The Green Party and the consequences of boldness
The resignations of MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon were unfortunately timed and they managed their announcement badly, disregarding party protocols. Although I regard both as friends, I believe our caucus, our party and the campaign will actually be stronger because of their decision.
For some time the Green Party has been drifting into a more centrist space and we had become very risk-averse. There was a general acceptance that the party needed to be in government to really make a difference and the pathway chosen to achieve this became a more moderate one. I believe that this was a mistake and the Party just became absorbed into the centrist swamp of poll driven caution. For many the Budget Responsibility Rules and James' immigration announcements were a step too far and we were beginning to look no different from Labour and National.
The Green Party is a values based party and we desperately need a more values based approach to deal with current issues than the largely fiscal one we have at present. The National Government's approach of "doing more with less" is essentially austerity under a different name and this has failed everywhere else.
Jeanette Fitzsimons wrote an article earlier this year in the Green Party membership magazine promoting her belief that boldness rather than blandness was needed if we were to have any real impact. Given the level of environmental degradation, the very real threat of climate change and increasing levels of poverty, greater urgency is required. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn both got a huge amount of support for exposing the damage caused by neoliberalism and being frank about the solutions. The time for speaking truth to power is clearly now.
Metiria's admission of benefit fraud at the Green Party AGM was the necessary cut through to start a meaningful debate. Election after election of releasing useful policy got nowhere because it was just appealing to people's 'headspace' rather than the 'heartspace' that actually resonates with voters. The issues around poverty and insufficient welfare support needed to be framed within a personal story and Metiria made the very brave decision to expose her own to do this.
There are consequences for boldness and Metiria got hit with a tidal wave of abuse from those who believe that welfare fraud is the ultimate crime. For many breaking the law is totally unacceptable, no matter what the motivation. However, it was clear that the loudest critics were well removed from the realities of our welfare system and misunderstood the point of her admission. Sadly, I believe that Kennedy and David come from this perspective too. While both have served the party well for many years, the communities that they mainly worked within (international diplomacy, academia and business) probably shaped their thinking. The moderate approach the Green Party had been taking best served those communities and Kennedy and David probably saw previous support slipping away because of Metiria. Their own work has probably been compromised by Metiria's stand and I think I understand their perspective.
The Green Party cannot be everything to everyone and we were already in danger of becoming another National or Labour, constrained from strong action because of an unwillingness to upset one of our communities. I believe that we now need to show some backbone and come out strong for the issues and communities that really need our support. It will mean that we will lose some current members and supporters but, for those who understand the environmental issues and social consequences of the current regime, a soft approach will no longer do.
To truly stand up for the growing disenfranchised in our society we must stand behind Metiria. At the moment she is representing every beneficiary who has not been best served by our welfare system and has been forced to make difficult choices in order to meet the needs of their children. If we fail to do this, and Metiria steps down, then the current discriminatory system and culture will only win again.
We must not let that happen!