The resignation of Elizabeth Kerekere as a Green M.P. is a symptom of a Green Party that is marooned within the middle-class enclave it has built for itself. Fighting among themselves, its M.P.'s have only highlighted that the Green Party has forgotten who the real enemy is. 

THE GREEN PARTY leadership have always argued that it is best to be inside Labour's tent rather than outside of it. That way, co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson have argued, the Green's will have considerably more influence on Government policy. With both Shaw and Davidson occupying ministerial positions, if outside cabinet, Green Party supporters were led to believe that significantly more Green policy would make its way through to actual Government policy.

This has not been the case. While Shaw and Davidson, enjoying ministerial-sized salaries, decided that 2022 had been a 'phenomenally' good year for the Green Party, there was little justification for them to have enthusiastically slapped themselves on the back. The general consensus is that throughout the course of the Labour Party's time in office, the Green Party can point to little in the way of real achievement.

It has mostly made the headlines for things other than to do with Government policy. Last year James Shaw was embroiled in a tussle to retain his position as co-leader after a section of the party moved against him. His fellow co-leader hit the headlines for promoting a brand of chocolate - against cabinet rules - and more recently claiming that 'white cis men' are responsible for most of the domestic violence that plagues the country. Although Marama Davidson clumsily tried to walk back her comments, but only after Prime Minister Chris Hipkins expressed his disapproval, the damage was already done.

And now the Green Party has made the headlines again for something other than government policy. Elizabeth Kerekere's resignation as a Green Party M.P., firing a number of criticisms at Shaw and Davidson on her way out, is the culmination of several weeks of an increasingly rancorous dispute.

It is not a good look for a Green Party that has tried to present itself as both pragmatic and progressive. But the Green's cosy relationship with Labour over the past six years has seen it not only curtail its criticisms of the Labour Government but defend Labour policy. Climate Change Minister James Shaw has often been justifiably accused of 'greenwashing' while Marama Davidson, despite being the minister directly responsible for homelessness, has refrained from criticising Government housing policies. She has sounded and behaved like a government minister, saving her criticisms for its opponents. It was recently revealed that despite $75 million being allocated for homelessness in last year's budget, Davidson has managed so far to spend less than a million dollars of it.

The problem for the Green Party is that New Zealand is an increasingly angry country. It can be argued that it is this anger that eventually drove a fragile Jacinda Ardern out of office. There is a seething anger and frustration and justifiably so. People are angry that is they who are expected to carry the burden of an economy in crisis while the corporate sector continues to make record profits. They are angry about the continued rising cost of living. They are angry about the lack of ready access to health services. They are angry about the lack of affordable housing. They are angry about a 'representative democracy' that does not seem to represent them.

People do feel as if they have been abandoned to the wolves. But who, on the left, is speaking to that anger?  Despite its own assessment of itself as a 'progressive' political party, it certainly is not the Green Party. It has become firmly ensconced within the political establishment. Chloe Swarbrick occasionally expressing her concerns about an unjust economic system are a minor hiccup from within a party too committed to the niceties of parliamentary politics, too eager to find the 'consensus' view, too ready to 'compromise'. 

While it would be unfair to hold the Green Party solely responsible for New Zealand's lack of anything resembling a populist left movement, it is not something that the Labour Party is ever going to encourage. The Green Party, more often than not, looks and speaks like a political party too interested in defending the status quo rather than tipping it over.

Seemingly marooned within its own middle-class ghetto, it is of little surprise that identity politics has taken precedence within the Green Party. While it is economic issues that are pressing hard on the lives of working class New Zealanders, its M.P.'s are largely focused on issues surrounding race and gender. These can apparently be addressed without ever having to refer to our capitalist economic system.

Commentator Chris Trotter observes that 'the party has embraced a particularly volatile and uncompromising form of social-liberalism. One which a great many green voters find deeply offensive and alienating.'

The argument with Elizabeth Kerekere has festered within a political party that appears aloof and disconnected from the concerns of ordinary New Zealanders. While the Green Party does not look like it is going to implode anytime soon - the looming general election should discipline the various activities of the Green M.P.'s - the Green Party is still unlikely to expand beyond the middle-class enclave it has constructed for itself and may even see a drop in its electoral support. 


  1. I would have thought that Kerekere would have to leave parliament following her resignation. She is a list MP therefore she has no mandate from any electorate to continue. How weak gutted is our parliament and speaker of the house for not forcing her out. She should leave and the next person on the list enters the house. She will still take an MP salary and get to vote as an independent MP. Complete Farce!


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