Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, who has become a sort of organically grown, carbon-credit-worthy grown fig leaf for what is basically a radical left-wing party, is leaving politics.
Fitzsimons herself, with her background in environmental science rather than radical politics, along with her public image of being everyone’s favourite great-auntie (and a palpable, and genuine decency) had become a front-woman for what is basically a radical Marxist party.
It has become something of a cliché to describe the Greens as water melons – green the outside and red on the inside. It’s a bit more complex than that.
Better to think of them as traffic lights – red one minute, green the next, and a sort of funny orange colour when Sue Kedgley accidentally eats a food additive.
The Greens from time to time insist they’re not a left wing party at all – usually when they want National to take them a bit more seriously, and/or when they want a few more ecologically-minded National voters to take a chance on them.
This is either wilful obtuseness – if they really believe this “we’re not really left wing” stuff– or double-talk.
Fitzsimons has argued the Greens are not really left-wing because they “reject the model of the big all powerful state that makes all decisions for people, in favour of a community model that empowers.”
How does that sit with, say, Sue Kedgley’s calls to ban pretty much everything she does not think we should eat or drink?
Not very well.
Does it fit with, say, Keith Locke’s reflex anti-Americanism, or the party’s instinctive suspicion of the profit motive? Not really.
Co-leader Russel Norman’s background is, as he himself claimed in his maiden speech, left wing politics.
“I am not ashamed to have a history in the socialist movement. I am not ashamed to think that everyone deserves a fair go and a fair share of what this life has to offer; to believe that this world is too divided.”
Socialism though, he said, didn’t go far enough – hence his involvement with the Greens.
Arguing the Greens are sort of a next stage on from socialism isn’t quite the same as saying they’re not left wing.
Then there’s the two candidates vying to replace Fitzsimons. Metiria Turei, seen as the most likely successor, framed much of her maiden speech around an address by radical US academic Noam Chomsky, who said those of us in western democracies are “in a cage” and “we’re going to expand the floor [of the cage], meaning we will extend to the limits what the cage will allow.
And we intend to destroy the cage. But not by attacking the cage when we're vulnerable, so they'll murder us. You have to protect the cage when it's under attack from even worse predators from outside, like private power. And you have to expand the floor of the cage. These are all preliminaries to dismantling it….
“We too, in Aotearoa, live in a cage.”
She also said that in New Zealand “the present state has no legitimacy and that it must ultimately be transformed into a system which implements Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”
None of which is exactly middle of the road. You won’t find many broadly non-ideological voters fed up with the old parties, buying into this stuff.
The other candidate, Sue Bradford’s history in left-wing protest politics is well enough known: there is also a tale of her, in her protest days, attending a Green meeting in Auckland in the mid-1990s and being heard to murmur ‘this party is ripe for taking over’.
Whether that anecdote is true or not, it deserves to be.
It is in fact what has happened.