Can the Greens step down from their pedestal now?


Yes, it was a devastating drubbing for the NSW Labor Party. It was also a well-deserved loss after years of incompetence and less than truthful dealings with the NSW public.

But that wasn’t the story for me. All I wanted to know was how the Greens fared. No, I don’t have an unhealthy obsession with the Greens. But as I explained in the previous post, suggestions that swathes of voters are deserting the Labor ship for the Greens are Just. Plain. Wrong.

The Greens fielded a candidate in every seat. While Labor suffered a 17% swing against them, the Greens failed to pick up more than a 1.4% swing to them. Even in the upper house they only managed a 1.85% swing in their favour.

I’ve been told the Greens’ vote suffered from the poor quality of candidates on offer. Sorry, that excuse doesn’t fly.

Every single political operative in Australia has known for the past four years that the NSW election would be held on 26 March 2011. There has been plenty of time for the Greens to organise decent candidates. The Liberal Party did; hell even the National Party managed to do so.

And why is it that when the Greens do well, it is all about the superiority of their values and policies, but when they do less well it is about their poor candidates?

4 thoughts on “Can the Greens step down from their pedestal now?

  1. I am a Greens voter. I vote that way for lots of reasons. But gee, they have an unfathomably long distance to travel before they could / can / will govern.

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  2. I am also a Greens voter and don’t see them governing in their own right ever really. The Australian electorate is too conservative for that. This is illustrated by the widespread view that the Greens are some sort of extremist party. This is of course ridiculous. Anyone who has actually read Greens policies will see that these are largely in line with the sort of middle left policies that European social democratic parties have espoused for decades. That they appear extreme in the Australian context illustrates how far the ALP has moved to the right over the last couple of decades.

    The fact that individual candidates ‘suck’ simply shows that the Greens have a lot to learn about being a political party. Similar embarrassments showed up in the Victorian elections although this is not what caused them to miss out on lower house seats down here. That was entirely down to the swapping of preferences between Labor and Coalition candidates.

    This may well have been partly caused by inept preference negotiators from the Victorian Greens but now that it has occurred it will become a pattern nationally. I’m not personally bothered by these mistakes – they still have the training wheels on. It’s one thing to score senate spots and a whole other more complicated game to get lower house candidates up especially given the vastly lower level of resource available to the Greens.

    On the other hand however, despite the disappointments at State level election by election the Greens vote grows slowly but surely. This process will continue. Demographic change does not favour the ALP. Unencumbered by historical loyalties the young who are inclined to vote on the left will vote Green in increasing numbers. Having already pinched 10% of the progressive vote from Labor I can see this rising to around 15%.

    Although Labor might be able to survive on a mixture of preference swaps with the Coalition and Greens preferences from candidates shut out by this practice they will struggle to get their primary vote above 40%, absolute borderline territory if they are to hold power.

    I look forward to the time when Labor luminaries are able to overcome their huge sense of entitlement and seriously begin to examine the possibilities of a coalition of the left to confront the coalition of the right.

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  3. I really think that extrapolating too much from the NSW election is dangerous. It was an unusual election because the government was SO ruined, and so many voters simply wanted Labor out.

    Voters understood that meant voting for the Coalition.

    Given that BOF successfully presented himself as a moderate, safe pair of hands, even Labor voters were happy to give him a vote. That doesn’t mean they don’t have “Left” values or have shifted to the Coalition. Nor does it mean they won’t necessarily vote Green in future. It simply means that they really wanted a change of Government, and knew that meant voting for the Coalition.

    The Federal election was a nice illustration of a very different situation. Many voters were disillusioned with Labor. But they were definitely not convinced that Abbott was a moderate and safe pair of hands. Nor were they as sure whether or not a change of Government was necessary. Hence the high votes for those who could keep a check on the unwelcome tendencies of whichever major party won – ie Greens and independents.

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