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April 11, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Politics With Paul – A Bluer Shade Of Green?

Well, perhaps not a bluer shade of green, but at least a less fatalistic approach to politics. The Green Party released a draft remit last week leaving open the possibility of a confidence and supply agreement with National following the next election.

This marks a change from 2008 when the Greens clearly ruled out the prospect of confidence and supply with National. Following that election, the parties entered into a memorandum of understanding, which has seen the Greens work together with National in a few areas including the ‘Warm Up New Zealand’ home insulation scheme, the national cycleway and a pilot programme aimed at introducing better mechanisms for pest control in native forests.

As co-leader Russel Norman has clarified, “based on current National party policy positions it is extremely unlikely that we could support a National-led government on confidence and supply”. But importantly, they haven’t ruled it out this time.

So, why not? Let’s face it. Even if Rodney Hide fails to win Epsom, and the ACT Party fall short of the five per cent threshold, National are highly unlikely to have to turn to the left for support. To be sure, with the current state of the far right, reformed ACT voters will have undoubtedly turned their support to National, strengthening the Party’s grip on power, which will only increase the potential of the first majority one-party government in New Zealand since the introduction of MMP.

2011 holds important opportunities for the Greens. The Party have an incredibly solid support base on the left, and while the possibility of a ‘New Left’ party somewhat endangers that, the fact Goff has ruled out working with Harawira means that the threat is incredibly restricted. As such, the Greens are in a relatively safe position now, and they can really work the centre, poaching votes from both Labour and National.

The voters in question are those John Hartevelt describes as “relatively well-off, well-educated, politically savvy voters in the big urban centres.” While it might seem more realistic to expect that the Greens will to make their biggest gains at the expense of Labour, there are likely to be significant swaths of the urban middle-class who, having voted for National in 2008, now find the Party’s policies surrounding state-owned assets, or the proposals in the recently leaked energy strategy, reprehensible.

Assuming Goff and Labour continue to be viewed as a relatively pathetic alternative, it is quite conceivable these voters could turn to the Green Party in a bid to send a clear
message to National. This is where the leaving the door ajar to the slightest of possibilities of a confidence and supply agreement is a politically very wise move, especially with the option of abstention on confidence and supply allowing National to govern, and forcing certain Green issues onto the agenda.

With regard to the Greens’ draft Party list also released last week, NZ Herald columnist Matt McCarten raises some alarming points those on the left should be taking note of. Specifically, that there are two huge gaps in representation at the top of the list: one geographical and one ideological.

Firstly, the only Aucklander in the top ten candidates is David Clendon ranked at ninth, and as McCarten points out, “on current polling, the Greens would get eight MPs. Based on its draft list rankings four would come from the South Island; three from Wellington; and one from the Coromandel. This is electoral suicide. If the Green Party shows disregard for Auckland voters, they in turn will desert the Greens and, frankly, there is a real risk none of their candidates will be reelected.” This completely undermines any bid for the urban middle-class and needs to be rectified in the Party’s final list.

McCarten’s second point ties in with the “anti-worker” 90-day trial period introduced at the beginning of this month. Interestingly, not one of the top ten candidates on the Green Party list has a background in “worker or trade union issues”. This move, at least superficially, appears to indicate the Party are distancing themselves from a definable socialist agenda.

Perhaps therefore, the Greens are painting themselves with at least a slight tinge of blue looking ahead?

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