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Friday, 18 August 2017

Campaign Fail: Why the Greens blew it

I am going to start this post by linking (here) to a re-post from KP that I did in April on this blog about the Greens.

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.

Last year:

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.


  1. This all tells us something else which I think is fundamental. There is an underlying level of social conservatism in most Western countries. [ rule of law, family values, traditional outlook, and decency]
    It seems to be buried by progressive liberalism, but it is there .
    The Greens, Shaw and the others lived in the political kitchen. and did not go outside the group where the base of reality is different.
    Any politician working in the kitchen or wanting to be a political operator needs a mentor on the outside who is an average citizen, and not associated with any party .. .
    The mentor would want to share your outlook to some degree but must have those tootsies firmly on the ground.
    James Shaw now, collapses socially and spiritually before our eyes.

    In the last few days there has been also New Zealand First’s dramatic lurch left, and an immediate and equal rapid shift from of the disaffected NATs back to blue rinse.
    The social policies WP launched seemed to many as similar o the insane socialism appearing in Jacinderalla land . So the horses panicked, and bolted back to the stables.

    The established left are now firmly seen to be in the socialist communist camp, a Labour base of beneficiaries and fluffy academics, now topped up with thegirly followers.
    New Zealanders will not go with this flighty unstable communist style left.

    Winston Peters appears to be set on draining the swamp which is Labour as Jacinderella communism in lala land. A final burst of life masks reality.

    There will be a shift from working left toward Winston's pay package.
    Convenient round numbers from WP. and unlikely ever in a Nat based Government
    Winston will lose 2% of his right flank and gain 2% on his left.
    This way he enters a coalition satisfying his left and is the true opposition and in
    I think the referendum is a must. It is that common conservative base.

    Didn’t ever get the best out of your earlier column referring to Greens and Shaw, I got side tracked by that blonde in the photo.,
    You are positioned well on Farrar’s blogroll. This is because you write a good story, as compared to Pablo who fiercely sticks to dogma with a pedantic disciplinarian style.

    1. I would agree with your take on life in the political Kitchen as well as Winston raiding the left to prop up his sagging right.

      Also I think NZ is a highly conservative country and I base that on having lived overseas for more than a decade.

      Some people here might smoke weed and vote green or be all for many liberal ideas, but I, like you, feel there is a deeper conservative streak that exists here (which is why we have things like the tall poppy syndrome) that manifests itself quite often which is why more superficial things like smoking weed and voting green can be so easily broken when stressed.

      I was unaware that NZF was having some voter shift or even a policy lurch: do tell more.

    2. Can you give an example of a country that is in your overseas experience less conservative than New Zealand

    3. Hi DPF:

      Before I give an example of a less conservative country than NZ its probably best to be clear about what I mean by conservative in NZ.

      In NZ we are able to have common social attitudes towards things which are liberal in tone (such as our attitudes towards LGBT people and same sex marriage) but those commonalities often break down when dealt with on an individual level and in a way I never experienced when living overseas.

      So NZ does not have any laws which persecute homosexuality anymore but I remain amazed at how often I encounter negative and hostile attitudes regarding it (and I am not a LGBT person but just aware of such attitudes).

      Also Kiwis often claim to support the idea of social security and a welfare yet the backlash against Meteria Turei for her benefit fraud admission was harsh while the furor over Bill English doing something similar was much more muted.

      And what I think underpins it, if I can borrow the term, is the same things which causes tall poppy syndrome in NZ (and thats a whole another discussion).

      But what I am getting at when I say that NZ is conservatives that we collectively have a rather liberal stance as a society but that stance seems to be more of a veneer that we like to cloak ourselves with rather than actually enact them as individuals.

      So when I lived overseas I lived mostly in Asia and while many of those countries (Japan, Singapore, China, Korea etc) had highly conservatives laws and social structures at one level there was almost an entire absence of the kind of reactive views and attitudes I have experienced in NZ.

      The best example I can think off was how sex and sexuality are enacted in NZ compared to much of Asia.

      If you live in much of Asia you encounter very different and very relaxed attitudes to sex at the individual level which totally blew any stereotypes I had about that part of the world out of the water.

      For example sexuality is often less binary in some of the place I visited in SE Asia, or how sex is treated in Japan (hard to explain unless you lived there).

      But adding to that is all the Europeans and North Americans I met in Asia who seemed to have much less prudish views about life than the Kiwis and Ozzies and feelings about charity certainly (at least for the Euros and Canadians (US excepted here) do not extend to beneficiary bashing.

      It puzzled me for a long time but in the end (for Asia) I put it down to having grown up in a Christian society where there was a requirement to meet certain christian values which seemed to distort things in ceratin ways or and were certainly not present in Asia (although the Muslim S/E has its own views there) or in the case of the North Americans and the Europeans they had much more cosmopolitan and older cultures which did not seem to carry the personal baggage that Kiwis often seemed to have.

      So when I say less conservative it might be hard to construe that in the context of what we normally think as conservative (that harder Christian stance) but thats not what i mean when I say these places are less conservative.

      So when talking about an actual country I would say japan when it comes to sex and Europe in general for ideas about social security.

      I think i might be rambling but I hope that makes sense.

    4. I have lived in Japan, Singapore and China, but despite that I don't at all recognise the attitudes to gender and sexuality you're describing.

      I've also lived in Europe - I'm living there right now - and have seen plenty of beneficiary bashing among Europeans.

    5. Hi Anon: it may be my own personal experience and I am not saying that these place are bastions of liberality (specially Singapore and China) but I do think why NZ has such a conservative streak is because liberal views seem to be expressed more politically than socially and individually (ie we like to align ourselves politically with liberal views and ideas but are not always so in our lives) and that while we cannot see that liberality in their political system we can see it expressed other ways (ie at a more personal level).

      This might be the product of living in political systems which are less liberal and do force them to express any liberal ideas more at a personal and social level which could be why I did notice it as I did.

      One thing I am definite on is that having grown up a catholic and then gone and lived in a non christian society it was very clear how religious views can shape societal ones and NZs Pakeha society was founded by utopian Victorians from the Britain, Scotland and Ireland who brought many of the social views and sexual attitudes from their home countries with them and that those views (at least publicly) on sex and other things were not liberal as we might think it today but rooted in the views of their times.

      As for Europe I have never been there and only have my views from the Europeans I met while overseas so maybe I met only the liberal ones so I cant say for sure as I can for with Asia so you may be right.

    6. "it was very clear how religious views can shape societal ones and NZs Pakeha society was founded by utopian Victorians from the Britain, Scotland and Ireland"

      Not Catholic views, though. Catholics have always been a minority in NZ, sometimes oppressed ones.

      It's interesting that despite my question being about Japan, China and Singapore your answer was mostly about New Zealand.

      Perhaps you could talk more specifically about the gender fluidity you've observed in these countries?

    7. I understand if you'd rather not though.

      Making assertions about a place when you are the only person in the room with experience in that place, and can brush off questions with "you have to live there to understand", is one thing.

      Having a discussion with people who are equally informed is quite another and much more stressful.

    8. No not catholic views, something a bit more "puritan" I think in NZ.

      If you have lived in Asia for any amount of time you will have seen things which stand out, the way men will walk along holding hands in some places, how certain aspects of gender are more fluid in some countries there and by that I mean some of the rituals, practice and behaviors which dont have the binary christian morality about gender that we get in NZ and western countries.

      How in places like Japan you can have unisex toilets (public metro has two doors, one for men and one for women but each leads to the same room) or that in the sento there will be a cleaning lady mopping the floor in the main area as your sitting there stark naked covered in soap in a room of 30 other men all stark naked and covered in soap and no one cares or blinks an eye.

      I could list a lot more but as you have been there you should have seen things like that and others which do not meet western standards of gender orientated behavior.

      Also there are other more personal experiences which I wont be discussing on a public forum like this blog simply because they are personal experiences.

      But thats a few of mine, what about yours, do you agree or has your time in Asia been different?

  2. Are there actual grounds to believe that James Shaw is under instructions from the SIS? The SIS is highly politicized, recruits widely, and is not averse to engaging in political provocations if it believes it can get away with it. Which it usually can, because even those politicians and journalists who are not employed by the SIS are timidly careful not to do anything that might queer its pitch. That suggests your allegations against Shaw are not inherently implausible. Which makes it all the more important that they either be justified or withdrawn. After all the SIS is a demonstrably evil organization with which no decent minded person would want to be associated and Shaw's name should not be linked to it unless there are very solid grounds on which to do so.
    Having said that, the Green Party certainly has had its problems, and these go much deeper than Metiria Turei, who assumed that the ends (to be precise her particular material ambitions) justified the use of any means (to whit, blatant and unashamed dishonesty). However it is apparent that the Green Party caucus condoned her spectacularly self-serving dishonesty, as did a significant section of the left voting public. So the real issue in the Metiria scandal was not the iniquity of a particular politician or party, but the problem of moral degeneracy within the left as a whole. I am not suggesting that the right is any better, but I struggle to see how the parliamentary left can be a force for good in this country when corrupt to its very core.

  3. Geoff: A year ago I would have dismissed those rumors I noted as 98% crazy and 2% speculation but the MO for the Service and its lack of any real work to do means that as of today I am 50/50 on how far the Greens have been infiltrated.

    Its well known that the old party/liberal hang out on Abel Tasman street in Wellington was bugged to high heaven and being watched (but then so are quire a few foreign embassies in Wellington as well as many mosques around NZ), like I said its make work for the squirrels.

    As for your final point I think the distinction between right and left in these cases is that the right is traditionally conservative so its rot and decay are often masked by its social standing (thing ex national MP Doug Graham and his dodgy dealings or John Banks, Bill English and his housing scam so on and so forth) while the left (and more so the further left you go) seems to get consumed by their zeal and loose whatever moral compass they have and just act like cats in heat.

    1. I know of enough instances where people have been recruited to spy on their neighbours, religious leaders required to report on their congregations, and so on, because these accounts come from people who have admitted their (often unwilling) involvement with the SIS. So I have little doubt that James Shaw would report to the SIS when requested, and would accede to instructions from the SIS as to what matters are off-limits for New Zealand politicians (for example the Peter Thiel affair). It is one step further to suggest that Shaw infiltrated the Green Party under instruction from the SIS in order to take party policy (or fortunes) in a particular direction and I can't place James Shaw in that category at this point in time, although there are SIS agents who have precisely those riding instructions (one very prominent example will come to mind).
      I personally believe that the amorality of the left, both Marxist and social democratic, is not anomalous, rather that it is solidly based upon its ideological pillars of liberalism and materialism. It has not always been the way. The socialism which arose out of church and chapel in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was much better grounded than the "scientific socialism" which was a product of Marxist ideology or, more recently, the university faculties of economics and political science. For these people politics is all about calculation. Metiria and the Green Party made a political calculation which was particularly ill-judged, as political calculations inevitably will be, sooner or later.
      Taking a moral stand in politics and daily life, on the other hand, may not guarantee one a smooth passage to wealth and power, but sure as hell it will protect one from political disasters of the kind which have brought the Green Party to its knees.

    2. "I personally believe that the amorality of the left, both Marxist and social democratic, is not anomalous"

      What was that you were saying earlier about the right not being any better?

  4. Hi Geoff:

    yes your right about the infiltration thing regarding Shaw, I was mostly just indulging in my conspiratorial tendencies.

    Its hard to say what exactly the moral stance of Turei and Shaw was in the long run but "ill judged" covers the last year of Green activity perfectly.

    I always like the moral stance of the Greens but then I never had sit on the sidelines in politics because of it so while Shaw's attempt to get out of the moral corner was a valid idea he bungled the execution and, as you noted, lost the one protection they had in the harsh world of politics.

    What do you think the Greens will poll come election day?

    1. Do you agree with Geoff that the left is innately amoral?

    2. No, not really, not unless that stripe can be extended to all politicians.

      Politics seems to generate amorality regardless of where on the spectrum one sits and while I dont always agree with Left views or ideas (although on many cases I do) I can see that their motivational starting point is not innately immoral but more idealistic.

    3. It's interesting to me that despite Geoff asserting this very prominently you chose not to disagree with him in your response, or even acknowledge his assertion.

      I'm starting to think you are just so grateful to have commentators you don't want to scare them off by challenging their views.

    4. In response to your question about Geoff's views my answer was "no, not really" which is about as clear as I can get in saying I don't agree with him so what were you expecting as a response?

      And I am grateful to have commentators but I am not the thought police and so far there has not been a lot that I have needed to disagree with.

      I am aware of Geoffs views and they are not mine but he is free to express them and nor do I see the comments section as a place to challenge peoples views unless they do go outside the lines of good taste and decorum. Geoff has not done that.

      I view all politicians as innately immoral once exposed to the system itself be they left or right.

    5. "I am not the thought police "

      What do you mean by this?

      I am aware of Geoffs views and they are not mine but he is free to express them and nor do I see the comments section as a place to challenge peoples views "

      Did anybody - me or otherwise - say something that made you think they didn't concede Geoff's freedom to express his views?

      Does it bother you when people challenge your views? Or is that something that the comments section is to be used for?

    6. If you go on some political blogs in NZ (not naming names) its very difficult if you express a view that the majority of posters or the blogs orientation does not agree as its often shouted down or attcaked in a fashion that is not about discourse but abusive.

      So on this blog unless someone is expressing something genuinely hateful, offensive or beyond the lines of good taste (or just trolling) I wont be driving a dissenting opinion out, banning them or making some high end rules about what people can and cannot say.

      Given the limited level of commentors I get on this blog I have gotten to know them quite well (or as one can based on their comments) and after how things played out on KP with feedback there I can usually tell when someone is expressing an opinion, challenging someones views or trolling.

      Having my views challenged is part and parcel of having a blog but as I found in the past some people are not really challenging my views (or anything I might have blogged about) but playing one of those games where they just nibble away with questions directed at me rather than actually having a discussion or debate.

      I had one of those previously here and when I called them on it they faded away and the questions stopped.

  5. It seems to me that "Anonymous" is either attacking me by trying to coerce EA Blair into censuring my opinions, or alternatively seeking to denigrate EA Blair by association. Curiously, he or she has made no effort to engage with or challenge the opinions expressed, which would be an appropriate thing to do in the comments page of a blog which is clearly dedicated to the open and vigorous expression of political ideas.

    However I will return to the substantive issue because my views have been somewhat misrepresented. I said that the amorality of the left was "not anomalous" which is not the same thing as "innate". To say that something is "not anomalous" is to say that it is no mere aberration and has a logical explanation. For example Metiria Turei and her supporters believed that she was justified in making a false statement to the Social Welfare Department, on account of her circumstances of the time. That suggests that morality is conditioned by circumstances, which is exactly what an amoral person would argue. If Turei's dishonesty had been anomalous, she would at least have expressed regret if not remorse. She did not because she believed that the dishonesty was justified by the circumstances. So there should be no doubt about what I mean when I talk of the amorality of the left. It resides at the core of the left's liberal, pragmatic, materialist ideology.

    At the risk of appearing simplistic, I believe that the moral current within the left has its source in religion, specifically, in the context of the Anglo-Saxon world, in the teachings of the Christian gospel and in particular the non-conformist churches. The amoral current, on the other hand flows from a number of sources. One was the "scientific materialism" of twentieth century Marxism, a second was trade unionism (in its narrow form), and a third the "new left" movement of the 1960s. The latter two currents merged within the fourth Labour government to produce the neo-liberalism of the 1980s, popularly known as "Rogernomics", which epitomised the left's retreat from genuinely moral concerns into the unashamed promotion of material self-interest.

    The left is ready to lie and deceive in its own perceived interest, but no longer willing to fight global capitalism in the common interest of all humanity. That is one reason, arguably the main reason, why it is being eclipsed by the populist right in most developed nations. Can Jacinda Ardern can reverse the terminal decline of the left in New Zealand? I doubt it. The best she can do is to offer a high quality of respite care.

    When EA Blair says that politicians are "innately immoral once exposed to the system" I take it he means that politicians are corrupted by the system. If that is the case, then the best solution is not to seek to change the policies, persons or parties in government but to change the system itself.