Inspired by Myflathasmould’s tale below of how he or she joined the Green Party during the last election, I thought I would make my own confession about the 2005 campaign, as a sort of cautionary tale.
I was a member, but I gave my party vote to Labour! Horror! At this stage I’m glad I’m anonymous, but I’m going to try and excuse myself by explaining how it happened, and why it won’t happen again.
My main excuse is that I hadn’t been a member very long. My husband had joined a while before, but though I was a Values Party member way back, I had most of my life considered myself a Labour supporter. I voted for the Progressive Party in 2002 with the express purpose of getting Matt Robson back into Parliament, and it worked, so I was in the habit of voting strategically. I started going to a few Green meetings and policy talks in 2005, and was impressed by the policy, the process, and especially the people. But it wasn’t till I heard Jeanette speaking at the university on climate change and peak oil that I was completely blown away. I was well aware and desperately worried about climate change, but the notion of impending peak oil was new to me. Jeanette explained, oh so clearly, the extra strain that a declining oil supply was going to put on the preparations for planning for a low carbon future, and how crucial it was to move urgently on infrastructure during the coming decade before reducing oil and other raw materials were priced out of our range.
That was when I tipped from light green to bright green! I was scared, and inspired, and thought the Green Party had the best answers for the dangers I was most concerned about, and I joined soon after, so why didn’t I vote Green? Put it down to that excruciatingly tight “race” between Labour and National, and my concern that if National formed a government, it would be led by a leader and team who seemed lukewarm to hostile about the issue of climate change. Labour at least made the right noises. I made a cold-blooded decision that a Parliament with Labour in government, even if it did not have any Greens in it would be better than a Parliament led by a free market radical and apparent climate change denier.
Labour got the majority of votes to form a government and the Greens squeaked in over the 5% threshold, so I’ll never know for sure, but I think I was wrong. We needed the Greens in there. They were shut out of coalition by the two fossilized parties that Labour chose to go into coalition with instead of the Greens and the Maori Party, and their policy gains fought out as part of their abstention agreement have gone largely unheralded (or claimed as successes by Labour) but those gains add up to a significant proportion of the environmental and social achievements of this government. Just as importantly, the Green MPs’ dedication to the party principles of Appropriate Decision Making and Non-violence has made them the shining examples of the type of unfailingly polite and ego-free behaviour that we expect, but so rarely see, in the nation’s MPs.
But what has really convinced me that I was wrong to give Labour my vote last time, is their cowardice in failing to push through a serious programme for New Zealand to tackle climate change. Instead of going for broke with a bold vision in what was almost certain to be their last term, they have settled for conservatism and incrementalism. I have heard David Parker speak as Minister of Climate Change several times, and there is no doubting his awareness of the seriousness of the challenges we face, but his cabinet colleagues and coalition partners do not appear to share his concern. A Green private member’s Bill on children’s rights, the Repeal of Section 59 Bill, was promoted assiduously by the Government at some political cost to them (and thank you for that, I do support that Act), but Jeanette’s essential Bill to re-require the RMA to consider the carbon implications of proposals, has languished and was eventually dumped. Labour have not been able to speak convincingly enough about the need for action on climate change to overwhelm the miasma created by lobbyists and dedicated “sceptic” communicators, to inspire the country, and to shame their fellow parliamentarians into crafting a solid proposal that will begin change this decade. And National are even more worthy of criticism at this stage. They have chosen to dilute then sink an Emissions Trading Scheme that would have at least got things started, either because of petty politicking or a conviction that the problem wasn’t that important. Either way, I have no faith in them to come up with strong environmental answers on their own.
The Green MPs alone have stood up and spoken loud and clear for the planet, even though this has left them in the difficult position of having to decide whether a gutted and pandering ETS is better than no scheme at all. I’m hoping myself they support it, for the reasons that Idiot/Savant keeps hammering (an imperfect scheme can be strengthened later, and please google No Right Turn, because I haven’t got the hang of linking yet!). And I know now, having observed, met and worked with Green party members at all levels for the last three years, their message on climate change must be heard, and they must be in Parliament to make that happen.
So this year I’m voting Green, no matter how close the polls are. And if climate change is your main concern, I hope you do the same. Tim Flannery, in his overflowing lecture at Otago University last year, said the same thing – the most important thing you can do about climate change personally is to consider it when you vote. He didn’t quite say “Party Vote Green”, but I will. Party Vote Green!!!