Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: February 20

The Greens have been riding a wave of confidence after massive success at the general election. Photo / Greg Bowker
The Greens have been riding a wave of confidence after massive success at the general election. Photo / Greg Bowker

A more hard-nosed Green Party is in evidence at the moment. After the party's impressive success in the general election - bringing in 14 MPs (7 of whom are new) - the leadership is riding a wave of confidence (or 'arrogance' according to some commentators). The party is flexing its political muscle and appears more serious, relevant and effective than ever before. Together with Winston Peters, the Greens are leading much of the political debate in opposition to the National Government. Whereas the party once appeared shy of success and humble about any achievements, the leadership is now talking about growing its vote and being an 'equal' of the Labour Party. In particular, co-leader Metiria Turei has warned other parties to treat the Greens with respect - see TVNZ'sGreen Party won't be anyone's little brother and John Hartevelt's Greens refuse to play political little sibling.

The Green's new approach means they are no longer a party of 'amateurs or hippies', but of hard-nosed strategists who operate more like a traditional political party - in particular seeking out voters in the middle of the political spectrum. This new strategy saw the party's electoral support jump from 6.7% in 2008 to 11.1% in 2011 - a result which endorsed Turei and Russel Norman's highly pragmatic and professionalised approach. So we can now expect that direction to continue.

Nonetheless, the Greens have sounded more like their former selves lately with vocal criticism of the Government, and populist attempts to court nationalist support over opposition to foreign investment. Metiria Turei's speech at the weekend was a strident attack on National - see: Turei lashes out at John Key and National 'cronyism at its worst': Greens. This is a smart political strategy whereby the Greens are attempting to benefit from National's array of vulnerabilities by packaging them into a narrative that proclaims 'Aotearoa is up for sale'. The Greens talk about the Government not only selling 'our assets', but also 'our farms' to the Chinese Government, and 'our laws to the highest bidder' (such as SkyCity). Expect more of this narrative from the Greens and other opposition parties. However, despite this antagonism towards National, the Greens say they are still willing to work 'constructively' with them. They are also willing to give the Government some sort of legitimacy by signing up to another 'Memorandum of Understanding' and refuse to rule-out joining a National coalition government after the next election.

The biggest social policy issue at the moment seems to be housing. Bernard Hickey has written a must-read opinion piece on this. Gordon Campbell also laments the Government's unwillingness to comprehend and deal with a growing national housing crisis, especially 'Auckland's shortage of affordable housing' which he says 'is set to get worse, not better'. Also today, Simon Collins draws attention to the fact that Housing New Zealand has axed 'a service which has worked with other agencies to find private rental homes for people who can't get state houses. This decision reinforces that Housing NZ is 'ending all its social services and would concentrate on its "core function" of managing state houses.' Part of the reason housing is in the public spotlight at the moment is the protest in the Auckland suburb of Glen Innes over the weekend. In response, John Key has reiterated National's line that State houses not 'for life'.

Paul Holmes continues to draw flak for his column about Waitangi Day - most notably in a condemning Herald on Sunday editorial: It's not always all about you, Paul. The paper labels Holmes' column an 'ignorant and reactionary rant', and says it 'was not responsible, intelligent journalism, but inflammatory rhetoric.The latest outburst also smacked of an abuse of his position. A spittle-flecked rant from go to whoa, it did not attempt to mount any semblance of a coherent argument'. Rachel Stewart in the Taranaki Daily News is also appalled. And added to that, a number of prominent Maori intellectuals have come out against Holmes, questioning his ability to host TVNZ's Q+A programme.

Also on the issue of ethnicity, both Denis Welch and David Farrar have called out the media for their inaccurate wording on the issue of the Crafar farm sales. Their complaint is that - just as Paul Holmes crudely lumped all Maori together in his critique of Maori nationalist protesters - journalists keep talking about 'the Chinese' buying New Zealand farms. For more on the Crafar farms debacle, see John Armstrong's Not-so public process backfires in Crafar case.

The National Government is also likely to receive some heat for Mediaworks' decision to stop playing 100% New Zealand music on its beleaguered radio station Kiwi FM. As the NBR points out, the 'previous government granted the station free FM frequencies in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, on the proviso that it would use the spectrum to promote local music'. There is a suggestion that National should now be putting Mediaworks' three Kiwi FM frequencies up for tender.

Other important political items today include Duncan Garner's report on the latest opinion poll, Patrick Leyland's response - More good news for Labour, and Danyl Mclauchlin's blog post, Haruspicy in which he discusses where each parliamentary party is going.

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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