October 22, 2017

Values lost: whatever happened to the Values Party?

Without doubt, the New Zealand Values Party is one of the most successful ecological parties yet to have been formed anywhere in the world. In the 1975 General Election, Values put up candidates in each of New Zealand’s eighty-four parliamentary constituencies, obtaining six per cent of the vote.

With such a success behind it, the Party had high hopes of achieving even greater heights in last year’s General Election. Those hopes have been dashed, however. Values only gained two per cent of the vote and the Party’s morale has taken something of a tumble.

During a recent visit to New Zealand, I talked to John Horrocks, one of the Party’s leading figures and editor of its newspaper, and asked him; why this set-back?

“To begin with”, he explained,

“Mr. Muldoon, the Prime Minister had made himself extremely unpopular with a vast section of the population, all of whom were intent on getting him out of power. This led to a great deal of tactical voting, with people who would otherwise have voted for Values opting for Labour, the country’s main opposition Party.”

Interestingly enough, the Labour Party—clearly struck by Values’s success at the previous election—had appointed a committee to study the Values manifesto in depth and, on its recommendation, it adopted those policies which were compatible with Labour’s own programme. “An example of this,” says Horrocks,

“was our plan for radically overhauling the present system of electricity pricing. Values has always advocated a graduated tariff—the more a company or individual uses the more he pays. Labour obviously liked the idea and used it in their election campaign, with the media giving them, not us, all the credit. Unfortunately, Labour totally misunderstood the philosophy behind the idea. We intended it as a means of energy conservation which would also favour small industries: Labour saw it as just another means of soaking the rich.”

The Values Party’s lack of success cannot be explained solely by tactical voting, however, for whilst its political star almost crashed from the sky during the election, that of Social Credit, another minority party, rose dramatically. Indeed, Social Credit polled almost eighteen per cent of the national vote—a success due in large part to the charismatic character of its leader, who had already served one term in Parliament after being elected at a by-election at Rangatiki.

Like the Labour Party, Social Credit adopted much of the language and many of the policies of the Values Party. Indeed the cover photograph on Social Credit’s manifesto—two children walking on a beach, looking towards the horizon—was almost identical to that used by the Values Party on its 1975 manifesto. Despite this, Social Credit has only the outward trappings of an ecological party, for the substance is lacking. “The main solution for the problems facing our society today is more economic growth to pay for the cost of pollution control,” complains Horrocks.

“Their basic concern is monetary policy, and they believe that if certain monetary changed are introduced all our problems will be solved over-night. It is an attractive thought simply because it sounds so easy: nobody has to make any effort or sacrifice, all that is needed is a little fiddling around with our currency and everything will be hunky-dorey again.”

Horrocks regards the Social Credit’s manifesto as an example of ‘eco pornography’, paying lip-service only to ecological ideas while advocating policies which can only lead to further ecological disruption.

In a sense, it is a sign of the Values Party’s success that other parties should be trying so hard to appear ecological. “The trouble, of course, is that many people have been lulled into believing that things are beginning to move in the right direction,” says Horrocks.

“Of course everybody is against pollution, resource depletion, wasting energy and social disruption. So it costs the major parties nothing to state explicitly that they are too. What we really want, however, is some action.”

Whereas Values sees such action as its number one priority, the other parties insist that it must be subordinated to other “more pressing” interests, notably stimulating economic growth and free trade. So long as they remain committed to such goals—the root cause of the very ecological and social problems they are trying to solve—any action they take is totally ineffective.

Despite its recent setbacks the Values Party remains confident and is concentrating its efforts on winning local elections. Indeed it is at the local level that Values has achieved its major successes to date. For instance, Tony Brunt, the Party’s founder, topped the poll in the elections for Wellington County Council back in 1977 and is now well placed to be Mayor of Wellington if this is what he wants: Helen Smith topped the poll in a local election at

Porirua, a working-class, largely Polynesian, area: Robin Azirah also topped the poll in the King County Power Board election: and Diedre Kent was elected to the local council at the Tauranga election. Let us hope that as ecological awareness mounts, people will see through the shallowness of the Labour and Social Credit Parties’ concern for ecological issues, and realise that only Values can offer a real solution to New Zealand’s ills.


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