Although I consider myself an environmentalist, I’m not a Green as defined in NZ politics.
But I do think the Greens have sharpened their political game lately.
First came their memorandum of understanding signed with National back in April. Here’s how it was assessed by conservative pundit David Farrar (complete article here):
“By signing this co-operation agreement, the two parties are sending out a message to the public which essentially is “Hey, this other party is not all bad, we just disagree on a lot of things”. This is a very different tone to the politics of the last few decades where parties have gone out of their way to vilify their opponents, and paint them as totally untrustworthy …
The Greens are probably the biggest winner. Up until now, they have generally only been able to shop for votes to the left of Labour. But if in 2011 a National-led Government looks likely to be re-elected, the Greens are well positioned to appeal to centrist and undecided voters and say “If there is to be a National led Government, do you want it with more of a green tinge – we have demonstrated we can work with National to deliver and improve various environmental programmes”. This could easily gain them an extra 2% to 3% …
I believe they have made two calculations. The first is that the Key led Government is unlikely to be a one term Government, and they want to gain some achievements, rather than merely rage in opposition. The second is that they risked dropping below 5% if in opposition they behave the same way as Labour and do not distinguish themselves adequately.”
More recently, the Greens have articulated a very sensible economic stimulus package styled as a “Green New Deal.” Grounded on the principle that investing in “green” projects like home insulation can be win/win for the environment and the economy (and indeed provide even more stimulus than traditional pork, like road-building), it’s similar in thrust to key aspects of President Obama’s program in the States.
They’ve scored points with the pundits for this initiative as well.
Says political journalist Colin James in the Otago Daily Times, contrasting with past Green negativism (full article here):
“The “Green stimulus package” launched on Friday was refreshingly upbeat. It aims to create assets and cut economic (and other) costs with a raft of costed initiatives, many of which make economic sense as well as green sense: efficient use of energy, for example; insulation of houses; renewable electricity generation (a long-term winner).
It is mainly a “do” package, focusing on energy and transport efficiency, waterways, state houses and community initiatives, with forestry to come. Outgoing co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons reels off examples of production lifts on farms which fence off water areas and re-vegetate their surrounds. The package proposes subsidies for that sort of action.
The message is to use state funds to create lasting assets which have long-term economic and other benefits.”
And from commentator Brian Fallow in the NZ Herald (full article here):
“Despite its label, the “Green New Deal”, it is not a grandiose plan to save the planet and the economy at the same time. It addresses a more down to earth question: If you have a limited budget for fiscal stimulus measures, what should you spend it on?
If, that is, your object is not only to support activity and employment in the short term but to leave the economy in better shape to cope with environmental challenges of the future like climate change and peak oil.
The programme could be called a wish list, but hardly a fiscally irresponsible, hang-the-expense one.”
Well done, Greens, for recognising a crucial ingredient in every successful political strategy: affirmative pragmatism.
P.S. Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons will be in Hastings on Friday the 22nd to discuss the Green New Deal. Get there if you can — 6pm, Wesley Methodist Hall. Unfortunately, I have another green event on my calendar … seeing the Irish band Grada perform. But at least insofar as this Green proposal is concerned, I’ll be there in spirit.