wooed. But if they accept the offering, they betray the constituents who despise National, and if they refuse to be bribed, then they have no comeback to the critics who will say they had an opportunity to seize a slice of the pie and didn’t take it.
    Key is a snake dangling a shiny apple, and whether the Maori Party take it or not, they’re going to be getting offside with their supporters. Key is inviting them to take one of two choices: Political impotence for three years, or political suicide.
    OTOH…
    Key also wants Act to know that they can’t hold him to ransom in order to get their agenda through. If Act won’t support National’s more centrist politics, then Key wants an ally to the left, one with a debt of honour to him. Cunning chap he is.

  16. Pearce | November 12, 2008 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    “Noble savage”?

  17. morgue | November 12, 2008 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I imagine (and hope) that’s a projection of the Nat’s view on the situation…

  18. Dan | November 12, 2008 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    On the money morgue…

  19. Dan | November 12, 2008 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Maori Party and what they have achieved in such a short time in Parliament. Their policies are more closely aligned with the Greens than any other, both in matters of the environment, economics and social justice, and they have consistently proved that they stand for exactly what they say they do.
    My concern is that Tariana Turia’s hostility to Labour puts the party at the risk of either self-implosion or political oblivion, and National is calling their bluff with the clear intent of undermining their credibility and integrity.
    Key is, in his own underhanded way, playing the race card, effectively forcing the Maori party to put up or shut up. Any slurs in previous comments apply to National only.