It's suddenly easier being Green. Everyone's talking about how NZ First is going to make itself King or Queen-maker after next year's election, but nobody has been paying attention to the Greens as the party quietly goes about achieving what has never been done before. Be a support party in an MMP Government and stay above five per cent.
After an election result that netted them 6.3 per cent after they had received 10 per cent in the 2014 election, and reached the dizzying heights of 15 per cent after Metiria Turei's infamous and brave beneficiary speech just weeks before the 2017 election, the Greens set about rebuilding.
There was a bruising co-leader election between Marama Davidson and Julie Anne Genter which saw Davidson elected in somewhat of a landslide. People had already begun to write the party's obituary before that, but more people came out to say the Greens were shot. Davidson represented the "social justice" side of the party, while male co-leader James Shaw, who had worked so hard to drag them through the 2017 election, was more environmental but still a bit corporate. Just who did the Green Party think it would appeal to?
So many people have said to me "if the Greens would just focus on the environment, I think they'd do really well". The people who say this are also people who would never vote for the Greens so thanks for the hot takes.
I'm also often asked if the rumours are true that there is massive internal dissent in the Green Party membership. There is dissent in the Green Party membership like there would be dissent in every political party. Not everybody who pays their membership dues has the same values. Some people join the Greens for purely environmental reasons, some join it because it gives a voice to those who are often marginalised and silenced, others might join the Greens because it is still the most progressive voice in New Zealand politics regardless of how blue you think James Shaw might be.
And while people give endless credit to New Zealand First for being a handbrake on progressive change, a lot of the change that has managed to pass has come from the Green Party. The oil and gas ban came from the Greens, paid leave for victims of domestic violence was Jan Logie's bill, re-establishing the mental health commission, the Greens. DoC getting more funding, the Greens, removing some cruel and pointless benefit sanctions are Green policies, the cannabis referendum next year is only happening because of the Greens and the new rent-to-own component of KiwiBuild is Green Party policy.
Most significantly is the Zero Carbon Act, the establishment of the Climate Commission, and putting a price on agricultural emissions. These are all things that have yet to become legislation but the fact that they've been brought before parliament at all is because of the Greens.
It's not just the Green Party's achievements that has seen its polling stay above the 5 per cent mark, but also Labour's weakness on the left. Nearly all the things that those on the left were excited about that Labour promised seem to have been overly ambitious. KiwiBuild tanked, meaningful tax reform tanked, and now it seems that the light rail in Auckland is looking shaky.
The tax reform issue is now tricky for the Greens. It has faced constant flack from its base and pundits for having agreed to the Budget Responsibility Rules, and a capital gains tax that excluded the family home has been a central plank of the party for a long time. In fact James Shaw said earlier in the debate around tax reform that if the Government didn't pass a capital gains tax, it possibly didn't deserve to be elected.
But then the Prime Minister said there wouldn't be a capital gains tax so long as she was Prime Minister. This means if the Greens continue to campaign on one, the party is effectively campaigning against the Prime Minister. And while it's important to differentiate yourself from your big coalition partner, campaigning on something that is just flat out an impossibility seems a fool's folly.
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Instead we could see something like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders' Wealth Tax, or a land tax. Something creative and imaginative. The Green Party has always delivered really future-facing policy that seems out-there at the time but then inevitably becomes mainstream.
The biggest concern that seemed to plague the Green Party was that if you let it loose on the Treasury benches, it would ruin our economy with crazy eco-socialist policies. Given the Green Party is part of a Government that is running an economy that is being praised globally, I think we can put that notion to bed.
With National, ACT and NZ First staking themselves out as having little to no appetite for delivering meaningful climate policy, and Labour seemingly unable to get any over the line, an election focused on our climate should mean that the Greens return with a significantly higher share of the vote than 6.3 per cent, and that will be deserved. Here's hoping for some creative policies to help New Zealanders and New Zealand live in a better tomorrow.
• David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green parties and interned for Bill English while studying.