Good for the Greens

Three years ago, I was disillusioned about the low % of votes cast for the Green party, despite what I thought was a perfect set of conditions for them to thrive. “Is 7% as high as it’s ever going to get? Will the Green party always be this small?”

Turns out the people in the comments who said, nope, it can go bigger – they were right. The Green vote is sitting around 11% this time around.

It’s a marvellous result for them, even if it sits in the context of an election result that doesn’t give much to celebrate – very low turnout, a savage defeat for the main opposition Labour party, key losses for the left in almost every close electorate contest, and (most galling) the ridiculous spectacle of consummate politician (and political opportunist) Winston Peters riding in at the last moment and polling nearly 7% in doing so.

It’s a clear success for the new approach taken by the Greens, a careful don’t-scare-the-horses, friendlier-to-business model that has drawn a lot of criticism from their base. Ultimately I’m comfortable with this; given the failure of the big parties to engage with urgent environmental problems, the Greens need to be a party of influence, and if they have to sell some of their soul to get there then that seems like a political calculation they need to make.

A less-scary Green party also opens up space on the left for a true social justice party to come in and be vocal about those causes. The Mana party is the first shot at this, but I’m not yet confident it can hold together under the strain of the big personalities at its core; only winning one seat might be a blessing for the longer game.

Anyway. The country voted John Key back into power, despite polls showing they don’t really like his policies and don’t really know much about the rest of his party. That’s not a great endorsement for the NZ version of democracy, I guess.

Gonna be a tough three years.

(I also predicted “Many inside the Nats are eager to get on with their 90s-era project while they have their hands on the tiller. Expect big battles inside the National party as the ideologues take on the pragmatists.” – and the view from the outside is that I was wrong about that. There might be battles inside the party but almost nothing has leaked out into public view, it’s all a united front behind that nice Mr Keys. Anyway, with a second term won while openly campaigning on asset sales and welfare reform, the pragmatists and ideologues now find themselves happily in alignment. The waiting game has worked out beautifully for them.)