Jeanette Fitzsimons was once described as the most respected person in parliament, which was an honour indeed for someone who was really only ever a minor player in the political game. Still, in the days when she and a tartan bow-tied Rod Donald sat in the house, both were recognised as gracious and fair-minded politicians, who treated all their colleagues in the House with respect… so much so that they wrote it into their Statement of Values.
I’m fairly sure that Rod Donald would never have allowed a video mocking Simon Bridges’ accent to be published under the name of the Green party of Aotearoa. How things have changed.
Whether you agreed with the Greens or not, it was hard to disrespect Donald, Fitzsimons and the likes of Kennedy Graham and David Clendon, all of whom were serious environmental campaigners who really believed in what they stood for.
Yes, the Greens always had their fringe elements. Think Sue Bradford, Catherine Delahunty and Nandor Tanzcos… although, funnily enough, all of those seem quite benign when compared to the lunatic wing of the party these days. Even though I never agreed with anything Sue Bradford said, I always respected her for standing by her principles and, as far as I know, she still does.
Somewhere along the line though, it all changed.
The party decided to focus on the young vote, sacrificing Graham and Clendon, and bringing in Chloe Swarbrick and Golriz Ghahraman as the new faces of the Greens. The far-left faction wanted Marama Davidson to replace Metirea Turei as co-leader, and they got their wish. That may have pleased the fringe element of the party, but it has done nothing to increase their mainstream support. The Greens are now divided between their two factions. They have a very strong, hard left, activist arm, but they also have a lot of voters who live in the leafy suburbs of Auckland and Wellington, who want to see the Greens work on the environment, not ‘reclaim’ the C-word.
We have said repeatedly that there is a gaping hole in our political system for a genuine environmentalist party, but that gap has not been filled by anyone yet. It is certainly not being filled by the Greens. James Shaw shows himself as weak and ineffective, and elements of the party, such as Jack McDonald, see Shaw as making the party too mainstream, and him as too much of a ‘suit’.
As they are now part of the government, they were always going to become more mainstream. All minor parties in government coalitions strike this problem. While they are just a fringe party, they can promise the earth to their members, knowing full well that a snowball in hell has more chance of succeeding. Once they are part of a government though, they are onto a hiding to nothing. They get the crumbs from the table of the major parties but what they do manage to achieve leaves their members grossly unsatisfied. For this reason, the Greens are losing some of their activist support.
They are also losing some of their long-standing support. Many of their long-suffering members are not happy with the way the party has gone of late. None of them wanted an activist like Marama Davidson as a co-leader. All of the respected figures are gone and have been replaced by idiots like Golriz and Davidson, who represent no one… except a few fringe loons.
Don’t get excited. These guys are not going to suddenly move to the dark side and start voting ACT… but they very well might stop voting Green. They will simply shift to Labour, and their share of the vote will remain with the left bloc… but it just might mean the demise of the Greens.
No one knows what will happen in the next election, but the Greens are still perilously close to the 5% margin, so their future is by no means secure. This is what always happens to minor parties in coalition governments.
Now… ask yourself. If neither the Greens nor NZ First make it over the 5% threshold at the next election… what happens then?