WikiLeaks cable: Co-leader's death likely to steer NZ's Green Party further left

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

November 25, 2005
Co-leader's death likely to steer NZ's Green Party further left

date:2005-11-25T03:19:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:05WELLINGTON907
destination:This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.
classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:05WELLINGTON692
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000907

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO (STEPHENS)
AND EAP/ANP
NSC FOR VICTOR CH...
?C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000907

SIPDIS

STATE FOR D (FRITZ), EAP/FO (STEPHENS)
AND EAP/ANP
NSC FOR VICTOR CHA
SECDEF FOR OSD/ISA ELIZABETH PHU
PACOM FOR J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ
AIT FOR DAVID KEEGAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2015
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, NZ
SUBJECT: CO-LEADER'S DEATH LIKELY TO STEER NZ'S GREEN PARTY
FURTHER LEFT

REF: WELLINGTON 692

Classified By: DCM David R. Burnett,
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

Summary
--------

1. (C) New Zealand's Green Party is likely to move further
left following the unexpected death of its relatively
pragmatic co-leader Rod Donald. The Greens, who garnered
about 5% of the party vote in September's general election,
are in a confidence and supply agreement with the Labour
coalition Government. Because the party's votes are not
needed for Labour to form a Parliamentary majority, they have
little real influence on Government policy. But if the
current coalition collapses, for example because of a
defection by Foreign Minister (and NZ First leader) Winston
Peters, Labour might have to make concessions to the more
radicalized Greens to form a new Government. This would hurt
Labour's standing among more mainstream New Zealanders. End
Summary.

2. (C) The death of Green Party co-leader Rod Donald is
proving to be a decisive moment for the political future of
the Green movement in New Zealand. Donald was a pragmatist
who had a unique appeal across parties and to the wider
electorate. He was the only Green who could communicate with
business, and although companies often disagreed with him he
did not frighten or anger them the way his fellow party
members usually do. As reported reftel, Donald was also the
only Green MP to reach out to the Embassy. As was made
obvious following his shocking, sudden death from a rare
myocardial virus on Nov. 19, even non-Green Kiwis favorably
regarded Donald as
someone who lived by his principles. His consistently upbeat
manner made a mark in this somewhat depressive society,
particularly in contrast to his more dour co-leader, Jeanette
Fitzsimons.

3. (C) The post-Donald Green Party is certainly not doomed,
but it will almost definitely change its character. Despite
the belief that personalities do not matter and that the
Green vision and mission is bigger than any one advocate, the
party under the next co-leader is likely to be more of a
zealot than a pragmatist. Donald left the Green Party without
an obvious successor. There are, however, three identifiable
candidates for the co-leadership, who must be male under the
Party,s constitution. All are more radical and less
pragmatic than Donald. Two, Keith Locke and Nandor Tanczos,
are MPs. The third, Russell Norman, is the party's national
campaign manager.

4. (C) Neither Lock nor Tanczos have the same sort of
broader leadership appeal of Donald, appealing instead to the
fervent core of loyal Green supporters. Locke lacks Donald's
ebullience. A returning member of the Parliamentary Foreign
Affairs
Select Committee, Locke is a passionate leftist crusader with
an incontrovertible and unwavering mistrust of United States
foreign policy. He has, for example, been a loud and
constant critic of the NZ Government's decision to send SAS
troops to Afghanistan, claiming that NZ should not be
supporting what Locke claims are US "war crimes" there.
Tanczos, a half-Hungarian Rastafarian, was squeezed out of
Parliament by the Greens' reduced party votes in the last
election. He reentered Parliament to replace Donald. An
amiable man, Tanczos is best known in New Zealand for his
relentless campaign to legalize marijuana, which -- together
with his dreadlocks -- has definitely detracted from his
gravitas. (The marijuana stigma has also moved from Tanczos
himself to taint the party as a whole, leading some Green
Party officials
to express frustration that the party is now automatically
associated with the drug.) Tanczos' first public act since
returning to Parliament has been to decry the decision of a
South Island dairy to stop selling its milk in glass bottles.


5. (C) Russell Norman, the national campaign manager who
does not sit in Parliament, is most frequently mentioned as
the possible replacement for Donald. An Australian with a PhD
in politics, Norman has Donald,s enthusiasm but little of
his pragmatism.
He does, however, have organizational skills, a decided asset
in a party traditionally weak in them. He also has broad
Green experience in both New Zealand and Australia. Although
selecting a co-leader from outside parliament would be
unusual, it would not necessarily lack credibility with
Greens themselves, who have always emphasized
grassroots accountability.

The Greens: Little effect on policy under present
circumstances
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. (C) Despite Donald's best efforts, the Greens were unable
to get their hands
on the levers of power after the election. Under Donald, the
Greens played a much
more supportive role for Labour in 2005 and were explicitly
clear in their
willingness to form a coalition and have a place in Cabinet.
Much to the distress of Donald personally, this did not
happen. If anything, the Green influence on policy has
weakened under this Government. Even if the post-Donald Green
Party moves left, it
will not have much, if any, effect on the political direction
of the Government. There
is little trust between the hard left of the Greens and the
hard left of the Labour
Party. Although there may be some synergy in areas of
industrial relations and labor issues between the two,
Labour's left remains skeptical of and nervous towards their
Green counterparts, seeing them more as rivals than as
colleagues.

But...
-------

7. (C) If, however, NZ First leader Winston Peters defects
(or is booted) from Labour's governing coalition and the
arrangement collapses, PM Clark will only be able to form a
new Government if she can demonstrate continued Green
support, as she
will have lost the seven NZ First MPs she has used to form a
majority. (Indeed, a Labour Party official has told us that
the Greens are Labour's "insurance policy" in case Peters
breaks out of the coalition.) The now more-radicalized
Greens would in this case be in a much stronger position to
demand policy concessions, a seat in Cabinet, or both. This
in turn could seriously undermine Labour's standing in the
polls among more "mainstream" New Zealanders, a prospect that
the opposition National Party would certainly exploit.

8. (C) Perhaps because there is no clear successor for
Donald, the Greens are in no hurry to elect one, and recently
announced they will not do so until the party's Annual
General Meeting next June. The decision on who will replace
Donald will be determined after the party decides the
direction of its post-Donald policies. But their decision is
very likely to be a bigger move to the hard left, as the
biggest and most effective voice of pragmatism is no longer
on the scene.
McCormick

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 16 Sep 2014 16:47:20 Processing Time: 446ms