Chris Trotter’s column in The Independent (which I’ve been unable to find on-line) addresses the greying of the Greens.
Nine years ago, when Rod Donald and his “Magnificent Seven” cantered up the steps of Parliament like a herd of eager, old-order destroying centaurs, their public image was one of youthful exuberance, reckless idealism and what might almost be called political gaiety. It was a mirage. Even then, most of the Green Party caucus were well into their 40s and 50s. Their most youthful member, Nandor Tanczos, was 33.
Nine years on, the youngest member of the Green caucus (and likely to remain so) is the 38 year-old Metiria Turei. Robbed of the ever-youthful personality of the late rod Donald the Greens have taken on a distinctly middle-aged appearance. … The average of the top 12 placeholders on the party list is a bracing (and very baby-boomerish) 52 years.
…I had foolishly assumed the Greens would be offering the electorate a party list chock full of candidates under 40: people whose best years were still in front of them and whose political lives would be dominated by climate change and peak oil, not Vietnam and the Springbok tour.
Setting aside the ageist comment that at an average 52 their best years are behind them, it is interesting Trotter should define the Green MPs and candidates, not by environmental issues by social ones. And that is water-melon factor (green on the outside, red in the middle) which explains why the Greens have failed to gain much traction.
Had they been moderate on social and economic issues they would be the one party in the middle of the political spectrum which actually stood for something; and their ability to coalesce with either Labour or National would have ensured they achieved at least some of it.
Instead they are in the perpetual wilderness to the left of Labour so in spite of the cosy photo-ops of Helen Clark and Jeanette Fitzsimmons before the 2005 elections the Greens were left out of coalition talks at the behest of NZ First and United. The few achievements they are remembered for are not environmental but social – like the smacking ban, or socialist – buy NZ made. And while achieving little or nothing of note environmentally they have continued to support, or at least abstain on confidence and supply, a Labour-led Government which has overseen the worst deforestation in decades and an alarming increase in carbon emissions.
…Another 7% result would, however, be enough to bring ninth-ranked Kennedy Graham into parliament. A highly experienced and successful diplomat, lawyer and academic, Graham will bring an aura of upper-middle-class respectability to the Greens.
“It’s fair to say that, at 62, Graham (who is Sir Douglas Graham’s younger brother) is unlikely to attract a very big chunk of the youth vote.
But he might attract some of the middle-aged and older people who have the time and money to worry about saving the world.
Respectability would appear to be the watchword these days in the Green party…Departing from the parliamentary scene is of course …Nandor Tanczos.
He takes with him much of the party’s heart and spirit: that indefinable quality that distinguishes the Green ideology from mere environmentalism…What he was prepared to do was lead the fight to end the Green’s unhealthy passive-aggressive relationship with the Labour Party.
It was time he told me to reinvent the old Green slogan: “Not of the Left, not of the right but in front” with renewed meaning.
Fearing this could lead the party to enter into a coalition with the National party, the econ-socialist wing of the Greens organised hard and successfully to ensure the ex-pat Australian political scientist (Russell) Norman defeated Tanczos in the race for the party’s co-leadership.
…In 2008 however, it is the words of Virginia Horrock, No 19 on the Green Party list, that resonate most disturbingly. “I want to persuade my generation to face up to what has happened to the earth under our watch, I am keen to encourage grandparents/baby boomers to make the earth their final gift to the next generations. Green voters are predominantly over 55, like me, so I feel I can appeal to them as people with the same concerns.”
Noble sentiments, Virginia, but revolutions are not made by people who are “predominantly over 55”.
No, but they are more likely to vote and appealing to them with sound environmental policy without scaring them with a radical social and economic agenda would give them a powerful position in the centre, where the power of MMP politics lies.