The Greens are continuing their idiotic policy of “neither left nor right” today with a calculated smear of Sue Bradford in the Sunday Star Times.
As far as I can see the story has been fed out by someone high in the party as a way of distancing the Greens from Bradford and her Left politics. In classic good cop/bad cop style the anonymous source (who is highly likely to be a senior staffer who is speaking with Norman’s blessing) describes Bradford as “blackmailing” the party while Norman takes the line that social justice is still as important for the Greens as before. He even uses a platitude about not forgetting his working class roots. Does anyone else find this reminiscent of Key’s “born in a state house” shtick?
Aside from the fact “social justice” is a coded way of avoiding (and being seen to be avoiding) the term “Left wing”, the piece is representative of the belief held by some senior party members that Bradford costs them votes.
Unfortunately in true Green style there’s nothing quantifiable that proves this because the Greens don’t do market research. They’re running off gut feelings influenced too heavily by right-wing punditry. And that approach will see them out of parliament in 2011 if they don’t sharpen their act.
I’ve been around the game a long time and right now I’m watching the Greens running a rebranding exercise driven in no small part by the opinions of Norman and a handful of people around him. That would be fine if it was likely to work but the problem is there’s now an echo-chamber in the Greens that is operating without any real-world measurables. That is very dangerous. If the Greens disappear from parliament in 2011 the Left will have a long time to wait until we get back around the cabinet table.
So here’s some friendly advice to The Greens from a long-time supporter:
Before you shift your brand away from the Left any further do some research. Start by surveying your activists (note: your activists are not necessarily your members) then canvas 1000 Green voters nationwide. I’d recommend you use your access to the roll to identify a pool of likely Green voters and ask a series of “on a scale of one to five how important are [insert social justice/environmental policy here]” questions. My gut instinct is that 40-50% of Green voters are significantly influenced by social justice and an even larger percentage of your activists get out there and do your campaigning for the same reasons. If I’m right then your current brand strategy will be deadly to your electoral chances.
When you do this surveying include questions about how your MPs are perceived.
Quit spending so much time listening to the right. It would suit National to see your party disappear and even though they aren’t saying that their proxies are. Their proxies are also running the line that your environmental policies are anathema to business and progress. If you think the support you are going to lose from the left will be replaced by blue-green votes you’re kidding yourselves.
Talk to Labour and the unions. Sue was your strongest connect to both Labour and the union movement and your party has had a lot of informal organisational support from members of both of these institutions. Attacking Sue like this is going to burn that support off very quickly and it’s not going to be replaced by support from organisations on the right.
Do this quickly. Right now Labour will be asking itself whether the best strategy is to help you across the line in 2011 or to cut its losses and try to cannabalise your vote. At the moment you can rely on certain demographics such as students to vote Green but in a few years the face of the Labour Party will be a lot younger and more attractive to these demographics. And they have an organising machine you simply don’t possess. Right now while you’re not doing quantifiable research into how your brand shift is affecting your chances I can guarantee that Labour is (and National will be as well).
Like I said the Greens are a vital part of the Left in this country and if they go under we could be looking at a three term tory government. I was a long time Green supporter and activist and the last thing I want to see is the Greens vanish but I’ve got a feeling that’s an increasingly probable outcome.
And one last piece of advice: you’re not players and counter-productive politicking like today’s attack on Sue doesn’t make you players. Unless you count playing yourselves for suckers.