GUEST BLOG: Finn Jackson – It ain’t easy being Green: Idealism versus Compromise?



It’s barely been a week since Russel Norman announced his intention not to stand for re-election as co-leader of the Greens, but so far among the left-wing circles I inhabit I’ve witnessed a battle of two choices emerge: Idealism and Compromise.

Idealism is the choice of electing a hard-left candidate with the ability to appeal to purely left-wing voters, competing with Labour and various other micro-parties for the already stretched votes of the left, with the dream of one day overtaking Labour as the major left party by stealing its votes.

The upside of Idealism? The belief that one day we can have a society free of the neo-liberal, neo-conservative politicians and leaders who seek to cut, cut, cut. Cut taxes for the wealthy, cut government spending, and cut the welfare state, all in the name of growth. The problem with this? Read on to the next paragraph.

The downside of this Idealism is that the left vote is already, well, stretched. If Labour and the Greens are competing for votes, they’ll end up attacking each other in public. If the fight gets too much of a bore for Labour, they’ll cut the Greens loose and forge a 2005-esque deal with New Zealand First, keeping the Greens hostage on confidence-and-supply with no major policy concessions or Ministers, confident in the fact that they can kick the Greens however much they like, as they have nowhere else to go, no-one else to do deals with. This will neutralise the Greens’ ability, however big they might be, to push for real progressive change. Unless some political earthquake occurs, the chances of the Utopian vision of our future coming to pass using this technique are very, very low.

So what of the other choice, Compromise? Well, as the name suggests, it means compromising some of our techniques (though not our values), to achieve results within the framework we must work in.

The downside of Compromise is that anyone who compromises their left-wing policies in any way inevitably have to endure mass hostility from the far-left, purists, and idealists. If the Greens change their image, even if it’s just to promote some of their other policies above others, (e.g., business-friendly policies over the social justice policies), they draw attacks from those who are unable to see the logic of a marketing change. The other policies are still there, just not in great prominence. This doesn’t mean they won’t be enacted whenever possible. To those people who can’t think strategically and are terrified of anyone wearing a suit or having a slick advertising machine, I have one thing to say: Do your research. Don’t mount attacks before finding evidence. And I don’t just mean that for people attacking the Greens. I repeat that sentence to all who love to spread paranoia and rumours. The anti-vaccination movement, the New World Order people, the 9/11 “Truthers”. Before saying anything, get some goddamn evidence to back up your points. Otherwise you just look plain nutty. Sorry not sorry.

Anyway, what are the upsides of Compromise? For one thing, if the Party has a leader who understands markets, can promote the environment without drawing accusations of being an “economically illiterate greenie”, that appeals to the middle voters, the ones who love confidence, charisma, and a clear, simple plan. If anyone is worried about the image problem with the left, don’t forget there’s still the amazing Metiria Turei as co-leader, a crusader for social justice. The great thing about having co-leaders is that this can allow the party to deliver two messages at once. One can promote economic sensibility, the other social justice, and both the environment. This is what we experienced with the leadership team of Russel Norman and Metiria Turei, who led the party to their two highest election results. If the party again picks someone who is economically and financially experienced to lead the party alongside Metiria, the growth of the party can continue. We will strengthen our growing reputation as the pioneers of sensible Green Economics worldwide.

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And even with the Compromise, we will still be able to reach that Utopian vision of a sustainable, caring future. Sure, it may feature business as a part of our Utopian economy, but most small businesses want the same thing as us all: an income, stability, and a good future for all. What’s so bad about giving money to other people in an exchange for something they do for us? Nothing. They’re not massive multi-nationals in this Utopia, they’re people. With faces, families, and tastes in music. They might like Jason Mraz, you might prefer the Who. So what? It’s all a Utopia here.



My name is Finn Jackson. I turned sixteen last year. I was born into a family of journalists who were very involved in politics. Since birth I have been surrounded by talk of Mayoralty Campaigns and election stratergies. This has influenced my entire life, and has prompted me recently to join the movement for change.



  1. As a ‘far-left, idealist’ I don’t see a lot of options for my leftie vote currently. No Mana party, a (despicable) right wing Labour party and a Green party apparently set on flirting with the right. I certainly wont be voting for them if they go down that path…
    To me social justice is paramount that’s why I voted Mana. Metiria Turei is also strong on this but I’m not sure if other Green party MPs actually really support that.
    Do they?

  2. “You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing system obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller.
    As informative as many of the blogs and their responding comments are, inevitably the topic disintegrates into an intellectual debate of Left verse Right. This goes well over my head, and I would suggest, well over the head of the majority of voters. KISS – ultimately, it is the desired outcomes that matter, surely.
    Climate change and its closely related issues of peak oil, peak soil, peak food, extreme inequality, a ‘pyramid’ global financial system that depends on continuous growth that is trashing the environment on this finite planet – these are what matters for the future of societies. Most political parties don’t appear to have any understanding of these issues, let alone policies to address them. While we may not agree with all the Green’s proposals, in the end if we are to survive, the only future is a Green one.
    Our biggest obstacle to overcome is our internal differences, brilliantly illustrated by National Election campaign advertisement depicting a rowing boat going nowhere. ‘Divide and Conquer’ has always been a successful approach but in this case, it was self -inflicted by the left. Generally being deep thinkers, the left will have opinion differences – but lets keep the boat pointing in the right direction and save the planet/humanity, so we still have a planet on which to discuss these differences.
    So I spend little energy on the debate Left v Right, tick the box for Green and then get on with the Transition Town’s solution of building resilient inclusive local communities and hope that NZ voters will eventually wake up. We have to “build for the future, not steal from it”.

  3. I think that the idea of far left and central voters seem to be very simplistic. Personally I normally vote Labour or Green. Often Labour electorate and Green party. Last time I voted Mana party and Labour electorate. That is because although I am a central voter, I feel the extreme neoliberal and corrupt strategies being adopted by National and endorsed by Labour in a sort of watered down version are having a devastating effect on our country.

    In short, like what is happening in Greece and Spain is that many ‘middle class’ voters are waking up and realising that life is not looking rosy. Things that were taken for granted 40 years ago, like free education, free health, jobs for life, healthy food, healthy environment, democracy and decency are on the decline. Many advocates with assets of 50 million are now saying countries can’t afford quality of life for everybody, and are selling the country off to enrich already exceedingly rich people further, enpoverishing more kiwis.

    So I feel that the message has been wrong for the Greens last election. They are not Labour and they need to stay true to their message, but be more engaged. I was disappointed in the Greens approach to dirty politics by dismissing it as not important. Democracy and corruption are extremely important, especially if you believe in social justice.

    After more years of National I feel that many Kiwi voters will wake up to the nightmare. However the Greens need to have a better strategy for engaging with voters interested in the Greens policy and to collaborate with Labour.

    In my view with the growing equality in NZ there are more votes going to be going left. It is up to the left to espouse an alternative vision to National and to make these people turned off politics to vote for them.

    Little is going with jobs and the Greens should stick with what they have always done, the environment, social justice and human rights. Yes they need economic polices and already have them, so it is explaining them in a clear way. They need to have an alliance with Labour and no fighting between them. The fight is with National.

    The lesson should be that if Hone had kept his seat, National would not have the majority. So fighting the left is not productive and the idea of fighting each other for a few left votes is something that neoliberals and MSM like to propaganda.

    Instead Labour and Greens should be collaborating to ‘grow’ the ‘left’ vision of a decent society and ‘grow’ the left votes together.

    Before the election I asked a friend who she was voting for. She said, either National or Greens. I asked her why, she said National had done a great job of the economy (yes middle NZ do believe MSM) but felt the Greens were the most ethical. I think in the end she voted National. She also believed that InternetMana was ‘buying the election’, so was strongly influenced by MSM in the last weeks.

    The trick for Greens is to be ethical, collaborate with Labour and others, to get those votes off National and to try to get alternative channels to MSM to share their message.

  4. “To those people who can’t think strategically…”

    What would be “strategic” about seeing the Green Party become just another corporate party?

    “…can promote the environment without drawing accusations of being an economically illiterate greenie…”

    They’re going to call us that no matter what.

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