Greens environmentalist only message banishes them to obscurity

by Jake Quinn

2009 has been a bad one for the Green Party.  Opportunities have been cropping up left, right and centre (excuse the pun), but the Greens have, as the NZ Herald’s political columnist John Armstrong put it, “been missing in action”.

Things started to go south for the Greens when one of their most effective troopers, Sue Bradford, announced she was stepping down as a direct result of her not being elected to the party’s co-leadership. Instead, the younger and less divisive Metiria Turei got the nod.

Unfortunately for the Greens, Met has failed miserably to improve her party’s fortunes and is now widely seen as having underperformed in the role so far.

Labour’s seemingly tactical abandonment of the role of chief cheerleader for identity politics (in an effort to recapture the bluer-collar Waitakere man) created a political vacuum in the liberal-left sphere, but because of the Green Party’s desire to the ‘environmentalist’ party of the centre, like that of the German Greens, that and other chances went wanting.

The Green Party wanted to work with National.  They even signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the subject.  A few months later… they had to scrap part of it.  What a debacle.

The retirement of Jeanette Fitzsimmons, expected to be before the 2011 election, will be another blow for the Party.  Jeanette is the intellectual brains trust of the Green movement in New Zealand.

When it comes to climate change, journalists go to National’s Nick Smith and Labour’s Charles Chauvel for ‘comment’ then they go to Jeannette to find out what the hell is actually going on.

She probably knows more about the international climate change policy framework – and the negotiations that have just rather unsatisfyingly concluded at COP15 in Copenhagen – than a number of New Zealand academics who might claim to specialize in the subject.  And soon she will be gone.

The Greens are at a crises point. To gain the relevance they once held (and grow it) they must go back to where they began. They must become New Zealand’s party of the economic, social and environmental left. The modern, urban (and dare I say it, academic), socially liberal left.

There are cities full of potential Green voters – especially among women and the young. They should be the target.

Metiria needs to get out front and loud on the liberal issues and be in the Nat’s and Labour’s faces, if she does this well enough she might just pull in the votes of those poor lost souls wandering around in a daze with those little red ‘We Miss Helen’ badges on.