Before I explore why the Greens are doing so relatively well at the moment, first let us look at perhaps the historical reasons why left voters generally did not support the Greens.
The first is policy influence. The two larger parties are the one that can shape Government the most. A party on five per cent has little influence compared to a party on 45 per cent. But this is not the environment in 2012. Labour continues to poll in the 20s only, and the Greens have started to poll between 14 per cent and 17 per cent. This means that in any future Government, the Greens could represent a third or more of the Government, which would give them massive influence – at a minimum Russel Norman could expect to be made Minister of Finance.
And the other historical reason:
The second reason why the Greens historically did not attract widespread support from the left is because they were perceived as extremists. Their defence spokesperson hated the United States. Their justice spokesperson was best known for breaking the law. Their economic policy was to argue against economic growth. Their consumer spokesperson railed against the size of easter eggs, and their welfare spokesperson was a former beneficiary rights activist. At one stage a significant portion of their caucus were actually former Marxist and maoists.
I also point out almost all new Labour policies were already Green policies:
Well if you look at almost all the new policies adopted by Labour in the last couple of years, they stole them from the Greens. Capital Gains Tax – was Greens policy. Extending the in work tax credit to beneficiaries – was Greens policy. Modifying the Reserve Bank Act targets – again Greens policy. Paid Parental Leave extension – forced on Labour by the Alliance, and pushed by the Greens. A hike in the minimum wage to $12 and then $15 – Greens and NZ First policy for many years. A tax-free threshold for all earners – again long-standing Greeen policy.
I’m interested especially in views of left voters as to why they might still be a Labour rather than Greens supporter? Is it tradition? Is it policy? Is it leadership?