So go have a read of that first before we digest exactly what caused the Greens to slump to 4% in the polls yesterday.
Ok, got all that, good. Now lets us proceed.
And for those thinking that I am linking old material to crow about the current situation with the Greens by saying "Look, I was right" I wish to assure the reader that, as with my long running calls on this blog to get rid of Andrew Little as way to fix the issues with Labour, my intent is less to gloat but rather to point out that the things that have caused this current crisis for the Greens are not unprecedented and have, in fact, been around for some time now.
And its been over a year since I originally wrote that post for Kiwipolitico, so what James Shaw and Co are facing today has its roots well before Metria Turei's benefit fraud furor (which was merely a trigger for the current crisis) rather than this being some sort storm that came out of no where.
So what we shall do is take snippets of what I wrote a year ago and compare them with what is happening today; starting with the recent poll slump.
What I wrote a year a ago:
Every new voter to the Greens that is merely running from the nitwit antics in Labour will run straight back if Labour shapes up and flies right (geddit?)
It was clear, even a year a go, that much of the voter base which was swelling the Greens polling were refugees from Labour who were not happy with how things were under Andrew Little and were transferring their support to the Greens. But that if the factors which were bedeviling Labour were to change (like replacing Andrew with Jacinda) then they would go straight back.
And with Jacinda Ardern taking over they returned like a wayward pet finding its way back home after being absent for several years.
Then there is the re-branding that the Greens have undertaken since James Shaw took over which have seen them move away from their traditional issues (like the environment) to wider social issues (such as social welfare and "budget responsibility").
What I wrote a year ago:
Shaw himself is pro-market and believes that it can be reformed to be sustainable, which is a laudable sentiment for a member of the young Nats but not in a party like the Greens. These kind of ideas, Shaw’s background and the recent statements from the party about doing and end run around Labour to work with National on some issues show that the Greens of the past may soon be replaced by the “Greens” of the future
Well the "Greens of the future" arrived and not only did it cause a split within the party (with some the older environmental types, obviously put out by Shaw's wholesale importing of the Kool Kidz into the party over them) but also ticked off its potential coalition partner, Labour, by doing things like supporting National on the budget and not sticking to the terms of the MOU (they signed with with Labour) by not telling them what they were going to do in advance.
So in dissecting the Green party at this current time it’s not the past to which I am concerned but the future and to put it simply it looks like the Greens are about to (take a deep breath and say it with me) compromise. In daily use compromise is not a bad term but in politics it almost always means abandoning your principles to reach a short term expediency at the cost of both your long term supporters and policy goals
And compromise (as well as abandon) their principles they did, which did no favors to Greens, or its core voter base who have obviously revolted given how the party is currently polling. This is also the place where Metria Turei's duplicity over benefit and electoral fraud came back to haunt the Greens by stripping away in short order the previous air of moral untouchability that had long protected the Greens like a magic cloak.
Add in the fact that Shaw was obviously clearing house behind the scenes by culling key Green party staff and the structural weaknesses were multiplied..
What I wrote a year ago:
Personality conflicts in politics are not new and party staff generally know not to contradict the leader but when key staff are either removed (as in the case of Spagnolo) or leaving in droves (as with the other three) it takes more than claims of “coincidence” to assuage the growing feeling that something is not right in the good ship Green
Shaw removed, or drove out at least four key staff members in the wake of his taking charge of the Greens and this gutting of older hands within the party obviously left it bereft of the saner minds that would never have endorsed any of the things the party has been doing recently; like its sudden lurch into social issues and instead counseled sticking to the older, slower, but also successful, formula of primary environmental concerns.
I am pretty sure that evicted Coms and policy director David Cormack (or exiled chief press secretary Leah Haines) would not have advised that Metria Turei make her benefit fraud admission, but they were obviously not around at the time that that plan was hatched and whoever had replaced them was either asleep at the wheel or dancing to Shaw's tune.
Then there is James Shaw himself, who I have never been comfortable about:
The obvious cause is new male co-leader James Shaw himself, who with his corporate background with HSBC (the money launderers bank of choice) and PriceWaterhouseCoopers (an organisation with so many scandals attached to its name I will not relate them here but encourage any who are interested to have a dig themselves) seems an extremely unusual choice for a party whose charter explicitly states “unlimited material growth is impossible” in two of its four articles.
Shaw has always presented his time working in the corporate sector as something laudable and virtuous but the fact is he was working for major corporate actors with dodgy track records and backgrounds and all the sustainability projects in the third world were never going to remove the fact that he sought to work with them rather than the usual, and more ethically sound, run of NGOs that are not as tainted as HSBC or PWC.
Then we add in these rumors which I had herd about Shaw at the time:
a) Shaw is a corporate Trojan horse (ala Don Brash in both the National and ACT coups); b) Shaw is an agent provocateur in the pay of the security services (not so astounding once you realize that it’s a known fact that the security services have had paid informants in environmental groups since the 90s; or c) the Greens have a serious case of political blue balls and are now prepared to do anything (and I mean “anything”) to get into power.
At this time I would say that Shaw is in fact a combination of all three. His miracle rise within the party, his clear alignment away from traditional Green issues and his willingness to work with National mean that I would not be surprised if Shaw was revealed to be part of some secret nexus of corporate power and the security-services which are focused on destroying the Greens from within by having Shaw hijack the party and steer it to disaster. It would make perfect sense.
But thats not all because there was also the issue that the path Shaw was charting for the Greens was one of known dangers:
But there are a few problems with this scenario and Shaw would do well to heed the lessons of history when it comes to playing with fire. The fate of the Lib Dems in the UK, the Maori Party and NZ First should serve as warnings to any minor party leader willing to put short term expediency ahead of long term progress.
But did he listen, no he did not, and in a few short months has destroyed over 20 years of hard work by former and current party members.
And even if Shaw does not turn out to be a traitorous worm working for dark forces he will go down in NZ political history as a naive imbecile who simply did not understand that the strength of the Greens was its strict adherence to its principles and environmental line rather than trying to be like every other party in parliament.
At the time I compared Shaw and Turei to the lead characters of the Rocky Horror Picture Show:
If this is the case then James Shaw and Metiria Turei are the Brad and Janet of NZ politics while Key is Frank N Furter (with possibly Winston as Riff Raff, Andrew Little as Dr Scott and yours truly as the Narrator).
John key is gone and its hard to imagine Bill English will ever admit his cross dressing habit but if you wanted naive dupes who got sucked in and enslaved to their lusts by a shady hucksters (as Brad and Janet were by Frank N Furter) you do not need to go any further than Shaw and Turei who seemed to not understand what was waiting for them once they decided to get into politics for real.
And from last year this was my summation of the situation:
If we discount the “coincidence” argument in favor of a more holistic approach we see that new leadership with new ideas, mass changes in key staff and indications of attempts to exit the political corner that the Greens have painted themselves into shows a party on the cusp of a major political shift, a party that is smelling the winds of change and planning to take full advantage of them.
As of today the Greens are polling at 4% because of that "shift" and James Shaw is saying they will get back to 10%, and I wish him good luck with that because I will be surprised if they even make 8% given how Labour, and Jacinda, have surged in the polls.
Shaw stripped out the party to make it in his own image and when things were good the issues were ignored for continuing the focus on Shaw's plans to get into power. But when things started going wrong all those structural weaknesses which Shaw had brought into play suddenly complicated and lead to where the Greens are now.
And to be really clear it was not the Metria Turei benefit fraud thing that did it for the Greens, it did set a clear line for Green voters but it was not what sunk her or the party.
What did sink the her and the party was the discovery that she had also committed electoral fraud, the defection/loss of two key MPs, Shaw's bungling of the matter with in the media and the rise of Jacinda Ardern (and the subsequent resurrection of Labour) which sucked all those ex-Labour voters out of the Green vote base and back to the Labour bandwagon, and in doing so exposed the Greens as weak, divided and therefor susceptible to whatever predators were circling.
But if that kind of analysis is too complex then what has happened to Shaw and the Greens can be summed up in the song Falling by Teenage Fan Club and De La Soul where the line repeated all throughout is "you played yourself".
And Shaw and the Greens have played themselves, right royally into 4% public polling.
I am going to end with this little snippet from last year and ask the reader to consider if the following statement, made then, remains true now:
But at the end of the day the Greens are still a party which is currently fighting the good fight and with an entirely justified moral stance and matching policy prescriptions. When you match up any doubts about the party with the generally disgusting and loathsome behavior of the rest of the rabble in parliament a few potential worries about their direction pale into significance.
Let me know in the comments section.