Green Vote Down! Is History Repeating Itself?



THE GREENS’ DRAMATIC FALL in the latest Colmar-Brunton should be a matter of considerable concern to the whole party. If it continues, then we may see the Greens fall victim to the same political phenomenon that led to the demise of the Values Party.

Voting for Values peaked at the General Election of 1975 when it attracted 5.19 percent support. Not surprisingly, its members were ecstatic. Anticipating an even bigger surge of support in 1978, they began the process of firming-up and paring-down the policies contained in their extremely popular 1975 Manifesto, Beyond Tomorrow.

This turned out to be an unexpectedly fraught process. A large and well-organised fraction of the Values Party argued strongly that the system-changing objectives set forth in Beyond Tomorrow would never be acceptable to New Zealand’s ruling-class, whose power would have to be substantially diminished if the party’s core environmental policies were ever to be implemented.

This eco-socialist position did not sit altogether comfortably with the party’s pure ecologists, who believed that once people understood the scientific rationale for radically reorienting Western values, then radical change would follow naturally – and without the class conflict predicted by Values’ eco-socialist wing.

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Better organised and superior in debate, the eco-socialists gained the upper hand, leading Values into the 1978 General Election with one of the most radical manifestos ever presented to the New Zealand electorate. The votes they hoped to plunder with this document were those of Labour’s more left-wing supporters. On paper, it seemed like a winning strategy.

What the eco-socialists hadn’t counted on, however, was just how fed-up the non-National-Party-voting half of the New Zealand electorate had become with Prime Minister Rob Muldoon. Under the First-Past-The-Post electoral system, the sort of oppositional vote-splitting which Values was advocating almost always ended up advantaging the incumbent government.

Recognising this, the left-wing idealists who had flocked to Values banner in 1975 underwent a decisive change of heart. In the name of getting rid of “Piggy” Muldoon, they were willing to abandon the idealistic dreams of Beyond Tomorrow. Accordingly, in 1978, the Values Vote almost exactly halved: falling from 83,241 to 41,220 – just 2.41 percent of the votes cast.

The eco-socialists’ strategy of taking on Labour had failed dismally. The pure ecologists rallied their supporters and drove the eco-socialists out of the party. But, if they were hoping that a Red purge would recover their fortunes, they were wrong. In the General Election of 1981, Values was more-or-less wiped out. From 41,220 their vote fell to a risible 3,460. In 1984, the party attracted just 0.20 percent of the popular vote. Game Over.

Values’ rebirth, as the Green Party, in 1990, saw it win an impressive 6.85 percent of the popular vote. The old FPP realities remained, however, and they were forced to join forces with the left-wing NewLabour Party in 1991 under the rubric of Jim Anderton’s “Alliance”. With the introduction of proportional representation in 1996, however, all the old FPP rationales against vote-splitting became redundant. In 1999, the Greens stood under their own banner and received 5.16 percent of the Party Vote – just enough to secure them 7 seats in Parliament.

Between 1999 and 2008 the Greens’ Party Vote fluctuated between 5.16 percent and 7.0 percent. With the defeat of Helen Clark’s Labour-led centre-left government, however, and the onset of what would be six years of internal conflict and lacklustre politics from Labour, the Green vote soared: from 157,613 Party Votes (6.72 percent) in 2008 to 257,356 Party Votes (10.70 percent) in 2014. It looked as though the old eco-socialist strategy of luring away Labour’s left-wing voters was on the point of being vindicated.

And then, in February 2016, Colmar Brunton’s pollsters registered a drop of 4 percentage points in the Greens’ numbers. The party had shed one third of its support: falling from 12 to 8 percent.

Is it possible that the same reckoning that caused Values supporters to return to the Labour fold in 1978 is at work again? Even in the era of Mixed Member Proportional Representation, have the supposedly redundant arguments of FPP reasserted themselves? Have centre-left voters come to the realisation that, if they want to get rid of John Key’s National-led Government, then they are going to have to push Andrew Little’s Labour into a credible second place – i.e. somewhere closer to 40 percent of the Party Vote than 30 percent?

If the answer to all these questions is “Yes”, then the Greens had better brace themselves. They have a lot further to fall.


  1. That’s a very interesting perspective.

    The really interesting aspect is that all the warnings provided by Hubbert, Carson, the Meadows ‘Limits to Growth’ group etc. prior to 1975 have proven valid, and we are now witnessing the economic, environmental and social meltdown that is a natural consequence of 40 years of implementation of totally inappropriate loot-and-pollute-and-squander policies advocated by National and Labour here in NZ, and similarly idiotic policies advocated by their counterparts overseas.

    The 20th Feb 2016 Arctic ice cover of 14.166 millionkm2 versus a ‘normal’ level of 15.327 millionkm2, and the ice that is melting when it ‘should be’ forming suggests we are now in the early stages of rapid planetary meltdown.

    One thing we can be certain about is that NONE of the parties will highlight the imminent demise of long-standing climate stability, or the massive sea level rise that will accompany the meltdown, or the prospect of the human species causing its own extinction in a few decades via CO2 emissions.

    After all, it’s always about the economy and jobs and votes and ‘development’, isn’t it?

    And there’s another interesting aspect, because the economy is now circling the drain as a consequence of all the looting and polluting and squandering that has gone on over the past 40 years, together will population overshoot, of course.

    I think we will soon find that it will make no difference who is in power because all the critical thresholds -environmental, energetic, financial and social- have already been passed.

    Having said that, we could ensure a that we have a compassionate government over the period of the meltdown, as opposed to a gang of rapacious fascists.

  2. I’d love to vote Green. I do and am passionate to protect and enhance our natural environment. But the Greens are dominated by leafy lefties. Simply most a pack of socialist dorks. So become true greens and incorporate other ideas and rid the party of trolls that use the party for their own political agendas.

    • J Ryan, I doubt your committment to voting Green. You’re simply using a faux Green-sympathy to throw bricks at the Left.

      Perhaps you’d like to tell us what Green policies you like, and which ones you don’t support?

      Do you even know what their policies are? I doubt it.

    • Indeed, a very Green thing to do, would be to vote for river water quality being required only to be wadeable or safe for boating. It is just not a fit, if you care to examine it a little more closely

    • J RYAN: You make a very good point.

      The mix of environmentalism and socialism is like oil & water. Good stewardship of the land can only be achieved through private ownership.

      If you don’t believe me, consider the mess left by all the former socialist states in the 20th century. Here in NZ look at the state of most Iwi land. There’s nothing wrong with Maori but we fenced them into a tribal/collectivist model which will never deliver for them.

      • You said it Andrew.
        What about Four Maori Votes and you get the Land.
        Does that work for you?
        So much more efficient, so much less collectivist.

      • “The mix of environmentalism and socialism is like oil & water. Good stewardship of the land can only be achieved through private ownership.
        If you don’t believe me, consider the mess left by all the former socialist states in the 20th century.”

        Nah, the socialist states of the 20th century didn’t bother with environmental concerns, just like capitalist states.

        Today’s pollution and excessive resource use is due to mass consumption and industry – both of which capitalism cannot live without.

        Eco-socialism is a far more effective system for dealing with a reduction in consumption and resource use. Eco-capitalism is a continued plundering, but with a green vaneer. Using 20th Century socialism as an example of what 21st Century social would be is a redundant argument

    • “the Greens are dominated by leafy lefties”

      Yeah, some people have this weird idea that our economic system is impacting on our environment. They don’t realise capitalism is natural and is the path to environmental utopia!


  3. I’d love to vote Green. But until the party rids itself of the socialists driving the party they will receive what they deserve. They are clinging trolls, simply being another avenue to push the left cause. Rid the party of this trash and watch the support increase to be a player for any government in power.

    • I’d love to vote ACT as they have much of the personal freedom policies we all naturally like, but they are nothing more than right wing trolls, pushing the economic policies of he who has the most money can do whatever he likes. Get rid of that and maybe I would consider them

    • So what are those “socialist policies”, Ryan?? Simply saying it doesn’t make it true.

      Put up or shut up, because I really want to know.

    • So what happened to the “Blue Greens, J”?
      Answer: Nothing, because for most intents and purposes it is an oxymoron.

    • OMG!
      Thank you J Ryan!
      Thank you so much for pointing out the existence of RedFeds under the bed!
      I haven’t heard reminders of that danger since the 1960s…

      Thank fucking God!

      I truly thought dinosaurs like you had become extinct but my fault for putting hope before reality…

  4. While I am concerned about the direction of the Green Party, it really is difficult to sustain your argument on one poll, rebuffed by another poll at exactly the same time with a very different result. This feels like a piece you wrote long ago and have been aching to publish.

  5. The greens problem, along with labour,is they want to save capitalism! Like muddle N Z they will disappear in their timid approach to the multi-prong attack being waged against them by Key. Key is the smiling assassin for a reason.Key’s ultimate employer is Wall st.

  6. I think that the Greens face various challenges, firstly they may need a new female co-leader as Metiria seems to be struggling at times to get messages across. That is my observation. She often just hammers on with the same message, e.g. on child poverty, and sometimes sounds like a broken record.

    Also have I seen not so much improvement in her performance over the years, she appears to have limitations. Perhaps Marama Davidson would do a better job, as she is new, highly motivated, skilled, articulate and feels like she has a mission.

    James Shaw has been mediocre in my view, sometimes he has performed well, at other times he has not managed to send out a clear enough and firm, convincing message to voters and political followers.

    The shift to the “centre” will come with risks, as some more conservative environmentalists can actually settle for Nick Smith and the kind of Blue Greens, so it seems a waste of time and effort to try and win over those with more conservative views.

    Also do I fear that a large part of the population has settled for a more consumerist, business friendly attitude, where they simply want to be able to buy and use endless consumer goods, and also cars, appliances, gadgets, no matter whether this affects the environment in any negative way. The largely urban population has at best only a romantic idea about nature and the environment, they do not see the massive changes that happen as such a threat. I notice little change in people’s conduct, despite of the threat and some reporting on climate change. Each day we have millions jump in their cars and fill the streets and roads, to drive everywhere, and pollute the air with CO2 and other greenhouse gases. People buy plastic packaging and bags, although it ends up ad toxic waste. The odd climate disaster like heavy storms, and so, that seems to do little to change thinking and behaviour. This is stuff that the Greens try to change, but it seems to not sink in in most. So the Greens have a formidable challenge in this.

    As for the polls, I have been contacted at least three times by pollsters over the last year or year and a half, and it struck me, that they asked not only political questions, they were only a small part of endless, perhaps three dozen or more questions, which largely also asked about personal interests, background, what business I consider good, how certain products may appeal and what else may come to mind.

    It seems that at least some polling companies include their political polls in a range of wider other polls they conduct and later extract the political results from these to present as political polls that we get.

    They first ask a person if he or she has the time to spend up to often 15 minutes on answering questions and whether they wish to participate. I can imagine many people, especially younger ones, that would simply be turned off by this and not bother with taking part in the polls.

    The types of questions would also not appeal to many, so this excludes perhaps a significant part of the whole population. I can imagine that persons that bother with participating tend to be older or more conservative, and concerned about perhaps offering info, showing some conscientiousness about matters.

    That would tilt the results to favour more conservative minded thinking, and even if polling companies would make statistical adjustments, to have more representative participation, based on age, ethnicity and so forth, they may not get truly representative results. So with that on mind, I fear we do not get all that reliable poll results at all.

    • Agree about Metiria. She comes across as holier than thou whilst not offering much in the way of viable alternatives (in her interviews, I’m sure she does have some).

  7. The left’s best strategy is obvious: Labour seek votes in the centre; the Greens should seek them from the left and “missing million”. But each seems to be doing the opposite, with unfortunate consequences for those who want a change of government.

    • I fear you are right re the Greens now, but Labour has still such a strong centrist and even neoliberal lot amongst its MPs, it can hardly be blamed for not representing the centre. Given its history, Labour will need to stay loyal to its traditional policies and ideas, which is representing working people. That will not be done if Labour tries to move where National is, as National caters only for the upper and upper middle class, that is besides of having also kept the lower middle class under control and enough in their favour, by keeping policies that Labour brought in years ago (WFF, interest free student loans, state supported maternity leave, childcare and so forth).

      You would suggest Labour move away from its tradition and represent sole operator contractors and so, which means supporting people competing with each other, rather than cooperating with each other. So what you suggest Labour do cannot be done, as it will only turn Labour more into National Light.

      The Greens need not move to the so called centre or rather centre right, as those with environmental concerns in those groups may already be happy with what Nick Smith and the Blue Greens stands for. Indeed, the Greens should try and gain attention and support from the nearly one million disconnected and disaffected who do not even bother to vote. If they don’t do it, and if Labour cannot reach them, another new party may soon be doing it.

    • Never mind – the people will not long tolerate as useless, corrupt and heartless a government as this – it starts with dildos and shit and ends with a more pragmatic ballistic assortment. Popcorn anyone?

    • For once I agree with Matthew Hooton, the Greens do need to stay left of centre. We need a Bernie Sanders-like character to emerge and that is the natural place for him/her to come from. We need someone to spark the imaginations of the disaffected and those who have just given up. It is not confined to NZ

      • @ RAE – Hone Harawira is the closest NZ has to Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn. Hone is the person to champion the working class and disaffected Kiwis, those who desperately need someone to come out on their side, to fight for them.

        Hone was slyly shafted, at the last election by Labour and NZ First at NatzKEY’s behest, urging TTT constituents to vote for Labour’s Kelvin Davis instead, not only betraying Hone, but also the people in one of NZ’s most impoverished constituencies! The very same people who badly need the likes of Hone Harawira to represent them.

    • ‘The Centre’ are not budging from shonkey johnkey.
      They are too ill informed and therefore too ignorant to do otherwise.
      Weighed down by sleep deprivation due to huge mortgages and bad diets they have zero ability to engage in any form of critical thinking.
      Their path for self destruction is set.
      We are seeing it all the 5 eyes countries where the average IQ has plummeted…. think Trump supporters ! Think Abbott supporters! Think Key supporters! All about as average as each other but…..
      However Trudeau , Corbyn and Sanders are onto it and so are the youth who can see a big fat financial and environmental mess coming at them like an out of control freight train.
      These are the people the The Greens and Labour need to engage with !!!
      The Left are genuinely intelligent. They should believe in themselves.
      Trying to appeal to the dummies is a waste of time!!!

  8. We are talking of the results of one poll here, Roy Morgan had another trend recently, in favour of the Greens. So it is not reasonable to draw too much of a conclusion at this stage, next poll things may be different again.

  9. It is a one-off poll so it may mean nothing. But it could mean the public is more concerned about economic issues rather than environmental/social ones. That Labour with its ‘Kiwi Dream’ focus is picking up support in the cities and NZ First with its provincial friendly messages are benefiting there. If this is the case then the Greens need to brush up its economic credentials so they are more consistent with Labour/NZ First. .

  10. don’t you realize that our environment is being irreversibly destroyed? EVERYONE needs to move to the left, the politicians, the voters, everyone. We are all on a sinking ship, I just don’t get where the people who think they have a life boat think they are going to go,

  11. If the greens aren’t in the next government somewhere then New Zealand’s environment is going to take a bashing – and without our environment we are nothing. Simple. Choose the future you want.

  12. The Greens are in a way better financial position than Labour. They have already announced and hired their campaign manager for the next election. Much earlier than previously. The membership has also leaped by over 1000 in the last few months. There is an iron tight commitment from the Green Party core membership whatever the polls because these are the principles and policies they believe in.

    What we are seeing is churn amongst New Zealand voters who are disatisfied with National but are too conservative to vote for any party that isn’t conservative. Hence the leap up of New Zealand First which has done very little to deserve their jump in the polls. This is nothing the Green Party can do anything about.

  13. Oh wow one poll signals the end of the greens despite being up by around 2-3 % throughout last year

    Enough with going nuts and declaring singular polls as definite trends this blog did it throughout 2014
    And it never helps.

    When the next poll has the greens on 13% will you eat your words

    Polls go up they go down but this blog has to stop declaring elections based on a single poll you’re as bad as the msm and you’re by no means helping the cause with wild assumptions

    *Unfollows tdb*

  14. Why put so much confidence and energy into any polls as most are biased and poorly conducted ?
    Boy – such Green bashing going on here in many comments above.
    The Greens are switched on and not the idiots that many want to depict.
    The Greens have good plans and economic development agendas that are way beyond the intellectual capabilities of this govt. and frankly many people who need to misjudge and misrepresent the Greens.

    Did anyone seriously listen to some of the very powerful speeches recently coming from The Greens ?
    Do any of these Green bashers understand the real motives and real plans of The Greens ?
    Consider not putting so much faith and belief in any polls – they are not worthy or trusted by those who are operating with integrity and a desire to stop propaganda and mind manipulation. Most polls are not worth our attention.

    Narrow minded, propaganda, misleading idiot comments meant to damage and diminish – lets have more open minds and let go of all the lies and hate and misrepresentations of a very good political party. The fact that so many still back this Natz, out of touch – trainwreck govt. just shows how much we need alternatives and people who want what is best for all and end war and poverty. The Greens are so far ahead of any other political party in the realm of integrity and
    intellectual maturity. Naturally they will be attacked and misrepresented by idiots with their heads in the sand.

  15. ” Veritas es en medio “. Consider the ” 3 Ps ” and review the environmental manifestos of an alternative to the Green Party. The ” change ahead could be ” cyclonic “.

  16. Since when does one poll result suggest a party is on the slide Chris? Seriously, you know as well as I do that it’s the trend over time that matters.

    Yet I do agree that this could herald a decline in the Greens fortunes, though I doubt it has much to do with internal strategic or ideological differences.

    As a Green voter myself (last 4 elections at least) I am very unimpressed with several things;

    1. James Shaw. I’m uncomfortable with Mr. Shaw. Just a hunch but he feels like a neoliberal plant. The noises the Greens have been making recently about being ‘able’ to work with both Labour & National betrays his position IMO. Feels like the party could be sacrificed for a seat at the big boys table, if given the chance. Only need 5%+ to prop up another National government in 17 for a taste of power. National would rejoice. Furthermore, Shaw has zero gravitas and isn’t a particularly good orator.

    2. Metiria Turei. I have great respect for Mrs. Turei, however she has been absent in the public eye for months now. Why is that?

    3. Red Peak. The whole Red Peak thing really pissed me off. The Greens gave the whole process legitimacy by advocating for RP and getting it included in the mix.

    4. The Loss of Russel Norman. To many good things to say about Mr. Norman to list here. A+++ politician of the highest regard (IMHO). I understand his reasons for hanging up his hat and think the party is really smarting from losing him.

    Personally I am now at a crossroads with who I will support at the next election & it won’t be the Green Party for the first time in 4 elections. I know others who feel the same for very similar reasons.

    • We feel that you and Trotter are out in left field about the Greens.
      Bashing a great party for some trivial reasons and misleading judgements.

      Has anyone really listened to all the recent great Green speeches and statements in parliament ? Green bashing is ugly and so unnecessary.

      Come on Trotter – if we are going to get rid of this horrific govt. – should we not be getting behind the opposition instead of tearing them to shreds with semi-truths and misleading beliefs meant to damage.

      • Green bashing Blake? Did you read my comment or was it just a ‘skim’?

        You haven’t addressed any of the points that I made, as a matter of opinion. Why are my ‘reasons’ trivial and misleading? Who’s we?

        Further to that, you go onto lump me in with CT as a Green basher while completely ignoring my first statement.


  17. I think making assumptions based on polls is itself a process fraught with risk. Firstly polls are never truly representative but worse they can become self fulfilling prophesies. Which, I suspect is just what the established political parties want.

    That said I do think the presence of NZ First is having an impact on Green support. I would say too the parties odd political decisions in terms of legislation it has supported of late has done it no favours either. Nor has its intransigence in opposing ugly actions taken by this government.

    Its worth too considering where Labour stand. Many Labourites I know are still not happy with them. They look too much like National and consistently fail to take action on issues that concern left leaning voters. Worse still they seem to be asleep to the hardships facing working class voters who typically vote for them.

    In other words its hard to say what will happen come next election. Polls certainly can be interesting like potential but little more.

  18. The greens are miss guided halfwits that simply do not appeal to the kiwi voter.. Someone, probably in jest suggested a blue/green coalition. Think about it, maybe not so silly. It would give the green side some brawn and brain.

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