The Green Party’s changing image suits 11% of voters
“If you are young and not liberal, then you have no heart; but if you are old and not conservative, then you have no brain.”
The Green Party’s 11% party vote could not have been achieved on the youth vote alone – picking up five percentage points since the 2008 election, it is evidence that it’s not just the young and dumb who are voting Green these days.
Their changing image has a lot to do with it. They made a splash when they first entered Parliament 1999, but we heard little about their policies and instead a lot of clichéd stories about skateboarding, dope-smoking MPs and tree-chained activists.
The party has slowly been changing its image since Russel Norman took over as co-leader after Rod Donald’s death in 2005. After co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons resigned in 2009, the party’s decision to support Metiria Turei’s bid for leadership over Sue Bradford’s signalled a further move away from the old guard.
There are still activists in their ranks, and they still have a strong environmental focus, but they seem to have cottoned on to the fact that their ideas are no longer far out, and they need the faces to match it.
The media is finally got over the novelty of the Greens and given them a fair shot. But more importantly, New Zealanders attitudes are slowly changing and seem to have met the Greens half way.
Young and old are increasingly aware of global and environmental issues thanks to the internet, and there’s a greater understanding of the impact poverty can have on other social indicators.
The Greens policies speak to people who concerned with issues like these, and it’s more and more a wide cross-section of society.
I know it’s true, because some of Labour’s key election policies were adopted from the Green manifesto: raising the minimum wage to $15, taking GST off fruit and veges, and making the first $5000 of income tax-free.
Both parties have also put a strong focus on child poverty, and Labour a stronger focus on the environment than usual.
Even National has adopted their irrigation and water standards policies.
In general, Greens’ policies are more holistic compared to the segmented policies of other parties, which are often chopped and changed depending on what’s popular at the time.
From their perspective, it’s all connected: a thriving environment is key to health and economy; education is key to creating strong communities who care for the environment; Jobs will come if we focus on caring for our environment – green industries, utilising our wayward youth for riparian planting on farms, giving our 100% Pure New Zealand brand greater integrity so we can keep our tourism strong.
With an extra four MPs in this term’s Parliament, 13 in total, they will be able to make greater gains and further prove to middle New Zealand that they have commonsense policies with mainstream appeal.
And unlike some of the other minor parties, whose support fluctuates from year to year, the support for the Greens can only grow from here.