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What did we want from Marama Davidson?

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, April 10th, 2018 - 68 comments
Categories: greens, leadership, Left - Tags: , ,

The election of a genuinely left-wing populist leader, let alone one who’s an indigenous woman of colour, has predictably led to right-wing journalists exploding into hot takes with the heat of a newly-born supernova. There have been some more reasonable takes too from more independent journalists, and even from well-embedded journalists in the mainstream media, although even those have got some details wrong. As someone who actually supported Marama, I’d like to set the record a bit straight.

For a start, saying that there is little policy difference between Marama Davidson and Julie-Anne Genter is a bit like saying there’s little difference on education policy between two DHBs: policy development is a completely different branch of the party that neither Davidson or Genter is responsible for, and they are both bound to support bills that align with the policy committee’s decisions under the party’s rules under normal circumstances. (there are provisions for conscientious objection, but these are for extraordinary circumstances, and all candidates are asked what sort of issues they might use these provisions for in their selection interviews, so they’re not expected to be a surprise) It is fundamentally misunderstanding their job to talk about policy differences, when their only word on policy is which of our policies they’d most emphasize in their communications with media.

There are two parts to being a Green Party co-leader: They are leaders of Caucus, (thus, they have significant influence over decisions on Parliamentary tactics, and which backbenchers are spokespeople on what) and they are the chief communicators and representatives of the party, explaining our policy priorities to the public and the media. All their other powers are either specifically delegated to them by the membership for certain tasks, (such as negotiating coalition deals) or purely symbolic. They can’t decide who gets to be ministers. They can’t decide how to rank our list. They can’t even kick people out of caucus on their own. They are not elected dictators like you may be used to, if you’re thinking of the powers that say, National Party Leaders get.

The notion that the selection of Marama Davidson shows any increased unwillingness to deal with National is also incorrect: We were already unwilling to deal with them under Bill English, and Simon Bridges has shown no signs of improved rhetoric or policy that would be necessary for the Party to reconsider this stance. His new “greener approach” has not resulted in anything but greenwashing to date, with enthusiastic defenses of natural gas, oil exploration when we already have more reserves identified then we can afford to burn, subsidized irrigation when we already over-irrigate, and the only examples of environmentalism seem to either be trolling New Zealand First, or doing personal action cleaning up beaches. (Let us not forget, Simon Bridges was a very fast friend of the oil lobby groups as a Minister) Even with Simon Bridges’ poor record, this is also not something co-leaders get to decide on their own. All co-leaders decide is how to approach people that delegates for the members authorize them to have negotiations with- they could pass an offer back to a special general meeting of the party that we didn’t formally negotiate for, but it’s unlikely the party would authorize sudden formal negotiations with National even if they made the first approach to us. Members decide who we coalesce with and when, as part of the consensus decision making of the various Green Party branches, and then send delegates to the relevant meetings to vote on those decisions. All authority within the party must come either directly or indirectly from its members.

While Davidson’s selection does show an appetite for more engagement with communities of colour, a willingness to engage the public on the issue of poverty and benefits, and other left-wing priorities, it’s not entirely fair to say that Julie Anne was a less left-wing candidate than Marama or an opponent of these other values, and in my branch personally, (where Julie Anne won more of the vote than Marama did) there was no discussion as to whether Marama Davidson was “too left wing,” or “not environmental enough” like many media commentators are raising to contrast the two. Julie Anne is a hard-working MP, a talented Minister, and a regular defender of left-wing ideas in finance, transport, health, and other priority areas, (and you can observe her contradicting National MPs on social media regularly if you care to) and doesn’t deserve to be painted as some sort of teal-green. She deserves credit as one of our smartest political minds, and she impressed a lot of people (including me!) who thought this decision was a foregone conclusion, and is merely unfortunate to have had her first shot at this post come up right after the deserved and sudden rise of Marama to #2 on our party list. I hope she is at least relieved that she will be able to concentrate on being a Minister and, soon, on being a new mother- if she were to do only one important thing as Minister for Women, showing from the top that pregnant women can still have high-powered careers will be amazing in and of itself.

Isaac Davison’s piece actually has some of the dynamics confused as far as all other members I’ve talked to- much of the discussion in favour of Genter’s campaign was that she was a safe candidate who would keep the party stable while bringing back soft supporters who voted for us while Labour was in opposition, whereas I personally and many other members in favour of Davidson argued she had a broader appeal, potentially bringing more Māori, Pasifika, and the roughly 3% of voters who came in as voters after hearing Metiria Turei representing their own stories, as well as being able to bring back some of those soft supporters who might have thought they’d be getting genuine left-wing change with Jacinda Ardern but will perhaps be a bit disillusioned with the compromises required to work together with New Zealand First, and want us to be a bit more of a conscience to this government as well as a supporter.

There are some members who signed up for the party under Turei’s leadership, or in the wake of her departure, who publicly noted they would have departed if Genter won- this reflects other demands from supporters of the party for stronger Māori representation in co-led roles (there are several of these below the formal co-leadership: provincial, branch, and network co-convenors, (read: Chairs/Presidents) etc…) and better integration of Te Rōpu Pounamu (the Māori members’ network within the Green Party) into the party’s executive and other decision making structures, and for a voice that all members agree is a counterbalance to the more conciliatory, arguably more centrist style that James Shaw brings as male co-leader, but (perhaps sadly depending on your perspective) these departures would largely have been limited to young Greens and Greens of colour as far as I can tell, and would not by any means have “torn the party in half,” but would have continued worrying trends within the party of not cementing the relationship with the younger voters it so successfully courts, and making moves that potentially alienate New Zealanders already facing racial discrimination from other parties. This should in fact suggest that Davidson’s appeal, rather than simply being a stabilising influence, is broad in groups that should be strong for the Green vote but have not always traditionally turned out strongly, and that it is necessary to maintain the party’s reach into communities beyond middle-class liberals in Auckland and Wellington, who while a strong base for the party, do not represent all of its interests, and clearly largely stand in solidarity with Greens who don’t necessarily look like them, or have the same (sub)urban middle-class concerns.

What media largely has failed to cover, is that Marama’s promise to be highly respectful of and communicative with the membership and draw harder lines about what the party can support by using the party’s constitution and procedures as bottom lines rather than mere formalities, to ensure that our wider constituencies are brought with us. She promised to be there on the ground as co-leader to bring attention to important protests for our rights as New Zealanders in that same spirit. There have also been controversies within the party about certain decisions made to work together with Labour (such as the budget responsibility rules) that may have not properly followed those processes and/or remain controversial to members, and even though in some cases we may reluctantly support bills to hold the government, these tradeoff decisions do need to be well-communicated to the party’s members and wider base.

While we absolutely have the power to prevent the Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill being passed, (and Davidson was clear she wanted a mandate from Members on whatever the party does in these sorts of situations) it might be a relatively small concession1 to secure New Zealand First’s co-operation and a political battle worth losing in order to get their co-operation on other bills, especially if the legislation can be made less painful. If she can manage to navigate the treacherous waters while also making sure new strategic announcements from the party (like that we are going to start ceding some primary questions to National whenever we aren’t asking real questions of ministers from other parties) aren’t met with surprised incredulity, and perhaps are even scrapped if they don’t receive a sound endorsement, she will have already achieved a lot in the eyes of members who support her. Being a grassroots-style leader of a progressive party when we require a fundamentally conservative and centrist party to support our legislation and get anything done is not an easy road to travel down, and it will require both authenticity and restraint in equal measure from Marama, and she will need to build a relationship of respectful differences of opinion with New Zealand First’s front bench of Peters, Martin, Mark, and Jones if she is to be effective.

It is refreshing to see her not only representing genuinely left-wing priorities as mainstream, but also saying that if radical change is needed to achieve those priorities, she’s not afraid of being called a radical. A lot of supporters have wanted a more radical voice in a leadership role, and Davidson looks to already be delivering on that in her initial interviews, effectively communicating the needs of more marginalized communities to mainstream New Zealand, and doing so in a way that makes those on benefits and in poverty sound like ordinary people who deserve dignity and respect, and linking those struggles to more mainstream anxieties about underfunding in health and education. While that may drive right-wing reactionaries mad, we’re going to have a real test as to whether the radically ordinary conversations we started having during the election about the voices and dignity of beneficiaries and those in poverty (and not just child poverty, but also working poverty, or simply insufficient benefits to live on) were what caused the Green Party’s loss in fortunes, or whether it was the perception that there was more to Turei’s scandal and the disunity of caucus with the departure of Kennedy Graham and David Clendon.

The reality is that we have a benefit system in this country that encourages people to lie to survive. We have capitalist incentives to have workers frequently paid so little they subsidize the existence of marginal businesses with unacceptable lifestyles where they eat junk, don’t replace anything they can afford to leave broken, and spend most of their money on rent and bills, and that we think it’s necessary to have government subsidies for families because employers can’t keep up with decent wages, all the while we’re underfunding our hospitals so badly they’re leaking sewage and infested with toxic mould. We have teachers paid so little they can’t afford to live near the schools they teach at, or buy houses, yet we trust them with the very future of our country and our families. And if Marama can have the hard conversations about those issues while still bringing them back to how they’re connected to caring for our people and our environment as well, she will be doing very well to help the Green Party stay in Parliament next election, and to help New Zealand become a better place.

1 I know anyone who’s a fan of Andrew Geddis or themselves values the law is probably screaming about that statement, and I agree that it’s bad law, but it’s entirely possible it will have little to no practical effect this term in Parliament, and be immediately overturned the next, (it certainly will be if the Greens have anything to say about it) if New Zealand First can’t secure a lifeline back into Parliament by the next election. Labour has pretended to publicly be suddenly Very Concerned About Proportionality whenever the topic of this bill comes up, which is absolute rubbish, and suggests they may be willing to have a change of heart when the time comes. If they were really concerned about proportionality, the best thing they could do is to lower the Party Vote threshold, and Labour doesn’t even seem keen to jump at the 4% recommended by the electoral commission after we voted to keep MMP, which is the very first thing we should be doing, and should arguably be attacked as an SOP to the same bill.

There are dangers that say, we might potentially be called to a war that Labour and National want to support but they have an unwilling backbench who would have gone rebel without this bill or some other nightmare scenario, but in all reality its most likely application is to make sure none of Winston Peter’s various backbench supporters grow a spine. I think in reality principled defectors are very likely to be upheld by the electorate in either a by-election or the next general election- that is how it has always worked in the past. Really, the TPPA should have been the most likely thing to cause a backbench revolt among Labour, yet there were no MPs crossing the floor on that, and the bill hasn’t passed yet, so I think in practical terms the ship has sailed on backbencher independence anyway at the moment. There is also the possibility we might secure additional safeguards, or a sunset clause, that would allay some fears. I do feel absolutely certain that if we don’t vote for that bill, Winston is going to punish the Greens for it, likely by simply blocking any legislation that looks even marginally like it was the Greens’ idea.

Note: I’ve been a bit quiet on Marama and Julie Anne during the campaign, this is due to the fact that I served as a delegate for my branch and thought it would be inappropriate for me to comment given the various squares I would have to circle to do so, so have simply stayed mum outside of correcting people attacking either of the candidates.

68 comments on “What did we want from Marama Davidson? ”

  1. SPC 1

    I like the idea of Greens trying to add a 4% party list threshold to the no waka jumping legislation. Why not also propose an amendment that the legislation apply only to list MP’s?

    • Matthew Whitehead 1.1

      I’ve forwarded a few of these amendment proposals up to the Green Party. My suspicion is that we’d get very few of them to stick, but asking for a lot might convince Peters to leave in a really important one, like say a 3-year sunset clause.

      The 4% threshold is also as per our policy that all electoral reform should be independently recommended and non-partisan, which for the moment means we shouldn’t exceed what was recommended by the Electoral Commission. I can definitely see the wisdom in a non-partisan approach, although I think the EC was overly cautious in its recommendation and is still making things unnecessarily hard on small parties. 4% is still ridiculously high in my books.

    • Monty 1.2

      I completely disagree. 5% is what it is, it you change that then the whole of MMP should be looked at in a referendum and the people of NZ can decide if they want a change of 5%.

      • SPC 1.2.1

        The Commission only recommended a change to the threshold and the ending the exemption from the threshold for parties winning an electorate seat. The public have been given no ability to vote on these two points.

        The public have already voted twice for MMP – to introduce it and to continue with it only recently.

        • Monty

          When was the referendum to continue with it and that was the time to ask the public change the threshold I don’t recall it but have lived offshore for a number of years.

          The threshold is a major part of MMP and I would want a say on it and not leave it to a govt that may have self serving interests.

          • SPC

            The two recommendations of the Commission should go to a vote in 2020.

            The vote on continuing with MMP was in 2011.

            • Monty

              Any changes to MMP should be the choice of the public not the sitting govt.

              So I hope your right and it goes for a vote in 2020.

              It will be interesting to see the vote for threshold change. I personally don’t think it will change.

    • Tricledrown 1.3

      Good idea as they get in on their party’s coat tails.

  2. Wayne 2

    Well, you are right in that the Greens will never do a coalition deal with National. At the time of the coalition negotiations I did make reference to a National/Green government because it was a theoretical possibility. But I knew that it would never happen, and so did all the National Party caucus members.

    The Greens keep saying that National has to change substantially, both on green and social policy for this to be even considered. What the Greens are saying is that National has to be as least as left as Labour. Obviously that will never happen. National is a centre right party and that is its basic philosophy.

    Even if it did change to the extent the Greens wanted, the Green membership would still never consider them. In the eyes of the Green membership, National is irredeemably evil. At least that is what a lot of their members say on this site.

    National knows this, which is why it considers in electoral terms that Labour and the Greens are a single bloc. However, they are different parties and it does seem tactical agreements are possible between the Greens and National, but these would never amount to the Greens allowing National to be government.

    I suppose one should not be completely absolutist about this. I guess there may be circumstances where the Greens may allow National to form a government. If for instance National was just one seat from forming a government, and Labour was in an obviously enfeebled state with a leader of no credibility. But surely in that case the Greens would simply exercise their leverage over Labour to get a bigger say in a Labour led government.

    • Carolyn_Nth 2.1

      At the time of the coalition negotiations I did make reference to a National/Green government because it was a theoretical possibility. But I knew that it would never happen, and so did all the National Party caucus members.

      Well, thank you for your honesty now – better late than never.

      But you are also revealing what spin merchants you and the Nats truly are.

      It was more than stating an unlikely possibility. There was strong public pressure coming from the National Party and their shills for a Nat-Green coalition.

      Thank you for a very informative post, Matthew.

    • Matthew Whitehead 2.2

      Actually I am in favour of leaving the door open to a future National Party that acts differently to the one we have now, and more like, say the CDU/CSU alliance in Germany.

      We are not saying that credible environmental action has to come from the left. What we are saying is that we feel that the problems that cause environmental damage or fundamentally ones that have been caused by existing right-wing policy, and that the right will need to rethink its economic models (and the social models intertwined with them) if it is to have credibility on environmental action, rather than giving laugh lines like “yeah but I personally have pickup up rubbish from beaches.” There may be room to work with a right-wing party that hasn’t yet finished this transition. But it won’t be preferred over working with a left-wing party where we can attack the causes of these issues rather than compromise on specific policy points, to say, continue a much needed insulation program.

      Bridges was sure doing a good job of pretending he didn’t know this earlier, Wayne, so I think you should possibly step back and consider that what National knows is different from what it says, and that perhaps clarify our bottom lines are necessary if National are going to mischievously continue to try and wedge the government on issues of environmentalism or conservatism.

      • Wayne 2.2.1

        To engage in the debate, what would the Greens expect on dairying and other environmental issues?

        National would not agree to herd reductions, but they might for instance go for wider stream margins, more preservation of wetlands and higher standards of effluent treatment from feed areas and cowsheds. Also more planting generally around lakes, rivers etc. Overall this might have a cost of say an extra $200 million per year.

        On transport, National is not going to give up on motorways, but might have greater incentives for electric vehicles and a subsidised rollout of charging stations.

        If the Greens are say 5 to 7% and National is say 45%, then clearly economic policy (tax rates, size of govt, etc) will be largely directed by National.

        That is essentially the case with Labour now. Despite their current whingeing about National, Labours fiscal responsibility rules, plus their no new new taxes promise to the electorate, largely buys into the economic paradigm of National.

        • SPC

          Wayne, if National wanted to achieve anything – why would they have not offered farmers an interest free loan programme. Where farmers could use the money to improve farm environment standards and repay the loan on farm sale?

          Surely this improves the environment impact from farming in a way that does not add to farm operating costs and yet from National nothing. Not worth the interest cost of the loans (even though the work funded would have created jobs)?

        • UncookedSelachimorpha

          “National would not agree to herd reductions,”
          [Unavoidable if nutrient problems are to be fixed]

          “but they might for instance go for wider stream margins, ”
          [Will not fix nutrient problems]

          See the pattern Wayne? National’s ‘environmental’ policies are based on bullshit, not facts or science. And as a result, they don’t work.

          • Wayne


            That is the Greens problem. They expect National to completely surrender to them, before they even think of a deal.

            Since that won’t happen (why would a 45% party surrender to a 5% party?) I remain of a view that a National/Green deal is highly unlikely, actually basically impossible.

            So for National the goal would to present a serious alternative green policy to voters. this would not be a package that would necessarily appeal to the Green membership, but would be one that would appeal to more conservative Green voters, and also floating Labour voters (i.e. voters who sometimes vote Labour and sometimes vote National).

            The sort of things that I suggest (or some variation thereof) would have a respectable chance of doing that. They would deal directly with water quality issues, and vehicle emissions. A fair bit of NZ hill country could be reafforested with native flora to build biodiversity. Incentives for small scale solar would also do the same.

            • Muttonbird

              I’m not sure you and therefore the Nats in general have much of an idea what drives New Zealanders’ concerns on our own environment.

              It’s not about making the government fleet electric, and returning hill country to bush (because no one wants to farm sheep there now anyway so we might as well). These are peripheral gestures.

              What we are worried about is the misuse of water and land for the profit of a few, and the damage that is doing. I don’t think National could put any package to the Greens or the rest of New Zealand which improves these issues because their primary goal is maximising agricultural profit, especially dairy profit, the environmental cost of which seems to be of minimal concern to them.

              I don’t even think most Kiwis have that much of an issue with the crop industry as long as ways can be found to maximise water use efficiencies, and minimise the use of the water table which as we now know can be very easily damaged.

              I think most Kiwis understand EVs and other electric technologies are coming and reliance on fossil fuels will diminish quite quickly. Incentives for solar installation has already had cross party support but we find as usual the loudest voices against it are those from the right who complain the industry is being subsidised by the public.

              • Wayne


                We shall see to what extent National’s environmental policies can appeal to middle New Zealand..

                By definition National is not trying to persuade everyone. It is trying to convince an extra 5 to 10% of the population (essentially in the middle) of their serious intent on environmental issues.

                The issues that concern you (dairy profit, etc) will primarily be of concern to people who would never vote National under any circumstances whatsoever. National’s policies are not aimed at that group.

                That is why I can’t ever see the Greens going with National. While there may be some members who might entertain the option (lets say those who supported Julie Anne Genter, though that is just used as an illustration) those who supported Marama Davidson never would and that is 75% of the membership. The Nats and the Greens simply have fundamentally different world views.

                So National’s environmental policies have to have a different focus than many of the green policies that the Greens espouse. They may be similar in intent (clean water) but they will have quite a different pathway to achieving it.

                • Muttonbird

                  Well I think you missed my point which was ‘dairy profit at the expense of water quality’. You just shortened it to ‘dairy profit’.

                  This does illustrate the point the Nats see the Greens as profit hating which I’m sure is not the case. They also will never be able to promote water quality at the expense of maximum possible profit because that, as in the case of corporate entities, is against their core belief and directive.

                  I’m not sure anyone but themselves believe National has a pathway to clean water because they’ve not shown the slightest interest in following it to date. And if they do have an intent it’s a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’ as it is for the Greens.

                  The other thing I’d point out, and it’s something which really depresses me about the political class, is the tendency to not be concerned with the goal of betterment but to only be concerned with appearing to be concerned with the goal of betterment, in order to dupe as you say the 5 to 10% who might be duped.

                  It sucks.

                • McFlock

                  There are two points of disagreement I have there, Wayne.

                  The first is that if National are still holding on to being able to basically govern alone (i.e. 45-50% of the vote), they’re fossils who still have yet to adapt to MMP.

                  The second is that my impression of National’s environmental policies is that clean water and parks are “nice to haves”, but where they conflict with business, business will usually come first. It’s not just different pathways that are the issue, the issue is also the destination.

                  But in general I agree that the only way the Greens will go with National is if one party fundamentally changes its principles and concomitantly kisses good bye to a large chunk of its electoral base.

            • UncookedSelachimorpha

              “They would deal directly with water quality issues, ”

              Except they wouldn’t. The National policies will perpetuate or worsen nitrogen pollution of freshwater systems, which is the number one problem (although not the only one) facing our rivers and lakes.

              What you are proposing is to dress up policies that provably don’t work, and try to sell them to the public as solutions – solely in order to try to retain power. No interest in delivering real solutions that work.

              That is not smart politics. It is deceitful and immoral.

              • Muttonbird

                What you are proposing is to dress up policies that provably don’t work, and try to sell them to the public as solutions – solely in order to try to retain power. No interest in delivering real solutions that work.

                That is not smart politics. It is deceitful and immoral.

                +1. I just had a similar thought at 3:42.

        • Matthew Whitehead

          Sure, so let’s start with where these calls are coming from. The Greens are not the ones saying we have to do a deal- that pressure is coming from within the National Party, specifically the parts of it that do identify as caring about the environment, perhaps more than its policies do. There are very few Greens who are enthusiastic to even have the discussion about working with National, let alone consider it right now.

          As I said, the current economic policies that the right are espousing are fundamentally threatening to the environment. Current intensified herd numbers as a bottom line is ridiculous.

          The false binary of “support vs give up on motorways” is a bit ridiculous. The Greens don’t want to let our existing motorways fall into disrepair. What we want to do is focus investment on transport where it actually gets returns, and where it will also be practical in a zero-carbon society. We will likely still need motorways in that scenario, but we may not actually need many new ones- most of the argument for new routes is in terms of disaster resilience, which makes them extremely costly for very little benefit. National bill themselves as a party that doesn’t like spending money on things that don’t work. It’s time to live up to that.

          I agree that in any actual agreement, wins shouldn’t be entirely out of proportion to each party’s size. That is part of why National needs to move more towards sustainable enviro-capitalism before formal negotiations with any expectation of an agreement can be entertained.

          If you are claiming the current BRRs as National’s economic paradigm, that is a very poor record indeed. They include the assumption that even low government debt is problematic, and that there is an arbitrary level of government spending relative to the economy that is always appropriate regardless of economic conditions, both of which are basically economically illiterate assumptions. We can absolutely afford to tax and spend more than the rules indicate, but signalling an intent to be disciplined with spending within the actual needs of government is reasonable as a principle, however the real restraint should be based on how much return we get on investment. Policies with a well-calculated BCR of four, for instance, make sense practically regardless of what financial state the government is currently in, wheras policies that barely clear 1.1 should have to make a good case on political reasons.

          • Wayne

            Well you essentially prove my point. It is essentially a waste of time for National to bother with the Green Party as a viable coalition partner.
            Nationals environmental policies will be aimed at persuadable voters, not at people who are not presumable.
            National will never do enough to persuade the Green membership, so why bother.
            Much better for National to focus on its own green policies (which you and others will inevitably criticise) but then we would not be trying to persuade you anyway.
            Nationals green policies I am certain will be a significant advance on existing National policy.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.3

      National is a centre right party and that is its basic philosophy.

      National is a party of hard right-wing dictators. Always has been and always will be as proven by their removal of democracy in Canterbury for the farmers.

      I guess there may be circumstances where the Greens may allow National to form a government.

      Would National ever allow the Greens to form a government?

    • Stuart Munro 2.4

      “What the Greens are saying is that National has to be as least as left as Labour.”

      Is that what the Greens are saying? The Greens I know point to National’s numerous regressive environmental decisions and say “Who are National trying to kid?” National may need a superficial greenwash to become electable but the Greens are looking for something a bit more profound.

      Marama’s election, like most promising political developments, has nothing whatsoever to do with National.

    • Tricledrown 2.5

      Yeah Wayne Power corrupts National will do anything to hold the reigns of power.

    • Tricledrown 2.6

      Yet Wayne National are happy to subsidise the free market far right wing Seymour the biggest benefit bludger and hand Act a bigger slice of policy than their entitled too with less than.5% of the vote.
      National will do anything to be in power.

      • Kat 2.6.1

        National will do anything to keep Labour away from power. And so it goes, Wayne’s role is to keep the spin churning.

  3. SPC 3

    What do you make of Chris Trotter’s take, as a left wing commentator, that this was the first move to the left (in selection of a Green leader)?


    • Carolyn_Nth 3.1

      Not one of Trotter’s more coherent pieces – and it seems to be a flashback to his anti-“identity politics” obsession.

      Implicit in Shaw’s moderation was the clear acknowledgement that Metiria Turei’s radicalism had hurt the Greens much more than it had helped them.

      Highly debatable – it did help GP support among certain sections of society, until the MSM (and then Ardern in a more mild, condescending way) put the boot in to Turei.

      In the long term, it may be very good for the GP as there is now an identifiable section of the population looking for representation on social security, low incomes, etc. And it opened the way for Davidson who will continue Turei’s work, but in a different way.

      Genter has also acknowledged that the Turei situation alerted the GP to the need to be more hard headed in their approach and strategies.

      Then Trotter sounds positive about a mood for change:

      At the heart of that mood lies a deep-seated antagonism towards power-structures seemingly resistant to all but the most intense political pressure.

      But then he goes off on a track claiming these movements for change are undemocratic and intolerant;

      Right alongside this antagonism towards the elites, however, is a growing sense of alienation from the restraints of democracy itself.

      No, it’s the failure for so called democracies to be truly democratic.

      Trotter goes on:

      Why should a majority so egregiously in the wrong be able to defeat a minority so manifestly in the right? If that is all that democracy has to offer, then what, practically-speaking, is its political value?

      Isolate these sentiments in their own self-reinforcing social-media bubble and the result is often a ferocious up-tick in self-righteous intolerance. Far from being perceived as virtuous, the democratic politician’s admonition that ‘we must take the people with us’ is derided as proof of political weakness and moral cowardice.

      Who says it is a majority in the wrong? And who says it is a smaller group than the powerful elites, who want a change towards something more democratic.

      Democracy should include the voices of, and responses to, the needs of all sections of society.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        Why should a majority so egregiously in the wrong be able to defeat a minority so manifestly in the right?

        If the decision is wrong then society as a whole will have to take responsibility for it and change it. But it should always be the majority decision and not the decision of a small clique.

        It’s the decisions of a small clique that has seen poverty rise in NZ, seen our hospitals and other government services underfunded and the signing of the TPPA all against the wishes of the majority.

        Which means that we live in a dictatorship and not a democracy.

        Democracy should include the voices of, and responses to, the needs of all sections of society.


        • Matthew Whitehead

          Democracy isn’t just synonymous with majoritarianism, Draco. In fact, the Greens don’t use it at all in internal decisions. Our lowest decision-making threshold is a 75% consensus-unblocking vote. Responding to the needs of everyone often means respecting the objections of a passionate and vocal minority, and seeing if you can do things in a way that address their concerns as well as those of the majority.

          • Draco T Bastard

            But Trotter is saying that the minority should rule and that is an oligarchy at best.

            Full consensus is obviously better but not always possible at which point it must be a majority decision.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              I’d say that a healthy democracy realises there’s cases for multiple thresholds of decision making, including technocrats and appointed boards, in various contexts, but they all have to be ultimately responsible to a public mandate.

              Trotter is up to his usual stuff- not trusting people to get their own democracy right, in typical conservative fashion.

      • dukeofurl 3.1.2

        “In the long term, it may be very good for the GP as there is now an identifiable section of the population looking for representation on social security, low incomes, etc”

        Im not sure the Green party is even reaching the ‘section of the population”

        One City, Two electorates, 2 completely different Green party votes for 2017
        Just done the party vote to take out effect of different candidates

        Dunedin North Greens 13.67%
        Dunedin South 5.92%

        To my casual look at the exact boundaries between the two electorates means the wealthier part of Dunedin favours the Greens while the poorer part does not. Would that be a fair comparison?

        • SPC

          Quite common, the working class votes Labour, middle class urban liberals sometimes vote Green – they do so to support the environment and social justice.

          This just means that while the Green Party seeks to influence Labour and National to support their environment positions, it can also seek to expand its own vote base – via anti-poverty activism and connection to the idealism of young PI/Maori graduates for the well-being of their peoples.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            I think it’s also quite frankly a symptom of identity politics and low-information voting. “Labour’s for working people right, I’ll vote for them, like my parents.” Over time this will shift, but it will take a lot of disciplined message and realisation that despite having other values as well, and not having it directly in their name, the Greens are pro-worker, pro-union, and far more enthusiastic advocates for those working battlers and even beneficiaries than Labour are, but it requires that the Greens learn to talk to constituencies we haven’t yet managed to resonate as strongly with.

            (and calling people low-information voters is not intended as a blame-the-voter strategy, it’s absolutely on the Greens to make our own case. It’s just a reality however that not everyone bases their vote on extensive research of party policies)

            • dukeofurl

              Labour has environment policies too

              But in my view, Greens may be ‘pro worker pro union’ etc but they arent pro jobs.
              Yes a lot of what is called pro jobs, isnt ,ie more roads.

              natural population growth of its self requires more development. A new shopping centre a new water bottling plant and so on.

    • Matthew Whitehead 3.2

      Trotter and I are frequently at odds given I am an outspoken left-liberal, and he’s an outspoken left-conservative.

      I think he’s also discounting that both our options in the Turei-Bradford leadership selection were very left wing, as well.

      I also think crediting tactical voting is interesting, given that Green polling actually increased after the election. If the return to Parliament was purely tactical voting, you would expect a sharp decrease in polling numbers after the election as people returned to their usual preferences. What this says to me is that the Greens’ volunteers did an excellent job in recovering voters and supporters pre-election, but that recovery was a little slow and we probably relied on tactical voting a little more than usual.

      I personally did not see it as a lurch to the left when I was advocating for Marama in our own meeting. This is where the Party has always been, Marama will simply express this aspect with more emphasis, the right emotion, and more clarity. Trotter’s dislike of identity politics will always put him off base with the Greens- he will find out that Marama is just as liberal as people like me if he ever bothers to look into her politics and professional history.

    • Bearded Git 3.3

      Trotter hates the Greens.; that is the prism you have to look through when reading that article.

      He spends most of his time trying to push Labour to the left-Old Labour Style Left that is-but when the Greens move marginally further to the Left he criticises them; should have chosen Genter etc

      As I have said earlier on TS, Marama got 76%; she won easily. The Greens know what they want. Not sure she is as good with the media as Genter-maybe a bit of training might be useful here just to get the messages across clearly.

      • Matthew Whitehead 3.3.1

        Yes, I think if there’s one thing Marama will want to work on, it’s making sure her words address the question clearly and directly. There were a couple moments during the campaign where she answered questions in ways that if you were tuned in you could tell what she meant, but if you weren’t the message got lost in the emotion of the moment because her reply either wasn’t grammatically agreeing with the question, or simply didn’t give an entirely clear answer despite having been clearly intended to. Media will absolutely eat those moments up in the future if they come on a critical question and can in any way be misinterpreted.

        Being able to communicate emotion effectively will be critical in the next campaign, it’ll be a matter of keeping her genuine style while still cleaning up those moments where her message gets a little fuzzy. It’s worth remembering that Julie Anne has twelve years experience on Marama there, so I think with a little training she’ll be onto it. Her interviews yesterday had almost none of those problems, fortunately. Genter is an amazing debater who can speak very well to mainstream values while still shooting down mainstream ideas in favour of more radical Green ones, but I feel like as a Minister she’ll still get a very large amount of attention, having Marama as co-leader will just increase the total media space for the Greens even more, especially if Julie Anne can coach her to share some of her debating chops. 🙂

  4. Ad 4

    If she gets as many fresh votes as there are words in this post she will have done her job.

    • Matthew Whitehead 4.1

      One day I will learn to make shorter posts, but this is not that day. XD

    • veutoviper 4.2

      Really? GP party vote dropped from 257,356 in 2014 to 162,443 in 2017 – a total of 94,913.

      Using Microsoft Word word count, this post only has 2,510 words w/out title; 2,517 with title. Characters (no spaces) 12,560; (with spaces) 15,056.

      • Ad 4.2.1

        I am sure they will be grateful for any.

        Marama’s core message to the media was that her first duty was to ensure the survival of the Green Party. As your figures show, she got that right.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    While we absolutely have the power to prevent the Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill being passed, (and Davidson was clear she wanted a mandate from Members on whatever the party does in these sorts of situations) it might be a relatively small concession1 to secure New Zealand First’s co-operation and a political battle worth losing in order to get their co-operation on other bills, especially if the legislation can be made less painful.

    When ~77% of the population support the idea of the bill then it should be passing. Now, I can understand National not wanting to pass it as they remember the 1990s and that such an act would have prevented them from continuing in power but the Greens should actually be better here.

    As I say, with the community support this has then the Greens should be supporting it but getting as many changes to it so as to prevent, as near as possible, abuse of it.

    The reality is that we have a benefit system in this country that encourages people to lie to survive.

    Actually, it’s so bad that it pretty much forces people to and it will punish people even if they didn’t.

    • Matthew Whitehead 5.1

      I’m sorry, how exactly did you get 77% support for the EIA?

      The Greens have always opposed legislation like this. I am actually one of the more supportive Greens of this legislation, as while I don’t like it, I also don’t think it’s a big deal and am willing to lose that battle and move on without kicking up a fuss, even though I think if it ended up in place long-term it would be a very dangerous law, increasing risk of elected dictatorships and corruption within our political parties.

      I don’t know if the EIA is popular. Even if it is, that doesn’t make it good law, or even good politics. Suppressing backbench revolts might be great for party leaders, but it can be terrible for the party itself long-term, and certainly for the health of our democracy. The Greens’ position has always been that elections should be what determines when someone enters or leaves parliament, absent any criminal conduct. There is also no mandate from the members or the policy committee to vote in favour of the EIA- technically our caucus has breached our constitution even supporting it this far. My point is more that this may be a dead rat we have to swallow, (and it is a dead rat to us, regardless of your take on the bill) and it will be a legitimate test for Marama how she sells that situation to supporters who aren’t members and don’t get the inside scoop of the various frustrating things that led us to this situation.

      Switching to your other half of your reply, you may be fair in framing our benefit system that way. I tend to pull back in the conclusion.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        I’m sorry, how exactly did you get 77% support for the EIA?


        It’s one of those policies that have maintained high support since the 1990s.

        Suppressing backbench revolts might be great for party leaders, but it can be terrible for the party itself long-term, and certainly for the health of our democracy.

        Or bad for it.
        A list MP is not in parliament on their own platform. They are there on the platform of the party that the voters voted for. This means that they are a representative of the party and by leaving the party they stop being a representative of the party which, in turn, means that they’ve stopped representing the people who voted for the party. If they stay on in parliament as an independent or as part of another party then the people who voted for the party have, as a matter of fact, lost the representation that they voted for which is an injustice.

        If MPs can switch and change parties at will then all sense of representation is gone.

        There is also no mandate from the members or the policy committee to vote in favour of the EIA- technically our caucus has breached our constitution even supporting it this far.

        True. I did try to get the discussion going a few months back to update the position by sending my arguments as to why the Greens should support it to the policy committee.

        • Matthew Whitehead

          I agree that List MPs are there to support the values of the party that they ran for. There is an implicit promise that they are onboard for those values for their entire term in parliament that deserves to be kept regardless of what political label they identify with.

          But there is no reasonable way to test if the part of the electorate that voted for their party still supports a list MP remaining in parliament after their defection, like there is for electorate MPs. The best you could do is put it to members of the relevant party.

          I agree MPs shouldn’t switch or change parties at will. I agree proportionality is important. I don’t agree that party caucuses or party leaders should be fair adjudicators of when that’s gone wrong. I do think the safeguards are better. I think we’ll need to fight for a lot more if we want this to not look like the dead rat it currently is.

          I think it is also incumbent on parties to have robust selection processes to ensure that List MPs want to uphold the values their voters support, and that laws to enforce party loyalty (usually known as “defection laws”) are usually regarded as a sign of corruption, and used to control party whistleblowers and reformers. I think this law is essentially Winston Peters compensating for the fact that his party’s ideology and processes have never been consistent, there is no strong coherent message apart from Whatever Winston Said Recently, and it is unlikely to hold together without assistance.

          While this isn’t the worst thing NZF will likely ask of the government, it is objectively bad law. Defending it by saying it’s popular is a terrible argument. I have defended it as “no longer as bad as its critics say,” but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

      • Bearded Git 5.1.2

        I vote Green and think the Greens should definitely support the EIA bill.

        If you change party as an electorate MP you should resign and fight a by-election and if you change sides as a list MP you got elected on the party’s policies and so should resign and be replaced by the next person on the list.


        • Matthew Whitehead

          It’s not that simple though. Sometimes list MPs who rebel *will* have the support of those people who voted for their party, and sometimes you won’t. You dislike the current sitution where they’re left in parliament but don’t represent their voters, some people feel equally strongly about the situation where they’re kicked out for representing their voters.

          Given the secret nature of New Zealand’s elections, there is no way to hold a ballot of party voters. We can use party leaders or party caucuses as proxies, like this bill does, but that makes us vulnerable to parties clamping down on what little remains of backbench independence- in a way it is no surprise we have epidemics of splinter parties in New Zealand, given Labour’s and National’s constant attempts to enforce discipline on MPs. I have heard stories of MPs being whipped on issues where their votes aren’t critical but their opinions are deeply held and important to them, all because it might embarass a senior MP or result in a mildly critical story in the media. That’s not leadership, and there is a disturbing trend to the direction this bill takes us.

          I do think what you describe should be the ordinary process. But I think this bill is just as bad, if not worse than, the problem it purports to fix.

          • Dennis Frank

            I hope the select committee process will give the waka-jumping legislation serious consideration because there’s merit on both sides of the argument. Being also a bearded git, I acknowledge the simple view espoused and would rather the Greens support it than reject it. Two reasons.

            First, pragmatism: the coalition govt is being supported by the Greens. I feel supporting NZF on this is better for the future of Aotearoa than opposing them. In the spirit of consensus, I want this govt to operate according to plan.

            Second, principle: in politics only a moron discounts the social contract. Winston’s a lawyer. He knows the awesome power of contract law. We are now in the era of verbal contracts. Anyone entering parliament as the rep of a party or electorate ought to understand that they are bound by their contract to their electors. Winston, correctly, has learnt from personal experience that tacit recognition of their social contract has been insufficient to bind the behaviour of parliamentarians. Some have decided to advance their political careers by betraying those they represent.

            Betrayal is a very serious political choice, signifying a lack of morality in the character of the betrayer. We ought to have social sanctions against it in the structure of our democracy.

            That said, I totally agree with you, Matthew, in your point about whistleblowers & reformers ( People have a natural right to change their mind, and parliamentarians must be able to retain the right to do so when the political context changes sufficiently that they find themselves having to abandon the terms under which they entered their parliamentary contract. So it ain’t quite as simple as the other bearded git has framed it.

            I suspect it may be possible to reach consensus in the select committee on a design that includes both competing principles. Such as allowing a disaffected MP to explain to parliament & public the reasons for their proposed waka-jumping, while declaring their intent to adopt their new position when their mandate lapses and they stand for re-election (only brave or foolish ones will force the cost of a by-election on taxpayers).

        • savenz

          +1 Bearded Git

        • Grey Area

          That’s the way I’ve always looked at it too. But I’ve also always felt that the last people you should have in control of the political process is politicians.

  6. esoteric pineapples 6

    Good piece. It covers all the facets extremely well.

  7. Chris T 7

    Well so far the Greens have done nothing except be invisible and suck up to Labour, so I doubt she will make much of a difference.

  8. The Chairman 8

    “It will require both authenticity and restraint in equal measure from Marama”

    As a counter to Shaw, supporters will be expecting to see some difference with Marama as co-leader. With many hoping she secures some wins, hence the party can’t afford to be seen as restraining her or forcing her to restrain herself.

    • Incognito 8.1

      I don’t see her as “a counter” to Shaw but as “complementary”; they are equal as co-leaders with the only real exception that Shaw has been the sole co-leader or figurehead, if you like, since Metiria Turei stepped down. Not only was this inevitable but also necessary and fortunately the Greens did make it back into Parliament.

      I have to say that many of your comments regarding the Greens seem to miss the essence of who the Greens are and what they stand for.

      • The Chairman 8.1.1

        Shaw is largely seen as soft and too willing to kowtow to Labour, hence I don’t see too many Marama supporters being happy with her being complementary to that.

  9. Sumsuch 9

    Marama Davidson seems to be the most thoroughly educated demo-cratist I’ve seen. But is she a beacon of communication like Ardern? I doubt she can emote as diarrheaticly. Integrity will have to do. The other question, is she intelligent? Why Rightos like Phil Goff and the Wellington woman maintained their place in the last Labour Govt.

  10. Sumsuch 10

    Annette King

  11. Jenny 11

    What do we want from Marama Davidson?

    “Ardern to end to offshore oil exploration, with short reprieve for Taranaki”
    Stuff.co.nz, April 12 2018

    If by short you mean until 2050, that is….

    Oil companies also hold 31 active oil permits, 22 of which are offshore. While the last of the permits ends in 2030, if a discovery is made, production could continue for decades.


    What could change all that, is active protest on the water, and on the land, against fossil fuel exploitation and exploration.

    Politics is all about pressure.

    In Canada, British Columbia Premier, John Horgan has come out strongly against the Kinder Morgan oil sands pipeline.

    Politics is all about pressure. John Horgan, like all politicians, do not live in a vacuum, they have to act in the political environment they find themselves in.

    It is the massive grass roots protests against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline that have given this politician the courage to make the stand he has.

    All power and respect to John Horgan of course.

    But it was the protests that strengthened and enabled John Horgan to make his stand against this massive oil company, in return John Horgan’s stand will strengthen the protests.

    The key is the protests.

    It was the protests on the water that gave NZ politicians the courage to oppose nuclear ship visits.

    Currently protests on the water against deep sea oil drilling and exploration is illegal.

    On the 30th of this month, in the Napier District Court Greenpeace Director Russel Norman and co-defendant Sara Howel are facing serious jail time after being charged for being in breach of the Andarko Amendment, which is the law that forbids protesting at sea.

    The success of the anti-nuclear movement came when activism at the flax roots was tied to activism in parliament.

    I will be asking the Green Party leaders to back a private members bill in parliament to repeal the Andarko Amendment.

    The high profile trial and prosecution of Russel Norman and Sara Howel under the Andarko Amendment may be the catalyst needed to power up the protests that will stop all oil exploration in this country.

    The new Green Party Co-leader with an activist background and with links to Labour’s powerful Maori Caucus tapping into concerns about Kaitiaki around the seabed and foreshore will be vital in moving Labour MPs to vote to repeal the Andarko Amendment, and re-empower the protests that will stop put a stop to all oil and gas prospecting off our coasts.

    Make it rain girl, make it rain.

  12. Jenny 12

    P.S. The powerful protests on the water by Te Whanau a Apanui and Greenpeace that drove Petrobras from our coast. Show what is possible.

    It is my opinion that if our parliament repeals the Andarko Amendment, the oil companies seeing the writing on the wall, will get the message and quit while they are still ahead.


  13. xanthe 13

    The thing is there is an assumption that marama==left. I cant actually see that
    One example is her position that maori own the water. This is actually a hard right nationalistic position and one that is founded on neoliberalism . It is in no sense a “left” position… what is going on here? … the left wing position and the one that is founded on ecological wisdom has to be that water is the taonga of all . There is a serious collective reality-disconnect going on here.

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    1 week ago
  • Government supports local innovation in homelessness prevention
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  • Government delivers ACC change to support 28,000 parents
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  • Further cuts for East Coast tarakihi limits to rebuild numbers faster
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  • New Ambassador to Colombia announced
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  • 3000 more RSE workers to ease workforce pressures
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  • Sanctions on more of the Russian political elite
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