Lefties

Nandor Tanczos has an interesting and challenging blog over at Dread Times, where he assesses the impact that Sue Bradford’s departure will have on the Green Party.  I’m sad to see Sue go – I reckon she’s one of the best MPs we’ve ever had.  And I feel immensely sad and frustrated that we as a party couldn’t find a place for her.  Much as I felt when Nandor left too. In particular I worry that there is no one else in Parliament to speak for the community sector the same way Sue Bradford does. But I disagree with this comment:

Along with new MPs Kennedy Graham and Kevin Hague, David and Gareth signify a change in the Green Party’s political orientation and flavour… With this new influx, the Green Party is likely to become a more emphatically ‘green-wing’ party than has been possible in the past.

I come from that “old left element” of the party, and I’ve always thought the concept of ‘green-wing’ is fundamentally flawed.  While the left-right political spectrum is not the only political divide it is an important one that you cannot pretend doesn’t matter.  The most Green of issues – climate change, water quality, conservation etc – cannot be solved, to my mind without at least some decent left-wing state intervention.  Gareth Hughes might fit the stereotype of young, urban, tree-hugging Green better than Sue Bradford, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him out supporting Unite’s $15 minimum wage campaign and other ‘left wing’ causes – because that stuff is about core Green values. One potential new MP does not make for a change in direction – at least not one that I can discern.  I’m expecting the Greens to remain the only party in Parliament that consistently speaks up on the left-wing issues I care about. Sue Bradford has particular emphases that are different to those that Gareth will have as an MP but the values of the party are not, as far as I can see, going anywhere new.

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One thought on “Lefties

  1. Thanks for the post stevedore

    I too am sad to see Sue go. She truly is an inspiration both as a person and a parliamentarian. I’m also personally happy for her and sure she’ll keep on campaigning hard for the important issues facing people and the planet.

    It’s true I’m a greenie and have been since I was a boy racer at high school but my interest in environmental issues has always been in tangent with a deep concern with ‘people’ issues. Stevedore’s right I’ve been out advocating for a $15 minimum wage and just today I was at a Service and Food Workers Union meeting talking climate change and discussing how unions and workers can be part of the solution. Most greens acknowledge you can’t have a sustainable economy and society without addressing social concerns and vice versa. Environmental degradation doesn’t just happen – it occurs because of societal drivers.

    Linking sustainability and social justice along with acknowledging Te Tiriti, non-violence and appropriate decision making are at the core of Green politics in Aotearoa.

    Nandor and other commentators however do raise interesting points around the perceptions of the Greens. It’s true there are factions within the party – as in every other party in NZ, and having spent my professional life campaigning for environmental issues it is easy to classify me as from the green faction. I personally reject the ‘left wing’ label and believe it’s an old type of politics that the Greens move beyond but this in no way means I reject campaigning on social justice issues in favour of soley focusing on environmental issues.

    Politics, as in life doesn’t easily lend itself to simple answers. Sue was portrayed as an ‘old left winger’ in part from her background, portfolios and legislative achievements and while she definitely was ‘from the left’ many don’t seem to remember or highlight the tireless work she did linking the environment with social justice concern. I enjoyed many a conversation with her on the human dimensions of climate change – both in terms of adaptation (the poorest face the effects first and greatest despite being least responsible) and mitigation (why should those least responsible face the greatest proportional cost?). Sue typified what differs the Greens from the other parties – joined up thinking.

    It will be interesting to see how Sues departure impacts on the public perceptions of the Greens and their direction but for me personally and the work I plan to focus on remains the same. I’ll keep campaigning for social justice, sustainability and the other green charter principles. The Green campaigns and success around home insulation initiatives illustrate the ‘win-win’ approach for people and planet, that while don’t easily fit a traditional political classification, however remain the way forward and one of the reasons why the Greens are still the most exciting political force in NZ politics.

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