Morgan Godfery

Morgan Godfery is a law student and former Labour staffer

Morgan Godfery: Mana ready to pick up disaffected Green-activist vote

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Green Party leader Russel Norman. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Green Party leader Russel Norman. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman may not know it - he may not even care - but he just lost more than 1 per cent of the Greens' party vote.

Norman's shameless sacrifice of billboard defacer Jolyon White highlights the chasm that exists between the Greens' activist base and its new voter target - the middle class.

In lusher times, the Greens were a party of activists. However, Norman has indicated that activism is out of step with the Greens' identity in 2011.

Of course, this move was hardly unexpected. The Greens are trying, with much success, to break the small-party mould and "move into the suburbs".

The party is downplaying talk of cannabis law reform, giving proper recognition to Maori rights and taking radical action on climate change. Instead, Green Party rhetoric focuses on clean rivers, green jobs and other suburban middle-of-the-road talking points.

The test for the Greens was to achieve broad appeal without alienating their core constituency. Norman has just failed this test. But where will the activist vote go?

The Labour Party, excluding maybe Young Labour, is not home to hard-edged activism.

Having said that, the party's repositioning to the left may attract a small number of Green voters. Smaller socialist parties are, as many Green activists will figure, a wasted vote.

This leaves the Mana Party. The Maori aspect of Mana ensures that the environment is recognised, for example through Mana's kaitiakitanga (environmental protection) policies.

The left aspect of Mana ensures that a socialist agenda is recognised as well. The main attractions are, however, the high priests and priestesses of activism - Hone Harawira, Annette Sykes, John Minto and former Green MP Sue Bradford.

According to iPredict, the Mana Party is forecast to win 2.3 per cent of the party vote. If it also got the disaffected Green vote of about 1 per cent, Harawira, Sykes, Minto and Bradford would be guaranteed to enter Parliament after the election.

Bradford has already opened the door to disaffected activists, attacking Norman and the Green leadership for "dobbing in" White.

If Green activists accept Mana's invitation, the Greens will lose their base and ability to contest grassroots campaigns. Mana, on the other hand, will be one step closer to building a "movement" and the party can add to its burgeoning base of activists.

A stronger Mana Party will have interesting political consequences. The Mana Party, or movement, as its members like it to be called, is about tearing down the walls from the outside as opposed to effecting change from within.

Having access to the skilled and experienced Green-activist base makes this goal slightly more achievable.

A stronger Mana may also further marginalise the Maori Party. If the Maori Party doesn't secure Maori voters, and Mana moves beyond left-leaning Maori, then the Maori Party will no longer be sustainable and National will lose its most reliable coalition partner.

The stronger the Mana Party, the more chance it will eventually hold the balance of power. If this occurs, Mana will, naturally, support a left-wing government. This could conceivably preclude the possibility of a right-wing government for a generation.

Norman's decision may have significant consequences. Watch this space.

- NZ Herald

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