I pointed my patented bullshit meter at the television last night when Green Party co-leader Russel Norman appeared on my screen. There was little Russel at the Green Party conference telling everyone that the party had to 'keep it real.'
My patented bullshit meter went off the dial at this point.
Was Norman labouring under the impression he had morphed into Ali G? And, if so, can we expect him to be making a music video with Madonna sometime soon?
Given Norman's liking for using New Zealand 'celebrities' to promote the Green 'brand' perhaps its not as crazy as it sounds.
What was Norman talking about? And why does the Green Party keep on employing meaningless catchphrases. 'Keeping it real' is about as informative as the Green Party's tremendous election slogan - 'Vote for me.' Perhaps they could combine the two next year - 'Vote for me because I'm keeping it real.'
However, when he wasn't speaking in cliches, Norman confirmed again that he's still taking the Green Party to electoral failure via his commitment to market-led environmentalism. At the conference Norman said that the 'market had to be linked to the environment'.
Rather than rejecting neoliberalism Norman was instrumental in forging a deal with the Key Government. In return for helping out National, the Green's were tossed a few policy favours including an agreement to work together to implement a home insulation programme and to 'update' New Zealand's energy efficiency programme.
The Green's are still offering no alterative to neoliberalism. On television last night I heard 'Russel G' saying that the Green's should be competing for the conservative vote.
Indeed Norman told the conference that the Green's hoped to gain ten percent of the vote next year by presenting a 'more mainstream image.'
Since the party has already jettisoned most of its left wing politics one wonders just how 'more mainstream' Norman thinks the Green's can get.
On Saturday, co-leader Metiria Turei made Prime Minister John Key and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett the focus of her attacks on the Government's record on addressing inequality.
This is the height of hypocrisy. How can the Green's legitimately attack the Key Government's failure to tackle social and economic inequality and at the same support the neoliberal agenda that has been responsible for that inequality? The answer is that they can try but will always be undone by the problem that they are not offering an alternative to neoliberalism - and the fact they signed a 'memo of understanding' with the Key government.
Norman's empty bravado about 'keeping it real' comes at a time when there is a whole load of dissatisfaction with the Green rank and file about the conservative political direction that Norman and the parliamentary MPs have taken the party.
That dissatisfaction has spilled over into a rank and file campaign against the way the Green party list is determine and advertisements were placed in national newspapers to air these concerns.
Bryce Edwards has some interesting observations to make on this dispute here.
The reality is that the Green Party, in its bid for more influence on government, has been transformed into a party that is virtually indistinguishable from the parties of the right.
I would say that the Green Party has moved away from its grassroots support, which the Green's have formerly placed great emphasis on, and has become a party that is effectively controlled and directed by Russel Norman and his parliamentary team.
Is this what Norman means by 'keeping it real'?