Karl du Fresne is a journalist and columnist from the old school. He probably wouldn't object to being labelled a curmudgeon, and if fact may have even used that moniker himself in his regular Dom-Post column.
But today's piece should be mandatory reading for every Green MP, both current and aspiring; under the heading Smug Greens deserve a small comeuppance du Fresne opines:
I am not a supporter of the Greens but part of me longs for the day when they find themselves in government.They are enjoying a dream ride right now, confidently sounding off on every issue from mineral exploration to state asset sales and teacher-pupil ratios.They are well organised, adroit at using a sympathetic media and blessed with a front line of fresh, articulate MPs who combine earnest idealism with sharp political instincts.But the Greens have never really been tested in combat.They have never had to balance their worthy ideals against the political realities of being in government. That's when the pressure goes on and principles get compromised.Pragmatists and purists find themselves at odds and cracks start to appear. It's happened to every minor party from Social Credit (which started to fall apart when its then leader Bruce Beetham did a deal with Robert Muldoon) to ACT.It's likely to happen to the Greens too, should they eventually find themselves in coalition with Labour.
This is a salutory lesson from Karl du Fresne, but one that the Greens ought not dismiss merely because they either don't want to hear it or because it's authored by du Fresne. They only need look about the House to see other examples.
There's NZ First, which came within a whisker of annihilation in 1999 after having gone into coalition with National (against whom the party had vigorously campaigned) in 1996. United Future has steadily declined; from eight seats in 2002 to three in 2005 and just Peter Dunne in the last two elections. And there's Act, which had nine MP's after the 2002 election, and now just has John Banks, regarded by most as National's 60th MP in everything but name.
And as du Fresne notes, whilst it's MMP that has given the Greens prominence, MMP could also be their enemy; read on:
One of the paradoxes of MMP is that the acquisition of power, which is what all politicians aspire to, has been the kiss of death for minor parties.This lends a special piquancy to the old saying that you should be careful what you wish for.For now, the Greens can take the moral high ground on virtually everything because they have never been exposed to the pressures of office and the compromises it demands.They are unencumbered by previous form in government and have no shoddy record to defend.They are as pure as they would like our lakes and rivers to be.I find their self-righteousness tiresome at times. Co-leader Metiria Turei can appear particularly smug. I relish the thought of their self-assurance melting if and when the heat goes on.
Karl du Fresne is right on the money here. The media has, until the last couple of months, given the Greens a pretty easy ride. If they are ever in the position of holding the balance of power, or even of replacing Labour as the opposition party of choice, they and their policies can expect to be placed under far greater scrutiny than they currently receive. And that will not be a bad thing, even if it gets uncomfortably warm for Green MP's used to the media running their press releases without scrutiny or adverse comment.