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.
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 blogs at www.karldufresne.blogspot.co.nz. This article was first published in The Dominion Post, July 3.