When Metiria Turei talked about lying to secure her benefit, it divided New Zealanders including Greens voters. As it unfolded, the attacks were unending, Metiria stepped away and their opponents had a field day, many soft Greens voters walked away to Labour. I can understand some of the reasons why, and this is not a rehash of the right or wrong of that. However, if you walked away from the Greens then, it is time to come back and ensure a Greens presence in the change of government.
A Colmar Brunton poll came out tonight right at the start of the Stuff Christchurch Leaders’ Debate, and it confirms the trend of the last few weeks: Labour at 43 percent are now 4 points ahead of National on 39 percent. Let me start with a prediction: the government is changing at this election. Jacinda Ardern has been a revelation and a point of difference to the stale, pale, male National Cabinet. Andrew Little deserves a medal for standing down.
The key point of difference is that Jacinda embodies vision and emotional intelligence, connecting with people where they are actually at in their personal situation and articulating the pain in communities who have not seen real benefit from pretty reasonable economic growth. Fantastic and well overdue, but even if that is what you wanted, Labour is not going to be able to govern alone. So we all have a question we need to answer: who do you want in coalition with Labour?
New Zealand First, in the above poll, is at nine percent. Winston is poised to play the role of the Kingmaker as he has done time and time again. Perhaps some of you reading this are excited about the prospect and I’m not going to ring an alarm and yell, ‘fire!’ Winston has done a pretty solid job in government over many years, and he was actually pretty good as a Foreign Minister. However, Winston is always Winston First and wants power for himself; if affecting positive change for others gets him there, he’ll do it. If picking on a group of people will do the same, he’ll do that too.
I keep coming back to the most important statement of this election from Jacinda Ardern, that “climate change is our generation’s nuclear free moment.” I agree and if you agree, then we need to ensure the Greens are the coalition partner in waiting for Labour.
The Greens have the most comprehensive and action oriented policy of any of the major political parties in Aotearoa New Zealand and they hold responding to climate change and the environment as their central priority. In summary, their climate change policy commits to:
- a 100 percent reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with biannual reviews and technology incentives to make the change;
- New Zealand to lead the press for negotiations on a binding follow up international agreement to the Paris Accord;
- phase out all use of fossil fuels in transport and shift to rail and shipping over trucking;
- supercharge research and development, particularly to help farmers reduce emissions from stock;
- reverse deforestation, an important goal here, as we are one of the most deforested countries in the entire world;
- introduce a real emissions trading scheme that includes agriculture;
- fund adaptation initiatives to ensure communities, iwi, businesses and all other stakeholders are supported to make this essential transition.
Labour has a good climate change policy, but it is not as comprehensive and tries to play both sides of the field: privileging our current economic settings whilst giving lip service to fundamentally transforming our economy and our industries. Labour will be nudged closer to action and transformation in a coalition with the Greens.
But here’s the problem; the Greens are at five percent in the latest poll, and have been for a couple of polls. Whilst that’s the threshold for our Parliament, the Greens have traditionally polled higher than the vote they have garnered on the day of the election. So they are at risk of losing their seats and playing an important role in our future. If you walked away over the handling of Metiria’s revelations or Clendon and Graham’s dismissals, it’s time to ask yourself a question: do I prefer a Labour-NZ First coalition or do I prefer a Labour-Greens-Māori Party coalition?
We are within percentage points of a Labour-Greens-Māori Party coalition. If Labour holds 43 percent of the vote, that’s something like 51-52 seats. If the Greens got five percent, that’s six seats. If the Māori Party get an electorate seat and two percent of the vote, they’ll have 2-3 seats. They are within reaching distance of a viable coalition. But we have to vote with intent: vote for the coalition you want.
Unlike the slightly unhinged New Zealand First offerings, the Greens have some impressive leaders on their list. The first six who would get in on five percent are: James Shaw; Marama Davidson; Julie Anne Genter; Eugenie Sage; Gareth Hughes; and Jan Logie. If they pushed up to six percent, we would get Chloe Swarbrick. If they pushed up to nine percent (admittedly unlikely), we’d get Jack McDonald who is one of the most talented young Māori in the country.
I met my first voter the other day who admitted to me that they went into the booth on the day to vote for the person and party they thought was going to win because they liked to vote for the winning side. I was slightly horrified, but I also know I just encountered the soft centre who are shifting towards Jacinda. Those of us who vote for more than the opportunity to be in the winning team need to hold the line in our voting this year.
Jacinda’s reinvigoration of Labour and of the centre-left is genuinely exciting, and I can understand if you want to be part of it. Counter-intuitively, you are more likely to get the type of leadership you want from Jacinda as Prime Minister if you vote for the support party that will help point the government in a particular policy direction. If your priorities include the environment and climate change, then its time to support the Greens again.