Friday, 31 March 2017

Centaurs Need Not Apply.

Keeper of the Green Faith: From the moment the Labour/Green “Budget Responsibility Rules” were announced, I knew that a scorching sermon from Sue Bradford was only a matter of time. She did not disappoint. Barely 72 hours after Grant Robertson’s and James Shaw’s blasphemy had sullied the ears of the faithful, Sue was on RNZ’s Morning Report castigating her erstwhile comrades with considerable passion.
 
AS A GUARDIAN of left-wing orthodoxy, Sue Bradford is without peer. At the first hint of heresy she can be relied upon to stride purposefully to the nearest progressive pulpit and start preaching.
 
From the moment the Labour/Green “Budget Responsibility Rules” were announced, I knew that a scorching sermon from Sue was only a matter of time. She did not disappoint. Barely 72 hours after Grant Robertson’s and James Shaw’s blasphemy had sullied the ears of the faithful, Sue was on RNZ’s Morning Report castigating her erstwhile comrades with considerable passion.
 
“The Greens have completely sold out on where they started from in my generation of MPs in 1999”, Sue thundered. “So what you see here is the Green Party deciding to go after votes on the centre and the right of the New Zealand political spectrum. It wants business in its corner. It wants your National blue-green voters in its corner.”
 
What does this mean? Sue is in no doubt. It means “completely abandoning the huge number of people who are in desperate need in the areas of housing, welfare, jobs, and education.”
 
There’s a part of me that inclines towards Sue’s critique. It’s the part that remembers those original Green MPs, the “magnificent seven”, as they galloped up the steps of Parliament and onto the floor of the House of Representatives like “an invasion of centaurs”. (If I may borrow Theodore Roszak’s evocative image.)
 
Which was great to see. (And even greater to be, Sue, I’m sure!) But only if your purpose was (borrowing once again from Roszak’s 1969 best-seller The Making of a Counter-Culture) to embody “the experience of radical critical disjuncture, the clash of irreconcilable conceptions of life”. Or, as an old-time Maoist like Sue might express it: only if the Greens were there to make revolution.
 
An Invasion of Centaurs: "the clash of irreconcilable conceptions of life".
 
But even back then, in 1999, the Greens’ revolutionary faction was in the minority. Alongside Sue, Keith Locke and Nandor Tanczos, sat Rod Donald, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Sue Kedgely and Ian Ewen-Street. Radical and visionary these latter four may have been, but they had come to Parliament to accomplish things, not to turn New Zealand’s capitalist society upside down.
 
Twenty years later and the Greens are still waiting to fulfil even a small fraction of the Magnificent Seven’s agenda. Most members of the Green Party are not interested in being seen as the harbingers of a “radical critical disjuncture” but as members of a political party dedicated to finding practical solutions to global warming; cleaning up New Zealand’s lakes, rivers and streams; housing the homeless and helping to develop a principled and purposeful role for New Zealand on the international stage.
 
For most New Zealand voters, the idea of revolutionary Green Party centaurs rampaging through Parliament is equally politically uninteresting.
 
So perhaps Sue should cast her mind back to the 1999 election and recall just how narrow was the margin that separated the Greens from parliamentary representation and political oblivion. Rod Donald delighted in his white shirt and coloured braces for six years, but by 2005 he was very publicly having himself measured for a stylish Kiwi-made business suit. When the brute arithmetic of political power kept him out of Helen Clark’s Cabinet it, quite literally, broke his heart.
 
“At what price power,” Sue demands “if you sell out everything that your party was originally set out to achieve? I mean, this Green Party here is following the same trail as green parties all over the world – some of who have ended up in coalitions and alliance with really right-wing governments.”
 
But in 2014, with just one image, the National Party destroyed the Green Party’s (and Labour’s) hopes of achieving anything for New Zealand. Their depiction of a Red/Green government as an uncoordinated and unreliable “Ship of Fools” was devastating.
 
That’s the public perception that Andrew Little, Grant Robertson, James Shaw and Metiria Turei are up against. And it is the widespread public misgivings about the Left’s economic realism and reliability that their “Budget Responsibility Rules” are intended to allay.
 
That’s because powerlessness also comes at a price.
 
A real revolutionary would understand the importance of inoculating the two leading parties of the Left against the “Show me the money!” ambushes of elections past.
 
The Greens are not trying to make a counter-culture, Sue – they’re trying to make a government.
 
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 31 March 2017.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am with Sue...not because I am particularly revolutionary these days but because the Nz economy needs some government spending right now. Signing up to austerity is silly in current low growth, low inflation, high private debt zone.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I've never been quite sure where Sue Bradford fitted in with the greens. Considering they are essentially a middle-class slightly left, slightly eccentric group. Sue Kedgely being a case in point. I remember her from my university days. I'm sure she is a lovely woman, but she's never had much appreciation of the problems faced by Working class people. To whit her urging of us all to eat organic food, and free range eggs. Forgetting that when you're on a Parliamentary salary it's quite easy to buy that sort of stuff but when you're on a benefit not so much.

Polly said...

Chris, why should anyone vote for a National lite coalition when they can have the experienced and stability of the real thing.

Sue Bradford is correct.

Olwyn said...

It is fair enough for Labour and the Greens to try and block the "show me the money" moment, which arises because the right have long been in the position to frame the debate. But it is also fair enough that they face challenges from the left. Pressure from the left helps to ensure that that the former functions as a move (like National's keeping WFF) rather than a total surrender to the demands of the right.

Anonymous said...

Back to reality - how do you house the homeless without raising taxes?

Anonymous said...

But will people believe the "budget responsibility rules" if Greens keep having moments like the "treat ebola with homeopathy", we "need to print money" they will make both parties look stupid perpetually. Flash PR and suits don't count for anything when such mistakes regularly paint the Greens as a joke. Also, why are they publically demonstrating that they basic lack organisational skills? (See: http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2017/03/opinion-greens-rivers-pr-a-car-crash.html)

The budget responsibility rules needed to come out a year ago and then the two parties needed to call the Government out on wasteful spending at every opportunity while trimming their new spending plans to match the rules which hasn't yet happened.

It needs to be believable! Obviously I'm not yet convinced it's the best thing for Labour to be married to the Greens for the campaign...

Anonymous said...

With the way Labour Greens are going it looks like the Opportunities Party might be a better option for left wing and environmentally conscious voters.

Anonymous said...

To house the homeless you can either raise taxes or you can - shock horror- deficit spend a bit - get demand going, poor people spend a bit more, unemployment goes down and then you get some growth and tax revenues rise. You have a bit more inflation and the world doesn't end (say like 5 or 6%). It's called Keynesianism. It's a good thing to do when the economy has got lots of "under utilised capacity" - i.e. unemployed people or underemployed people - such as myself ha ha. Right now government underspending causes people to go into increasing private debt to survive. Modern Monetary Theory is very interesting on this and is very relevant given our low public debt and high private debt. Why Labour/Greens want to straightjacket themselves to 'fiscal prudence' right now beats me. Oh yes, because they are too condescending to think ordinary people could be convinced by rational arguments for increasing spending. Ordinary people are instinctively right-wing. That is Labour's assumption.

David Stone said...

There is a degree to which Sue hijacked the Greens to her own social agenda. Her outspoken strident persona gives her an image that works for the media , and so she made a splash once she joined up. But the effect was to drag the priorities of the Greens to focus less on the purpose of their formation and existence (the environment obviously) and more on Sue's particular social concerns. In the end of course, they couldn't work together at all. With the passing of the original personalities and their recent replacements who knows what the Greens stand for. If you know Chris perhaps you should tell them.
Cheers D J S

pat said...

It is entirely possible to have another three years of disinterested incompetence if it is desired....who would?

and as to reality....there is a realistic opportunity to enforce the intent of the current tax parameters.

Bushbaptist said...

@Anon 13.53;
How did we build thousands of State Houses without raising taxex?

How did we build a power grid from Nth Cape to the Bluff without raising taxes?

How did we build hydro stations throughout the country without raising taxes?

How did we extend the main highways through the country without raising taxes?

When you have thought these things through you will have answered you own question. It involves thinking outside of the square (or circle-- whatever blows your hair back).

Kat said...

GS, its more about recognising and rejecting the crap dished up for the masses. Sue is a lovely women and right on the money with her wanting us all to eat organic and ethically produced food. When we were at university most food available in NZ just happened to be naturally grown and wholesome. Then came the 70's and 80's, Monsanto et al.

Victor said...

Personally, I always thought the excellent Dr Norman got the mix twixt pragmatism and idealism more or less right. Not that it did him any good.

Gerrit said...

Why do people like Bradford and Minto not start their own political party? Why hijack an existing political party and try and mold that into their image of a progressive socialist idiom.

If they don't like what LabGreeen are proposing, stop moaning and start up an alternative political party.

The far left equivalent of ACT.

Simon Cohen said...

"When we were at university most food available in NZ just happened to be naturally grown and wholesome. Then came the 70's and 80's, Monsanto et al"

DDT et al.
Obviously Kat has never read "Silent Spring" written by Rachael Carson in 1962 !!!

madtom said...

Though I was a happy and proud Green for years before they made it into Parliament, some of my enthusiasm vanished when Sue and Nandor did.

Then they lost me forever, and earned my deep and lasting anger, when they joined National and Labour to support the obscene retrospective rape of justice called the Kaipara Rates Validation bill, whose active harm to innocent citizens continues to this day. This despite assurances given when I testified at the Select Committee hearings along with a roomful of other victims, some in tears about being denied the democracy that their family members had fought for.

Of course all this is part of the centralize-all-power-in-Wellington movement that then forcibly annexed so many of us unwilling rural folks into "The Supercity" with no vote, and not even any pretense of consultation. Accountability? Local government? Hey, get with the modern play, why dontcha? Even the elected Councilors have very little power in this National-imposed modern colony. We now live in a legal fiction labeled a "local" government, in a "city" whose offices are an hour's drive through forest and field for many of its subjects, who then need to spend at least $20 just to park once they get there.

When the Greens demonstrated their willingness to compromise away some of the most basic principles of the rule of law, and of the most elementary standard of fairness and honesty in government, and in exchange for nothing that they ever revealed publicly or even in response to specific questions from members, they became just more dirty politicians in my eyes.

The fact that some of their claimed policies may sound good does not make them very different from other parties when it comes to the actual results out here away from the halls of power and money.

jh said...

Concrete aeroplane - was never going to fly.

Bill said...

I joined the Values Party in Auckland in 1973 and watched it self-destruct by pursuing policies which were then anathema to the wider population: abortion law reform, homosexual law reform and the legalisation of cannabis. I recall pointing out that the Party ought to use its social and environmental policies to widen its appeal.

At one point in the 1990s I was handing out pre-election pamphlets with Rod Donald only to have them rejected by people who said that they would never vote for the “Cannabis” Party.

I am surprised that those who wrote the Greens policies did not perceive the inherent contradictions. I one hand racism is to be eliminated, and on the other, the parties's policies promote racism. See their policies on the Treaty and Maori issues. They are out of touch with public antipathy toward Maori elites, to Maori separatism, entrenchment of Maori seats in parliament, non-elected involvement in local body politics, and more.

If and when these policies become more widely known, I predict that the party will go the same way as Values.

Anonymous said...

Sue seems to have forgotten or ignored two salient issues:

The Greens are supposed to be green and not red. She was always a poor fit for that group but many of the Far Left used it as a lifeboat when Communism lost the last scraps of credibility somewhere back in the 1980's.

How Mao treated both the poor and China's environment.

Andrew

Anonymous said...

Poor people don't vote Green anyway.

Russell Baillie said...

“The Greens have completely sold out on where they started from in my generation of MPs in 1999” No, to extend David Stone's comment, after The Alliance collapsed the Maoists, Socialist Worker Party, NZ Communist Party, and the rest of the hard left, were stuffed. Some of them, including Sue (referred to by Chris as a Maoist), jumped into the Green's waka as that was the only boat anywhere near them that was actually going anywhe

Nick J said...

Bill @17.17
Very brave of you to call out the contradictions in race policies which are not unique to the Greens. These are sacred cows we are all foisted with that may or may not have merit. Unfortunately large sections of the political establishment regard these issues as a fait accompli and not up for debate. Therein lies the weakness; its why Brexits and Trumps occur. Its called push back.

Bushbaptist said...

When Rod Donald ran the party is was a genuine environmental unit. After he shucked off his mortal coil Rus. Norman too over and dragged it into the mainstream. Susie, the author of the BWBB (Bradford Whack-a-Brat Bill) jumped around like a frog on a hot tin roof. She switched to Mana until Hone did the disaster with Kimmie. Susie was very miffed at that and went back to the Greens.

Bushbaptist said...

*it was*

Charles E said...

Bradford reminds me of that scene (not remembered accurately I'm afraid) in The Life Of Brian when the protagonists are discussing what their movement is called, and more to the point, not called, and one asks 'What ever happened to the Revolutionary Party of Judea anyway?' and Cleese points to a bearded bloke sitting on his own in the distance & says: He's over there'.
Unfortunately such folk are doomed to never achieve anything positive.
I would put Minto, Locke, Norman & Hager in that same lonely boat. As their political enemy I have a grudging admiration for them and indeed I should really be grateful to them.
They help keep my side in power.

Donna Lawson said...

I respect Sue Bradford, she was treated badly by the Greens as was Nandor. The Greens are a party in the main best suited to centrist economic policies with a nice twist of palatable environmentalism.That said, I do have some faith in Jack Macdonald, who actually refers to neo liberal economic policy being a bad thing.
Sue is active in politics and I think she always will be. She is best suited to grass roots activism, something very rare in Aotearoa these days, apart from Maori quarters.
Labour lite has increasingly poor relations with Maori voters, and virtually no real connection to blue collar workers/voters.Thus they are just another centrist party that does not wish to scare the horses.They may win the next election, but they could not do it without the Greens, as they are well aware.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Minto, Locke, Norman and Hager are gadflies. It's not their job to get into office or even to change the world. It's their job to ask questions, make people think, and annoy people like Charles.

Charles E said...

The trouble with gadflies is they make some buggers pull out insecticides which then kill bees for example.
Similarly the Greens actually being reds create rednecks which consigns the environment to the arena of two camps of unreasonable and very unattractive people.
True greens are bang in the political centre. That is, they mostly vote National currently.
If the Greens were in the centre, I’d vote for them.