Politics is war but the Greens don’t seem to know that

“Don’t shoot”

Henry Cooke looks at the Greens’ Question Time antics over the weekend.

In the greater scheme of things, the Green Party handing their Question Time questions over to National is not a big deal.

Most Kiwis don’t watch the cumbersome rule-laden bloodsport that is Question Time, which happens right in that coveted prime time slot of 2pm on some weekdays. Those that do already know who they are voting for.

It’s true that a good moment from Question Time often makes it into the news, and scandals for governments can erupt and develop there, helped along by Parliamentary privilege, which gives MPs an ironclad defence from defamation lawsuits. But these days scandals rarely begin in Question Time.

If they do, the National Party already has plenty of questions to draw them out with, even without any extras from the Greens. The end result in real life will likely just be a few more hours of Question Time prep for beehive staffers every sitting day.

On a symbolic level this move is much more interesting. It’s proof that the Green Party really do want to change the way politics is done.

The Greens are numpties. They simply haven’t gotten used to being in government, and are actually perpetual protesters. They can’t bring themselves to actually be part of a government. Hell, they didn’t even tell Winston what they were about to do.

So, if they can’t ask the questions they’ve gone to the next best option: handing them over to National… who will relentlessly use them to pursue government ministers hard. Mallard is going to get very, very tired of intervening to protect the deadshits of Labour.

Any reasonable person looking at Question Time could see that patsy questions – where a Government asks itself just how well it is doing – are a waste of time.

Patsies are a complete waste of time.

The Green Party MPs who decided to do this have long disliked how this part of Parliament works, and see this as a first step towards making Parliament less of a charade and more of a real body for accountability.

But politics doesn’t yet take place on this high-minded field of principles and ideas, as much as the Greens would like it to.

The Greens have no right to talk about principles. Look at how they handle Metiria Turei and Golly G.

To flip the famous aphorism, politics is war by other means, a system we have created to deal with clashing interests in society without resorting to violence.

Unless you are Trevor Mallard.

When big successful changes to that system come in – think MMP – they usually come from the ground up, not from politicians themselves.

And the Green Party membership do not seem particularly pleased with this move. While it represents longstanding policy many members are furious that they weren’t consulted prior to the decision being made public.

Since James Shaw and his crew hijacked the Greens the membership hasn’t counted for much. Witness the sudden elevation of a certain MP higher than she deserves and wonder how that happened.

A lot of them agree that patsy questions are useless but wish the Green Party could have done something like crowdsourcing questions for NZ First and Labour, instead of handing questions to “the enemy”.

There’s real distance between the membership and the caucus now the party is in Government, something the Greens have historically fought to avoid.

This explains well why both co-leadership contenders talk so much about reconnecting with the members.

But Shaw and his fellow MPs will know that the loud portions of their membership do not necessarily represent their entire voting base, and that standing up for high-minded principles can double as a cunning tactical move.

Plenty of people hate how politics is done in this country. More people will have read about this change than will watch a full Question Time all year. It was well timed for a fairly quiet Sunday, generating headlines the Green Party desperately need to stay above the five per cent mark. Then there’s the argument that when then Green MPs do use their questions to ask proper probing questions of the Government, which they have reserved the right to do, they will get far more coverage.

It’s also a warning shot to Labour – not that the Greens are going to ditch them in 2020, but that they aren’t afraid of making trouble for the Government.

This is the second announcement of the Greens’ differentiation push, which started with them rejecting any and all corporate hospitality and opening up their diaries.

Both are attempts to embarrass Labour and NZ First by making them looking like boring old school politicians happy to “play the game”. This worked out fairly well with the first announcement.

This Question Time move, on the other hand, risks being seen as as bit too much like an own goal. Paradoxically it could make the Green Party MPs seem more like ivory tower politicians, obsessed with fair play and principled stands when they should be getting their teeth into a real fight.

Because as much as the Green Party would like politics to become more collaborative and kind – as it is in select committees, to be fair – for the foreseeable future it is still going to be a war.

I speak to plenty of Labour MPs and they all profess, out loud, their loathing for the Greens. Now they are in government with them they really wish they would die off. Labour will now go out of their way to smash the Greens, but it is likely they will orchestrate the friendly fire via proxies so as to profess ignorance.



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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.