The special votes really are special, in the sense that there were an awful lot of them (~13% of the total vote) and they’re weighted quite differently to the rest. So people (like me) who called Key’s victory two weeks ago ‘historic’ on the grounds that he defied gravity and increased his percentage of the vote going into his third term and won an outright majority now look rather silly given that he did not actually do either of those things.
Likewise, those people talking about how the Greens were ‘gutted’ or that their loss was as great as Labour’s in proportional terms also look pretty silly given that the Greens haven’t actually lost a seat and their final result is 0.36% lower than their best result ever.
They did under-perform relative to their expectations – they wanted 15% of the vote – and the polls which had them at around 12.5%.
More ominously, they failed to grow their vote even though Labour declined. If they can’t take votes off Labour during their worst election ever, how will the Green Party grow as a party?
From the far left? The missing million mostly young voters who yearn for an alternative to the neo-liberal consensus?
Probably not. I suspect the failure of Mana and then Internet/Mana to attract meaningful support – even though in the last election they had resources that the Greens could only dream about – signals the death of the activist far-left in mainstream New Zealand politics. Left-wing political parties can’t keep chasing after people who don’t vote at the expense of the support of people who do, and they can’t keep listening to online activists who claim to speak for the poor, disenfranchised non-voters etc, but whose values and rhetoric don’t actually attract any votes from those demographics.
Can the Greens win votes from the center right? Abandon their left-wing social policies, focus on their environmental policies and re-position themselves as a potential coalition partner for National?
Again, probably not. The Greens are an environmental party but they’re also a left-wing party. I know, I know – Twitter is flooded with know-it-alls braying that the Greens are neo-liberal middle-class sell-outs, but the actual Green Party as it exists in the real world is a left-wing party with left-wing policies. Even if the leaders could convince the caucus, party officials and members into supporting a National government, it is impossible to imagine this National government agreeing to the kind of environmental concessions the Greens would want. Are Joyce, Brownlee and Bridges ever going to sign off on, say, a moratorium on deep sea drilling and mining in national parks, cleaning up the rivers, scrapping the roads of national significance and investing in public transport, and a carbon tax? That would probably be the bare minimum of the Greens demands, and National would never agree to it. There’s no common ground there the way there is with, say, Winston Peters, whose coalition demands would have consisted of knighthoods and portfolios and other concessions that would have been (mostly) painless for the National Party.
I suspect that new Green votes will come from (a) the center left. Labour moved to the left under Cunliffe, both rhetorically and in policy terms (again, I know, the conventional wisdom of twitter is that Labour are far-right neo–liberal whatevers, but this was probably the most left-wing policy platform Labour ran on since the 1970s). I think we’ll see a more conservative Labour after the leadership contest and there will be opportunities for the Green Party there. I also think they can (b) pick up ‘center voters’ who care about environmental issues but didn’t vote Green in 2014 because they were afraid a left-wing vote was a vote for a Cunliffe/ABC/Green/Peters/Harawira/Harre/Dotcom fiasco. And (c) I think the Maori electorates are a huge opportunity for the Green Party. They saw percentage increases in most of those electorates (pre specials) and, intriguingly Jack McDonald and Marama Davidson both got significantly higher electorate votes than the Greens received party votes even though they campaigned as list candidates. I hope they can recruit high quality candidates for the three Maori electorates that didn’t have Green candidates and that there’s a resignation in the caucus before 2017, so that Davidson can come in on the list and campaign as an MP in those Maori seats.