Turei issue alienates Green Party environmental message

Posted July 30, 2017

There’s been lots of debate over the last few weeks about what people will think about Metiria Turei’s admission to benefit fraud when she was a solo mother at University. Will people punish her for breaking the law? or will it grow the Green vote because she highlighted the need for changes in the welfare system? The jury is still out on that. However, this whole issue could hurt the Greens in another way that I haven’t heard any commentators discuss.

When did we last see a Green MP on television discussing an environmental issue?

I’ve always found it strange that the Green Party has had two key messages. One is obviously the environment, but the other is a very left wing economic agenda. This became apparent again when Turei made her admission. It was a great way to bring the Greens welfare policy to the centre of political discussion.

What’s wrong with that?

Lots of people won’t see this as a problem. But what it has done is put the Greens environmental focus on the back burner.  It is called the Green Party for a reason. This could have two negative consequences.

Firstly, I’m pretty sure that lots of people vote Green purely because of the party’s environmental message. These people have little interest in politics and probably don’t even know what the party’s policies are. But now that they’ve seen the party’s Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders-like economic policies, they may be less inclined to vote Green.

Secondly, it’s limited the party’s opportunity to focus on its environmental message. Everyone cares about the future of the planet and the Greens are in the best position to take advantage of that politically. The Turei issue has seen that opportunity lost.

Having said all this, the reverse could also happen. If more people are empathetc to Turei and like the Greens for their left wing economic policies more than the environmental ones (like lots did with Corbyn and Sanders), they could grow their vote. It could also resonate with people who didn't know about the economic policy. In a nutshell, it could see their vote either plummet or skyrocket. 

I still maintain that the party would be far better to focus on one message alone and preferably their environmental one. Then they could sit in the middle of politics and go with whatever party gave them the most environmental concessions in a future Government.

That would be the best way to get some of their green policies implemented. But by ruling out National because of the economic and social policy differences, they are now at the mercy of Labour. That means that even if Labour, NZ First and the Greens have enough seats to govern, they could well find themselves locked out of Government but under pressure to support Labour and NZ First on confidence and supply.

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