Have the Greens lost their relevance?

” Don’t shoot “

Matthew Hooton wonders where the Greens are this election and where they will be after it:

When Labour and the Greens signed their red-green pact 13 months ago, I forecast it would be bad for Labour, good for the Greens and National, and best of all for Mr Peters.

In a polling sense, so it has transpired. Compared with the public polls in May 2016, Labour is down, the Greens are up, National is steady despite changing its leader, and Mr Peters has enjoyed a reasonable gain. Still, these shifts remain reasonably small. As the country heads into an issueless election campaign, the real significance of the red-green pact is the way it has made the Greens irrelevant.

Everyone knows that a vote for Labour is a vote for the Greens and only the truly retarded and virtue signalling women in the leafy suburbs vote Green.

The past two weeks have been dominated by National’s secret tapes and Labour’s dodgy intern programme – with both major parties saved from themselves by Peter Burling, whoever invented cyclor power and the shore team who fixed Aotearoa so quickly after it capsized. The twin scandals have seen National, Labour and NZ First at each other hammer and tongs. It has been tremendous fun for political junkies analysing what the various exchanges mean for inter and intra-party relations – and it hasn’t been entirely idle.

Mr English has indeed been weakened by his bumbling over the Todd Barclay matter, so his next generation of ministers, such as Simon Bridges, Amy Adams, Jonathan Coleman, Nikki Kaye, Paul Goldsmith and Michael Woodhouse, are slightly less likely to indulge concessions to Mr Peters to allow the prime minister’s reappointment. Mr Little has been slightly strengthened within his party for the more skilful way he has handled its debacle, which is relevant in the 90 days before the election when his caucus colleagues can roll him without the unions getting involved.

Yep Bill English equivocated like he always does. Andrew Little did what English should have done and chucked someone important under the bus.

Meanwhile, Petersologists have observed the NZ First leader deriding both Mr English and Mr Little, even calling for the prime minister’s resignation, underlining yet again his intention – fanciful or not – to seek the top job. The scandals enveloping their own leaderships mean National and Labour backbenchers are fractionally more likely to entertain the idea of Mr Peters as prime minister. In terms of predicting where policy may head over the next three years, all this is significantly more important than the fine-print of what Mr Peters had to say about student loans.

Winston never misses a chance to kick someone when they are down. Such is the brutality of politics.

Through all this, the Greens have largely stood aside, feeling constrained under the red-green axis from criticising Labour over the intern scandal and wary of the hypocrisy of going all out against National over Mr Barclay. Instead, co-leader James Shaw has demurely been asking questions of the prime minister in Parliament about policy options for imposing a price on water if a technical advisory group recommends it. I am betting NBR will be the only media outlet from which you have heard about this fascinating exchange, about which the Greens are in fact on the side of the angels, with the more pro-market stance.

But who cares what Mr Shaw has to say about anything? This side of September 23, the Greens have tied themselves so closely to Labour that it is Mr Little’s utterances on water pricing that matter much more. After September 23, only what Mr Peters thinks about the issue counts, and how determined he is to have his view prevail. It takes a special kind of stupid to make NZ First more relevant than the Greens even on environmental matters but somehow the Greens have managed it.

And what Winston thinks of the Greens is what will determine the shape of the next government.

This is not just bad for them politically but also bad for New Zealand in a policy sense. Led by former economic development ministers Jim Anderton and Steven Joyce, there has been a creeping return of subsidies for the agriculture sector over the last 18 years, and the dairy industry’s free use of water while also polluting streams and rivers is poor economics.

In the next government, a reasonable shade of green would not go amiss towards achieving the necessary correction and the Greens would also be better placed to promote their so-called social justice agenda. They have the option of going both ways: polling suggests the Greens are the preferred coalition partner for both Labour and National supporters.  They won’t though. And this self-inflicted impotence means we will hear less and less about them through the campaign and almost nothing afterwards – and rightly so.

We all want clean waterways, oceans, air and forests, we just don’t want the socialism that the Greens bring to the table.



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