Last week I called for a Bluegreen Party – an environmental party that I could in all conscience, vote for. It prompted a huge response, which confirmed to me there is a clear constituency that is not being serviced. I have had stacks of messages from National supporters sheepishly acknowledging they vote National, but feel guilty about the environment. Then there are those so passionate about the environment that while not enamoured with the Left’s policies on the economy, vote Green Party because there’s no other option. Of course there’s a third group – those who prefer the Left’s approach to matters socioeconomic and also want more environmental protection – they are the Green Party’s core supporters. But for sure, there’s a heap of voters who value our natural capital, and the intergenerational legacy we’re morally obliged to leave our grandchildren, who are not getting satisfaction.
The Greens and Labour lost the election – again – and lost it more convincingly than they have hitherto managed. Their policies are not palatable – but rather than accept that message and get real, they persist with an unacceptable cocktail of policies the public is finding more and more irrelevant. Both parties need to recognise this, rather than blame voters and stagnate in denial. The socio-economic policies of the Left are actually a god-awful mess as the voting public acknowledges.
Now my interest is the environment and as a voter I am dissatisfied because National and its coalition partners have not done enough in this space to satisfy me. Therefore I want an environmental voice in Parliament and in permanent coalition with the government of the day – whoever that is. As it stands the government of the day doesn’t have to listen to the Green Party, because that party is as far away from presenting a suite of policies that voters find palatable as is Winston Peters. Ironically Winston, the empty vessel who stands for nothing, is actually closer to being in coalition – with either a Labour or National-led government. So the only parliamentary voice to push environmental protection a bit harder than National or Labour, the Green Party, is pretty well irrelevant – always has been.
In terms of economic management and addressing social issues, I’m pretty much in the mainstream. National is best at both at the moment. Poor old Labour has lost its way but these things move in cycles and it could well get a makeover and again capture the mainstream vote – who knows? But for me the important thing is that the environment needs a permanent place at the table – no matter whether it’s the Nats or Labour in charge. The Green Party will never be that voice – and the reason is that its nailed its flag to addressing social justice issues via a particular recipe that at most is aligned with the governing party 50% of the time. I’m sorry but insofar as environmental protection is concerned, being at the table 50% of the time (if Labour gets lucky) is just not good enough.
And it’s also unnecessary. Environmental protection is a mainstream concern, it’s not a Left or Right issue so a party that professes to prioritise that subject must be centre, its policies must be palatable to either National and Labour and it must be prepared to partner either. The Green Party is not such a party – it is a Left wing party with a concern for the environment. Good on them, but they are irrelevant to government decision-making more often than not.
Can the Green Party change its spots and actually honour environmental protection as its main mission? The answer is no. I have had this discussion with Russell Norman, who I do respect, a number of times, and he is a slave to addressing social justice through the same rusty old methods that Labour is unsuccessfully promoting. In other words Russell and Metiria are quite happy to sacrifice their influence in matters environmental at the high altar of Labour’s social justice policy. The Green Party is not actually an environmental protection party primarily – and New Zealanders who vote for it need to recognise that.
There are too many of us centre voters who want our environment better protected, to let the environment continue to be so weakly represented at the top table. That is why a Bluegreen political party is overdue. Of course such a party can have views beyond the environment – on how to progress social equity and economic performance – but unlike the Green Party it must never allow those to swamp its declared mission to voters, which is to do its best to protect and enhance our natural inheritance. The Green Party sadly, grossly misrepresents itself to the voting public.