I read this morning in Politik that Vernon Tava has left the Greens and appears to be leaning towards National.
It really doesn’t surprise me. After one of the debates in 2015 between the Green candidates for leader, I had a talk to each of the candidates. What I found odd was that Vernon didn’t feel like he was what I’d consider to be a green. He felt like a classic affluent conservationist of the very old school.
As Richard Harmon at Politik puts it 2 (he was at the same debate)
As for the Greens, he said he began to part ways with them because he began to doubt whether the environment was seriously at the top of their agenda.
He also began to doubt that there was any genuine will on the part of the party to work with the Government whoever they were.
That was a central theme of his campaign for the party co-leadership in 2015.
He talked about the primacy of environmental values in the party and said the party should re-focus on its core Green values.
He said the charter’s values of ecological wisdom and social responsibility were neither left nor right.
And he went on to suggest he would be happy in Government with National.
“Currently we say it is not enough that you care about the environment and that have a concern for ecological wisdom and social responsibility but you must also identify as left.
“And in doing that we alienate all the people who might share those values.
“Conservation, after all, can be inherently conservative.
“We leave these people out.”
He said the party needed support from across the spectrum because the problems facing the country were too urgent and too pressing.
Which is what I found quite odd.
You have to understand that I was always a reluctant socialist in many ways. It wasn’t my natural emotional choice. I started my voting in 1978 by quite deliberately voting for the Values party (the precursor to the Greens). That was because I was worried by my reading about the deterioration of our countryside and our planet. What I’d seen when I’d been out farming for a year didn’t exactly help either. It showed a pretty clear pattern of mining soils, crapping in rivers, and hillsides dropping into the water. It was why I did a BSc in Earth Sciences.
By the next election in 1981, I was voting Labour. There were many reasons for that.
One of the primary ones was because I’d realised while digging through dreary economics (I did a minor in management) and a pile of reading of history (hobby), that people who are too poor are lousy conservationists. Their overriding need to just keep their head above water means that they simply don’t care as much about the environment as they do about staying alive and keeping their kids alive and as unstunted as possible.
That is exactly where I see that Vernon Tava and the Greens are part company. As far as I can see the Green’s ‘socialism’ isn’t, or at least not in any traditional sense. It isn’t rooted in the workers movements and the need to get a better life for their kids than they had in theirs. What Vernon Tava sees as socialism, just shows that he really doesn’t understand it at all.
Instead the Greens are focused precisely towards the point of their objectives. A cleaner more sustainable places for people in NZ and the world.
In NZ we currently have inequality and rapidly falling incomes in the seventh of the population who are at the poverty line. Then there is the larger number of working poor who get hammered by rising costs and tip into poverty in any emergency. They simply don’t care about the environment because they aren’t affluent enough to do so.
So to get the widespread support for the kinds of widespread measures that Vernon is after, you first have to stop doing what National has done. Pushing inequality and driving more people into desperation simply isn’t effective for getting the green (or even the conservationist) agenda working. If you’re worried where in the hell next weeks rent is coming from, then ‘wasting’ their taxes on cleaning up the crap of the wealthy farmers and urbanites is going to get you a very strong backlash.
Moving from a merely conservationist agenda to a green means that you can’t just impose ideas from on high as was often done in the 18th and 19th centuries. For instance to get parks and green areas during the industrial and agricultural revolutions. To get the kinds of changes that are required to move whole populations to shift to less direct and indirect polluting behaviours, you need to engage them all.
National are well aware of the kind of disillusionment among some former Green supporters like Tava – that’s why the Government has been prepared to risk its relationship with its own core farming support on issues like water quality or even climate change.
Of course. National has always had a smallish conservationist wing that has always been worth getting to vote for them. It is part of the insipid middle class conservationist that Maggie Barry epitomes when she plays with roses 1. Making a few concessions to such people, that happen to also be good for the future of industrial farming, doesn’t cost much and is great PR.
Moreover you don’t have to deal with the driving force behind all pollution – the hard scrabble that means that the less affluent are trying to be more affluent, and they really couldn’t give a pigs arse about crapping on the world to do it.
In my opinion, the greens who can’t deal with that are merely conservationists. As the Greens are getting more realistically attuned to the way people and politics really operate and focusing on their longer term objectives rather than cosmetics, I’m finding that I can consider voting for them. I did last election…
Tava is not alone in that view — postings on “The Standard” website yesterday over the Greens disappointing showing in the Mt Albert by-election make frequent reference to the party being the true left wing party.
FFS: Individuals write here and have individual voices. “The Standard” is a dumb computer program that allows them to discuss their opinions to each other. Give attribution to those making comments or posts rather than to the machine.