I don’t blog about the Greens much now that my wife works for them. If I make fun of them then things will become very difficult for me very quickly and if I’m nice about them I’d just look like a shill, on top of which my wild guesses might look like they’re informed by insider knowledge. But I honestly don’t know anything about the strategy behind Russel Norman’s Key-bashing speech at the party’s AGM today. Via Isaac Davison at the Herald:
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has made a sharp personal attack on Prime Minister John Key, all but shutting the door on working with National after the next election.
Key described Labour and the Greens as the “devil-beast”; Norman hit back at his party’s annual conference yesterday by labelling Key “corrosive” and “extremely divisive”, repeatedly comparing him to former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.
“Next time you see John Key smiling, remember he’s not smiling because he likes you, he’s smiling because he’s giving favours to his mates while undermining your democracy,” he told an audience of around 120 people in Christchurch.
The Greens have previously avoided personality politics. Asked whether his speech signalled a new approach, Norman said: “It’s important to put a line in the sand about what’s happening to our constitution and our democracy.”
After the speech, he would not rule out working with National if it gained a third term – but his tone of contempt for the National-led Government’s “attacks on democracy” and “dodgy deals” made it clear that this would be unlikely.
“It is hard to see how that will work out well,” he said.
. . . And the best part of not knowing anything about something is that you can blog about it.
Part of Norman’s speech is just standard opposition stuff. Lots of people on the left think that National has taken a rather sinister and anti-democratic turn, and opposition leaders are supposed to articulate these sorts of concerns and present them to the wider public. That’s the job.
The other element is the personal attack on Key. I think there’s some real-politik here. Key’s been attacking the Greens very vigorously: his research probably tells him that voters in the center are apprehensive about them. And if a party just lies back and takes that kind of abuse without responding it makes them look weak in the eyes of the voters. People don’t vote for weak.
When the leaders of two parties who aren’t trying to attract one another’s voters attack each other in public like this it often works out well for both of them. In this case Key gets to scare voters in the center off defecting to Labour while the Greens try to peel away left-wing Labour voters who are dissatisfied with the current leadership (according to current polling that’s almost all of them).
It’s a really bad situation for Labour to be in, but Labour have spent the last couple of weeks telling everyone who’d listen that they’d prefer to form a coalition with New Zealand First and lock the Greens out of government again, so I doubt Norman gives a damn about whether he’s making life harder for Labour.