Monday, September 28, 2009

My thoughts on Sue Bradfords resignation

Sue Bradford announced last week that she is leaving Parliament, citing disappointment at losing the co-leadership contest. It's an honest statement and she is to be admired for that. She did not add that she is unhappy at the direction the Green Party is headed, but there is no doubt that she would have steered a very different course from that intended by the current leadership. Perhaps she saw little place for herself in the new, unaligned, Green Party.

Sue was a sometimes controversial figure, but there is no doubt that she has played a key role in the early development of the Parliamentary Greens. She has also played an important role in Parliament, but that is all about to change. Despite her brave face, life after Parliament will be hard to adjust to. Once gone, she is unlikely to get any support from the Greens during this difficult transition, and I hope that her personal support system is strong. She will need it.

Her stated desire to get back to the grassroots is most welcome. The Green Party has often been criticised for sucking the energy out of the grassroots movement and expending it on getting people elected. Green MPs are useful to have in the House, but the Green Party does need to consider how it returns nutrients to the soil from whence it sprung. Shedding leaves from the top is one way of doing that. With her considerable knowledge base and extraordinary capacity for work, Sue will certainly build some humus in the community. I wish her well.

The question of where this leaves the Party is interesting. With both Sue and Jeanette stepping down early the Greens caucus will soon include David Clendon and Gareth Hughes. David is a small business advisor and works with the Sustainable Business Network. He has the potential to build much stronger links with small business and new business and this, as I have said before, is crucial to enlarging a uniquely Green constituency, one that is so poorly served, practically and ideologically, by both Labour and National.

Gareth is a young and creative climate change campaigner. He will strengthen important connections with the growing movement around climate change, especially its energetic and passionate youth activists. He will also bring experience with e-organising and campaigning methods that will help cement the Greens reputation as the most innovative and tech-savvy party political campaigners. The crucial issue will be whether the Green caucus is capable of supporting him well in an environment that is hostile to young people and innovative thinking. It will be a test of the co-leadership's ability to create a strong team that looks after its players, something the party has not really managed to achieve in the past.

Along with new MPs Kennedy Graham and Kevin Hague, David and Gareth signify a change in the Green Party's political orientation and flavour. The Old Left element of the party, once so influential, will be scarcely represented once Sue has left. Keith Locke, considered by many to be the archetypical communist, is actually nothing of the sort. While he is the oldest member of the Green caucus, his mental youthfulness and his sense of empathy have prevented him from becoming sufficiently doctrinaire. With this new influx, the Green Party is likely to become a more emphatically 'green-wing' party than has been possible in the past.

Does this mean that the Green Party will become less radical? I doubt it. The Green Party, for all its hype, has never been particularly radical. Sue has enjoyed a well deserved reputation for militancy, but this is hardly the same thing. Militancy is a strategic position. Radicalism is about the fundamental goals, and whether the solutions being offered address the root causes of the problems at hand. Sue Bradford is known and respected for her work around poverty, but her solutions have largely focussed on such things as benefit rises, workers rights and more state support for the community sector. These are worthy and important goals, but State munificence and higher wages cannot substitute for genuine social and ecological connectedness, nor for reducing resource consumption.

The departure that does threaten to deradicalise the Greens, in my view, is Jeanette Fitzsimons. Although she is not militant, she possesses a dangerous mind (dangerous, that is, to the status quo). She has spent considerable time thinking about what the fundamental causes of our ecological and social disintegration are, and the contradictions and difficulties we face in attempting to address them. Of course articulating this in public is a risky business for politicians and while Jeanette was not always effective at painting a broad green vision in the public mind, it always looked like she saw one. It may not be the role of a political party to advocate truly radical solutions, but unless the Greens continue to think about them they risk being shipwrecked on the shoals of immediacy.


Bethany Mark said...

What then is the "genuine social and ecological connectedness" solution to lifting, for example, low paid school support staff workers, or cleaners, or fast food workers out of poverty? Sue's solutions make sense to me, whereas "stronger links with small business" don't. But genuinely keen on hearing your views on this. Cheers, Beth.

Unknown said...

Hi Beth

Thanks for your post.

I said they are "worthy and important goals", but its hard to describe them as 'radical', in the sense that they ameliorate conditions of exploitation but don't address more fundamental problems.

My interest in small business is that I don't see the world split into a boss/ worker dualism, with they solutions being about wresting better conditions from bosses. 'Ownership of the means of production' through small business ownership and cooperatives is one other possibility. Certainly I think that Green philosophies (particularly around self reliance) have as much in common intrinsically with small business operators as waged workers

Anonymous said...

I would suggest the green party should push for green collar jobs and a just transition to a low carbon economy.

Metiria has said she supports climate justice, and was in agreement with Sue Bradford on many issues.

Essentially for Aotearoa to be sustainable we need both green jobs and to also tackle poverty.

Additionally we need to tackle the big polluters, something that both small buisnesses and workers can do. Fonterra, Solid Energy, Rio Tinto and others withing the Greenhouse Policy Coalition and other big polluter lobbies need to be tackled, and put in line.

Emissions trading is unable to do this.

The greens need to be more than a green lobby, they need to be a party of action and change.

toad said...

Nandor Tanczos said: Once gone, she is unlikely to get any support from the Greens during this difficult transition, and I hope that her personal support system is strong.

I presume you are stating that from your personal experience upon leaving Parliament, and if that is the case, it is something that I as an active member of the Green party regret. It is all to easy to get so caught up in the politics that we don't take enough account of the personal impact it has on our people. The Greens are probably better than other parties in that regard, but I take note of your point. I, for one, will be doing my best to ensure that both Sue and Dave are personally supported through the transition.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Anon - yep, I'd agree with most of that.

Toad - actually I don't think they are, but your interest might help things improve in the future

aj said...

Hi Nandor,
Interesting take on Sue's resignation. Your points about the departure of the left wing agenda are well taken - this is the shape of politics to come.
Hope you're enjoying life away from the beehive. :)


ani nil carborundum said...

kia ora Nandor,

I would love to talk with you again one day. We lost touch after you had been in parliament a while.

Sue and I met in the street in Kohukohu and went for a coffee, during last year's election.

I think geography plays a big part in our parliamentary politics. And the big division is North Island and South Island. I have to say Metiria is the best candidate from that motu since Rod Donald.

Parliament is another country, and travellers from that land always take a while to settle back.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a real shame that we lose Sue as she was a very hard working, focussed and committed MP - from any party. NZ politics suffers from apathy and conservatism in the general electorate - Sue challenged people and their perceptions and continued to work on despite being knocked by most. With both you and Sue gone, I have concerns about both the direction and the effectiveness of the Green Party but live in hope that new blood might bring new ideas and energy, albeit a somewhat different direction

Anonymous said...

As always, you're both gentle and insightful, Nandor. (You're missed.)


Anonymous said...

Those who are missed most are those who exercise most freedom away from the place they are missed.

Nandor's comments are insightful and remarkably honest. Sue's militancy and passion for the 'social justice agenda' has been important, but the party needs a new way of expressing that commitment. A more integrated way. If only the GP could exercise some form of radicalism...and not just the usual lone voice of dissent...then it might get really exciting.

I don't think it's fair to say she was old school like we have moved on and somehow now live in a happy world - there's nothing really all that new or encouraging in the emergent political spectrum. What we need is integrity and integration.

The poor, the marginalised, the overlooked - they need a place front and centre at the Green Party caucus table. But how they get there is a strategic question that needs a careful, and I believe more integrated, answer.


Kamagra Gel said...

I read Sue Bradford, after her resignation, traveled to Miami and spent a couple of weeks on the beach... Nice huh?

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