From Kakariki to Tui and back again

To recent political viewers, the Green party appears to have taken a sudden swing to the left with the release of their ‘Mending the Safety Net’ policy. While overshadowed by Metiria’s confession that she had undeclared flatmates while on the DPB, the policy itself is more striking than her so-called fraud. After all, anyone who has been on a benefit has probably had to tell a ‘white lie’ to survive the process.
‘Mending the Safety Net’ is the first substantive attempt to roll back the social warfare attacks of the 1990’s and for a party that has, for the past 10 years, been devoid of socially controversial policy it seems dramatic.
But the Greens were not always so bland. Up until the untimely death of their male co-leader Rod Donald, the Greens were a progressive party championing radical environmental and social policies. Remember, the first lot of Green MPs included Sue Bradford, Keith Locke and Nandor Tanczos!
In those early years the party was made up of environmentalists, social progressives, the disenfranchised (including many ex-McGullicudies), freaks, weirdos and hippies.
However, after the first flush of electoral success in 1999, the Green Party began to be invaded. Invaded by mainstream conservatives who were attracted by the environmental policies (think middle class tramper’s), but repelled by the social policies (and the freaks, weirdos and hippies). This group were epitomised by Green MP Ian Ewen-Street – who left the Green Party in 2004 and went on to join National and help write their Blue-Green policies.
Tension grew within the party. By the time of Rod Donald’s death in 2005, the party was about 50/50 progressives/conservatives. The ensuing battle for the next male co-leader became pivotal for the party. It was not just a contest between the socially progressive Nandor Tanczos and the centrist populist Russel Norman – it was a significant decision as to whether the conservative invaders could turn the party into an environmental party, and expunge the social progressives, the disenfranchised and the freaks, weirdos and hippies.
The conservatives won. Nandor lost. And as the socially progressive MP’s left (Nandor, Sue, Keith, Sue Kedgley) they were replaced with bland, uncontroversial and environmentally focused MPs.
Russel’s influence was considerable. And while there is no question Metiria has personal beliefs that uphold the party’s original socially progressive views, she did not become co-leader until Jeanette Fitzsimmons stood down in 2009.
The supposedly ‘sudden’ swing back to socially progressive policies is in response to Russel Norman standing down as male co-leader in 2015 – allowing the now-politically-mature co-leader, Metiria, to assert influence on the party and champion the progressive social policies which have always been dear to her heart. Her boldness is encouraged by her long 15 years as an MP, and a desire to achieve a win for the poor before she leaves parliament.
It is not a surprise that she has made this move. At this time. Not to anyone who knows her. What is a pleasant surprise is that the voters have backed her controversial move. Will the party also support her?


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