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No Right Turn: Labour's Dog

No Right Turn

Labour's Dog

Despite being on the left and interested in Green issues, I'm not that concerned with the Green Party co-leadership election. Either of the two leading candidates Nandor Tanczos and Russell Norman would be perfectly good at the job, and despite Nandor's publication of a paper on the subject of "why the Greens are not a left-wing party" (which I would dearly love to see a copy of, BTW - email here), he's been a reliable voice for social justice as well as on environmental issues. As Vernon Small noted in The Dominion-Post last week, the differences between the candidates aren't really that great, despite the difference in rhetoric, and so it will really be a question of tone and leadership style more than anything else.

What does interest me is Nandor's comment that the Greens should stop being "Labour's dog" - by which, he presumably means stop automatically supporting Labour in order to get some actual leverage rather than being continually sidelined. I'm sure this sounds good to people like David Farrar (who continually bemoans the "fact" that they are not a "genuine Green party" - i.e. they refuse to remain myopically fixed on giant snails and instead look at the big picture of what is driving their destruction) - but I don't think it stacks up very well in practice. One "problem" is that the Greens are fundamentally a constructive party rather than an oppositionist one, and will vote for imperfect progress now (while pointing out that it is imperfect and demanding better) rather than refusing anything short of their desired policy. Currently Labour is the chief beneficiary of this - but I also think National will benefit from it next time they're in government, to the extent that they put forward legislation the Greens see as "progressive". And while this leads to the Greens being taken for granted legislatively (to the extent that they can be black mailed into voting for frankly regressive legislation in order to prevent it from being worse), the constructive approach is deeply rooted, and one of the things I most admire in the party.

The elephant in the room, though - and the reason why the constructive approach seems to be a "problem" - is that Labour and the Greens simply have too much in common to be anything other than natural allies. Yes, they're neither left enough nor green enough, and so unsatisfactory no matter what the balance between the two ideals - but they do at least show some commitment to both. By contrast, National fails on the green axis alone. While in the past they have advanced environmental goals, at present they are a party committed to gutting the RMA, burning coal in order to provide environmentally subsidised "cheap" electricity, allowing mining in conservation areas, ignoring the problem of global warming, and generally allowing business to run rampant and ignore the full cost of their activities. Providing confidence and supply to such a party would seem to be a gross betrayal of Green ideals.

In conclusion, the Greens can't help but be "Labour's dog", and absent a significant change of direction from National, they seem likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.


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