The Green Party is coming of age: it is rapidly changing from a coalition of “seriously radical” activists, to a “radically serious” political party.
The punditry has had much to say about the Green Party, surrounding the 2010 Annual General Meeting at Queens Birthday weekend (also the party’s 20th birthday).
Prior to the conference John Hartevelt, in the Dominion Post, focused on the departure of Sue Bradford and a perceived lack of “x-factor and activism” in the party. John Armstrong, in the Herald, said the party was now a “Paler shade of Green“. Colin James’s column in the Press said the party was “still trying to win political influence“.
That tone has changed following the conference, and the co-leaders’ two outstanding speeches. Metiria Turei took on the National Government with her focus on the Greens Minding the Gaps” initiative, and pinged Labour for lacking the political courage to talk about a capital gains tax. Russel Norman took on the government with the message “No environment, no economy“, while also giving Labour a serve for investing in “clean green branding PR” but failing to make it real.
The message from the party’s leadership is this: the Green Party is ready, willing, and able to challenge the status quo and take its place as the third major party in New Zealand politics. That message came through crisp and clear, at least to the editorial cartoonist in the Herald.
This is where Colin James misread the Greens: the party’s objective is not merely to win political influence; now it must seek the mandate to govern. Sue Bradford’s departure symbolises this transformation: her staunch activism was an asset for the party while it was establishing itself, but it was too much for the mainstream Kiwi voter whose trust and confidence the Party needs to earn. The party may be a ‘paler shade of Green’, but that lighter shade will be more appealing to the electorate.
There is still a long and difficult road ahead for the Greens. It currently lacks the resources and the membership to run effective electorate campaigns, and it will never govern while it remains a “list only” party. The key to future success will be growing the party membership, which currently is only a few thousand. To lead a government the Greens will need tens of thousands of members, and many more financial supporters and volunteers.
Some of the Party’s “seriously radical” members may not willingly make the transition, as the Greens increasingly present the “radically serious” image that will appeal to a greater range of voters and attract a broader membership. The party that wants to change the world, must first learn to change itself.