Monday, September 05, 2005

Oh…No…Not The Greens As Well??!!

A friend of mine is standing for parliament as an Alliance candidate. He does not expect to win, (that would be rather exception considering the Party’s current polling) rather, he is standing “to show the flag” and promote a set of beliefs and principles that he feels have been recently neglected within the political spectrum.

The other night he was speaking at a public meeting, when he was verbally attacked by Rod Donald, Co-Leader of the Greens. Now, you might very well say, that is the verbal cut and thrust of political debate and “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” However, it was not Rod’s attack that worried him (my friend is a criminal lawyer) as much as what Rod had to say.

What Rod had to say was that Alliance candidates were “idealists”, that they were “unrealistic,” that they were “irresponsible.” The Alliance, Rod asserted was raising unrealistic ideals and promoting idealistic policies (he was referring to tax). He and the Greens were realistic, pragmatic and responsible; this was why they were still in parliament and going into coalition with Labour. Another friend of mine had a similar experience when he was attending a Greens meeting with friends of his, during which he heard Rod and Jeanette commit the Greens to being responsible and pragmatic partners for Labour. When asked as to why the Greens were stepping aside from a number of polices such as GE to do a deal, people were told that they needed to “trust” the leadership.

Hmmm…it’s hard to know what to say. I am hopeful that the Greens will not go he same way as the Alliance. I am reminded that Jim Anderton said more or less the same to Alliance members prior to the 1999 Election. He (and Matt Mcarten) poured cold water on those members who queried the wisdom of not openly questioning decisions made by the Labour Party or indeed, even going into coalition with Labour. These members felt that with the volatility of the Alliance vote (it had declined significantly over the past 6 years) that the party needed to re-establish itself as a credible party on the Left. Being in coalition with Labour would damage that renewal by shifting the party to the right as well as tying it to Labour in terms of decisions made by that government – collective responsibility and all. It was far better to strike deals with Labour outside or to mark out several key points that the Alliance would visibly disagree with its coalition partner over.

The fact is that the “agree to disagree” clause is not a protection, especially, when you have parties stating that public disagreements could cause political instability. In Europe, where parties come from different political heritages and are, in most cases, far more politically mature, the ability to campaign on your own issues while remaining in government is seen as a normal state of affairs – not so in New Zealand.
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Therefore, I agree with the comments made by Joe Hendren on his blog about MMP and the disproportional impact that Winston Peters or Independent MPs, such as Jim Anderton have upon the system.

I can only endorse the following comments by Joe,
“Lets lower the threshold from 5%, but do away with the silly rule that allows those who win one electorate to bring their cronies in with them*. Lets encourage parties to base themselves on clear policy and principles - this is what party votes are meant to be about after all.”

Joe is right, clear policy and principles are what politics should be about. New Zealand’s threshold is also one of the higher in the Western World. Let’s lower the threshold and get parties in that do debate issues and policy.
To paraphrase the former Labour MP John A Lee, Politics should not be solely about pragmatism and responsibility, it used to be about idealism and irresponsibility. That's how many of the reforms, such as free health care, free education, labour legislation etc originally came about.
The Greens need to be careful. They may well ask themselves "for what does it profit a person if they gain the world and yet lose their own soul?" They only need to look at Winston Peters and Jim Anderton to answer that question.

2 Comments:

At Thursday, September 08, 2005, Blogger Rich said...

The trouble with threshold lowering is that a single MP (e.g. Peter Dunne) has a great deal more influence than can be justified by 0.7% of the popular vote.

I will be voting Green because I want a Labour government but object to Labour's authoritarianism and social conservatism om many issues (Zaoui, immigration, drug policy).

I don't agree with everything about the Greens and have issues with their unscientific attitudes on some issues, but they are the party to the left of Labour that's most likely to get MPs elected.

I'd like to see a (small-L) alliance back - I wish the Greens and Alliance could put aside largely personal differences and agree to run a common list (with interspersed candidates or some such).

 
At Sunday, September 11, 2005, Blogger Comrade_Tweek said...

Hmmm...I don't think so, considering that there would be other small parties in parliament to counter him. There would also be a realistic chance of a Left Party getting above the threshold. In fact the chances of the Alliance surviving in 1999 would have been improved with a lower threshold.

I feel that a more resonable threshold would be 3 percent which is common in Europe.

I think that there are policy and ideolgical differences between the Left and the Greens. However, I do agree that if they could put aside differences in the short term then it would benefit the progressive movement.

 

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