Smug Greens deserve a small comeuppance

KARL DU FRESNE
Last updated 05:00 03/07/2012
Greens co-leader Russell Norman at the Greens' gathering on Karangahape Road in Auckland last night.
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
Greens co-leader Russell Norman. For now, the Greens can take the moral high ground on virtually everything because they have never been exposed to the pressures of office, writes Karl du Fresne.

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Karl du Fresne

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OPINION: 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.

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.

***

THEY SAY rugby is a thugs' game played by gentlemen and football is a gentlemen's game played by thugs.

I would amend that slightly. Rugby is a thugs' game watched by gentlemen and football is a gentlemen's game watched by thugs.

In rugby, violence is confined to the field of play. You hardly ever hear of a brawl breaking out in the stands. Rugby crowds are models of good behaviour.

But football seems to bring out the basest instincts in some of its followers.

In the 1980s and 1990s, European football was blighted by appalling thuggery, much of it perpetrated by organised mobs of English supporters.

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When they couldn't take their aggro out on the Dutch or the Italians, the English would practise on each other.

The 1985 Heysel stadium disaster, in which 39 spectators died, was a direct consequence of aggression by Liverpool fans and resulted in a European ban on English clubs.

Even the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy (96 dead) was indirectly due to hooliganism, since it arose from police efforts to keep Liverpool and Nottingham Forest fans apart.

English hooliganism has subsided since then, but the recent European Championship showed football still provides an outlet for brutish nationalism and crude racism.

Polish and Russian fans engaged in vicious street brawls, Russian fans attacked stewards, and racist chants were directed at black players.

Often, football thuggery is aligned with extreme Right-wing nationalism and helps perpetuate old ethnic rivalries.
It's a surrogate form of warfare.

What makes football fans behave like this?

Why does the so-called beautiful game have the ugliest followers?

Cricket fans can be yobbos, but they don't normally attack each other.

Tennis spectators are impeccably well-mannered even when the players behave appallingly.

And although the Olympic Games are the ultimate arena for nationalism in sport, I don't recall the Games ever being soured by the nastiness that routinely occurs in football stadiums.

"Monkey" seems to be the taunt-du-jour for racist fans trying to unsettle black players, but you have to ask: who's more advanced on the evolutionary scale?

***

THE VATICAN wasted no time accepting the resignation of Monsignor Fernando Maria Bargallo, the Argentinian bishop who was filmed frolicking in the surf with an attractive, bikini-clad woman with whom he later admitted an "amorous" relationship.

According to one Vatican source quoted in the media, "either he had to resign or he would be sacked, so he decided to get in first and hand in his notice".

Contrast this decisive response with the scandalous reluctance of church officials to take action against priests known to have abused children.

Rather than disowning him, the Catholic Church should have adopted Monsignor Bargallo as its poster boy.

It could do with some positive PR and he seems just the bloke.

He may have broken his priestly vow of celibacy, but at least his relationship was with a consenting adult woman.

This presents the church in a much healthier light than the hundreds of priests who preyed on vulnerable minors.

- The Dominion Post

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