Russel Norman’s taken advantage of the gap in Labour’s economic skills and vague positioning to cement the Greens as the main alternative voice on economics. Labour lacks any strong economic voice now Cunliffe’s on the outer, and they don’t know where they stand – they attack National but essentially adopt their neoliberal approach. The free rein Shearer has given Jones to attack the Greens’ economic policies just shows the leadership’s instincts are rightwing, which is why their economic position comes across so weak (‘hands off vs hands on’? Really? Doesn’t that imply you’ll still drive in the same general direction?). Norman has clearly seen the opening left by Labour’s lack of leadership on the economy.
Norman’s taken advantage with his op-ed in the Herald today (not online at time of writing). He opens by doing what he knows Labour can’t do – articulating a powerful economic vision in a paragraph. He then lays out the failure of National’s management of the economy. Then, he puts it to Labour- which side are you on? The failed National side, our the smart, green side? Or, if Labour has its own alternative, what is it? By allowing Shane Jones to be spokesperson for everything, and by spending so much time attacking the alternative to National without offering their own alternative, it looks like Labour really doesn’t want to change much, it just wants to be the one in the driver’s seat.
In short, Norman’s saying ‘Labour doesn’t have the balls and/or brains to offer you a real change in direction, the Greens do’. It’s not a declaration of any split in the opposition to National but it’s a clear sign that the Greens no longer view themselves as second fiddle to Labour. It’s a sign that the Greens plan to be the leaders on the economy and take votes from both major parties in the process. So far, they’re going about it the right way.