John Armstrong: Greens' cull was lame

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The Greens' draft candidate list released last Sunday was like the outcome of a Night of the Plastic Knives.

In the light of dawn, it became rather obvious that the pre-election culling of the party's political dead-wood had not been as extensive as the party would like voters to believe.

Source: 1 NEWS

There was no blood on the floor. But that is Vegetarian Politics for you.

At least three of the party's current MPs would have been anticipating getting a much lower ranking than they enjoy now - one which would have effectively been a one-way ticket to political oblivion.

Their provisional new ranking leaves them still high enough up the list such that they could normally have a reasonable chance of making it back to Parliament.

Co-leader James Shaw said the party is looking for renewal.
Source: 1 NEWS

The key word in the previous sentence is "normally". Things seem to be far from normal in the Greens' neck of the woods.

The party won plaudits from many quarters for the rejuvenation of its line-up via the revision of its list.

The list's release was also an exercise in papering over the cracks, however.

There was little recognition of the dilemma the party refuses to confront, and one which will not be solved by by installing a few fresh-faced 20 somethings in high-ranking slots on the list.

All the opinion polls have the Greens registering voter backing of around 10 per cent.

The party's worry is that its support has hit a ceiling. That might be the case for as long as the party is willing to only work with Labour.

Being prepared to work with either one of the two major parties could well boost support for the Greens as they would have far greater negotiating leverage.

The likes of Metiria Turei will not have a bar of such a notion, however.

Whichever way you look at it, the refusal by the Greens' co-leader and others to countenance a move to the centre is a strategic blunder.

The party is risking becoming irrelevant. More particularly, such an approach effectively puts hatred of National ahead of protection of the environment.

That is barmy. But then the words "Turei" and "liability" are no strangers to one another.

The Greens are currently enduring what may one day be described as the Turei Interegnum. That so far amounts to a two-year gap between Russel Norman's departure from politics and James Shaw, his replacement as male co-leader, having the clout to terminate the current bonkers politics which threatens to destroy the party's brand.

Turei's emergence from the shadow cast by Norman has been accompanied by a drastic shift in emphasis away from the party's paramount guiding principle of "ecological sustainability" to the strand pushing for "social justice".

Turei seems consumed with making war on National for failing to tackle child poverty, help the homeless and address other manifestations of inequality.

In doing so, she has opted to fight the coming election in territory which puts the Greens in direct competition with Labour.

That is not where votes reside for the Greens. Turei would dispute all that. But she cannot dispute the result of the recent Mt Albert byelection.

The thrashing Labour inflicted on its would-be ally indicates something is going seriously wrong.

The good news is that a potential saviour is at hand.

Shaw is coming into his own at exactly the right time. He defies every stereotype and prejudice which the Greens' enemies employ to belittle the party.

Turei is the party's past. Shaw symbolises the future.

His arrival on the national stage could well see him play the role that the theatre of election campaigns demands be filled by someone.That is the role of underdog made good in the face of extreme adversity.

The news media's increasingly simplistic approach to covering elections demands winners and losers. In the cut and thrust of an election campaign, it does not take much for possible contenders for either category to be singled out and their success or failure to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

For the Greens' sake, it will have to be hoped that Shaw can get on the kind of roll which fits that script.

The party will not want to contemplate what fate awaits it if he doesn't.

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