Election result may be good for Greens

Election may be good for Greens.

This election was, on the face of it, was bad for the Greens. Their primary vote fell from 11 per cent to 8 per cent. They have lost the balance of power in both the house and probably the senate (depending how the various independents vote).

Yet, strangely, this might all turn out to be good news for the Greens.

My sense is the Greens “core vote” held up but they lost dissaffected voters from the last two elections who had seen the Greens as a protest vote.

Holding the balance of power sounded good for the Greens, giving them a seat at the policy negotiating table. But as a junior partner is a supposedly Labor-Greens government (as right-wing pundits described it) the Green became linked in public perception with an unpopular and muddled Labor government. This time, voters protested against the Greens, not through them.

They coped flak from all sides. From the green purists for selling out and from the right for all the usual reasons, including the carbon tax.

Then Labor itself rounded on them, trying to pin the blame on them for their own disastrous flip-flopping on climate policy.

As the Liberal Democrats have found in the UK, being a junior partner in government can be a poisoned chalice. You are compromised yet without real power.

The Greens might be better off out of the sordid business of deal making and power sharing. They won’t be able to influence policy directly, but they will be freed up to focus on setting out their own agenda and values.

Freed from the shennanigans of a hung parliament, the Greens have space to reflect and refocus on their core message.

Which brings us to the second part of the equation. That core message. Successful political movements have a clear core message, or narrative (or in advertising speak, a brand proposition). You can say what they are about in a single sentence.

The Greens core narrative is: we must protect the environment. The more people agree with this proposition, the more likely they are to vote Green.

I think the Greens have allowed themselves to be distracted by social issues such as gay marriage and asylum policy. This has diluted their core narrative.

I’m not saying the Greens should have no social policies, but they must talk about the environment – and in particular climate change – more, and social issues less. They must argue that the environment is more than a “single issue” and that a healthy environment is the basis for everything else. They must persuade more people to take the environment seriously.

If they can do that, their vote will recover and continue to grow.


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