Green’s sniff another historic election

Can the Green’s better their historic 11 per cent from the 2011 election?


A recent Colmar Brunton Epsom poll carried out by TVNZ’s Q + A programme found that the Green’s enjoy 16 percent of the party vote and are second place behind National.

That level of support nationwide would mean more than 20 Green MPs in Parliament.

On their social media sites the Greens are confident that the Green movement is gaining momentum.

They claim that more and more New Zealanders are supporting their vision for a cleaner environment, fairer society and smarter economy.

Be that as it may, nationwide less people cling onto this idealism.

In the most recent nationwide ONE News/Colmar Brunton poll the Greens dropped down two percentage points to 10 per cent of the overall vote.

However, the Green’s will find comfort in the increased trajectory of their results over the last two decades.

In 1999 the Greens won 5.2 per cent of the overall vote. In 2002, they won 7 per cent. In 2005, they shrunk back to 5.3 per cent of the vote.

In 2008, the Green’s jumped up to 6.7 per cent and remarkably in 2011 they won a touch over 11 per cent.

Despite fluctuations, the Green Party has steadily won more of the electoral vote. And many suggest that with its current leadership and set of policies it is poised to improve upon 2011.

How the Greens succeeded in 2011

In the early years the Greens were labeled as a radical, hippie, sandal-wearing, pot-smoking, fringe movement of political outsiders.

But by 2011 the Greens had revamped and reshaped their image into a so called conventional, ‘moderate’ and professional party.

Many things contributed to this metamorphous.

Firstly, their campaign slogans and strategy attempted to display a new moderate view of political economy.

The campaign mantra became: ‘For a richer New Zealand’

The Green’s political slogan incorporated environmentalism and, what was intended to be, moderate economics.

This was especially important in 2011 when the economy was at the heart of political debate between the right and left.

Unemployment, the cost of living and the global financial crisis weighed heavy on the everyday Kiwi.

Also, the Christchurch earthquake recovery was still rattling public opinion in favor of a political party who would show competence, both social and economic, on this tragic event.

Hence, the Green’s of old – with their focus on the environment, race relations and foreign affairs – would have crumbled without a credible economic plan.

The party’s co-leader and economic spokesperson Russel Norman articulated the Greens newfound vision of a pragmatic capitalism in a ‘carbon constrained world’.

The party produced detailed economic policy documents that outlined the Green’s smart, environmental economy – one which would generate 100,000 ‘green jobs’.

This planned and quasi-credible economic policy certainly improved their 2011 campaign.

Another crucial factor was Labour’s incompetence in 2011.

Many on the left found the Green’s more enticing and voted accordingly. Indeed, Labour slumped to a record national low of just 27 per cent.

With all this in mind, there was yet one crucial event – six weeks out from the election – that gave the Green’s late political momentum.

Rena: ‘let no environmental-waste go to waste’

On 5 October 2011, a container ship – the MV Rena – ran aground off the coast of Tauranga in the North Island.

This led to a subsequent oil spill which washed up on some of New Zealand’s most popular beaches – creating the potential for a public health crisis and certain ecological disaster.

Environment Minister Nick Smith described the event as New Zealand’s ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’ – which was soon upgraded to ‘New Zealand’s worst environmental disaster’.

Although politicians refrained from using the incident to score political points, one party in particular was set to do so.

As one political journalist noted, the grounded boat was the largest free political billboard one party could have asked for.

The Green’s were already campaigning against exploratory plans for deep-sea off shore oil drilling.

So, this begs the question – do the Green’s need another environmental disaster to succeed in 2014?

The Green’s chances in 2014

Firstly, it is clear that the Green’s are without a Rena in 2014 and thus without a galvanizing environmental incident.

They may have a tiny minority forever paranoid about the state of ‘climate change’. And perhaps a larger minority overly-concerned about the condition of New Zealand’s rivers. But they campaign without a bold and environmentally charged controversy in 2014.

Secondly, it looks as if the race between Labour and National will not be a close one, although it is likely that Labour will win more than 27 per cent of the vote.

If, say, Labour win 32 per cent, many votes will be peeled away from the Green’s and on toward Labour.

Thirdly, a heavy motivational factor in 2014 for those on the right, centre right or even middle-ground is the possibility of a Labour/Greens/Mana coalition.

As Stephen Joyce, Minister for Economic Development, eloquently stated “New Zealand simply can’t afford a Labour/Greens/Internet-Mana Government.”

This will surely invigorate the likes of National, ACT and NZ First to campaign stronger which could crowd out Green support.

Therefore it appears that circumstances are different in 2014 for the Greens – they may have to settle for a gutsy 9 or 10 per cent of the vote.

Although it would be no 2011, it would still be a success considering the irrationality of most of their policies.



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About the author

Cameron is a Freelance Columnist who works for a non-profit surgical company in the heart of London. A recent political science graduate, Cameron has a strong writing background in all things political, economic and foreign affairs. His writing style is a blend of the cold hard facts with a dash of opinion and personality. Cameron writes weekly political columns for the New Zealand Times and is intending to broaden his writing repertoire to include topics such as travel, sport and food & drink.

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