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!

Comments

KjT said…
Got it in one.
Paranormal said…
Soooo, being a values based party is incompatible with actually having values and ethics?

Many do not see Welfare Fraud as the worst possible crime - it is fraud of any nature that is criminal. MT has admitted several types of fraud and has shown no contrition or remorse. But underlying that is the knowledge that what MT and the Greens are framing is not the truth. If MT had not committed fraud, her baby would not have starved. Hers is not the poverty story you are desperately trying to frame up. And the thing is it's MT that has put it out there over the years with her womens magazines interviews. It is not the VRWC attacking her, she's tripped herself up with her own rent seeking.

Now, that your party has castigated two clearly upright and ethical members, will hurt you more than you realise. It is not KG and DC's approach that is damaging. It is the way the remainder of the Green party has rounded on them that the public will see as lacking the democratic values you so blithely expound, but consistently fail to exhibit.
bsprout said…
Paranormal, you still don't get it. The reason why Metiria admitted what she did was not to support fraud but expose the realities of living of a benefit for many young mothers. She has never supported or promoted fraud as an acceptable thing to do but wanted to expose the largely hidden reality of living on very little. I am sure her circumstances were better than many young mothers and if you watch the John Campbell video you will see interviews with people who also felt that welfare support isn't adequate. One woman broke down into tears and admitted that she had resorted to prostitution and drug selling to put food on the table for her children.

I believe the situation for beneficiaries is so much worse now. Increases in the costs of housing has seen the majority of beneficiaries incomes disappearing in rent (even with the accommodation supplement) leaving little for food and other essentials. Food banks are providing more support than ever before and we are now ranked at the bottom of the developed world for child health and welfare. This is a crisis and you continued lack of compassion and appreciation of the realities is disappointing.

The double standard that you are displaying when so many National MPs have exploited the system "legally" for personal gain is also concerning. As many others have noted, Bill English extracted far more from taxpayer coffers for living in his Wellington mansion. Interestingly Metiria is being dumped on for something she admitted doing 25 years earlier and Bill only admitted the immorality of his claim after it had been exposed by others. Jeanette Fitzsimons interview is worth listening to as she explains how what is legal isn't always moral. Under this government a good deal of legislation passed breaches human rights.

I think my post adequately explains the situation regarding Kennedy and David, I was really disappointed by what they did but I still consider them friends. Overall the Green Party has treated them well.
Paranormal said…
I like how you think I "don't get it" which is very convenient for you. The problem for you is it doesn't matter what I "get" or otherwise. It's how the voters see it that matters. Two of your MP's "get it" and now for speaking their truth to authority have been castigated by their party. How do you think that plays out to potential Green voters?

Sadly by playing the party line you don't "get it" either.

The online and public reaction of GP members and leaders to the two MPs that have stood up for what they believe in has been instructive. It shows the Greens are no different to other parties on the left - they're all just nasty.

Regardless of why she did it, MT has shown herself to be a fraudster in her chosen lifestyle. Spare us the whole poverty compassion thing. This is not about poverty or compassion at all (although top marks for trying the diversionary thing - it works well on four year olds). This is all about an individual who earns approx. $175,000pa tax free plus benefits, who shows no contrition or remorse, but does have a huge entitlement mentality.

In the long run this is about the different views on welfare. Your view is that welfare needs to be the most generous to support the vulnerable in our society. Having seen that welfare is the issue causing most of the problems, my view is providing more generous welfare will only exacerbate the existing problems.

You can deliberately ignore the gaming and rorting of the welfare system if you want. I challenge you to go into the tinnie houses and gang residences where they are farming young women for their benefits and tell them how being more generous is going to make their lives better. It won't, it will only make the gangs farming more profitable.

As I've said previously, we've pulled our own relations out of these houses. It's not pretty. So don't use the compassion and caring BS on me. I have no end of compassion for the future generations you callously wish to trap in welfare dependency.
bsprout said…
Paranormal, so your view of support needed is tough love? Filling our prisons with people damaged by the current system (10,000 and growing), continuing to support the highest youth suicide rate in the world, causing 28% of our children to live in poverty, allowing us to have most expensive housing in the world and the highest % of homelessness?

You have denigrated the poor with your generalisations so that they become a sub-species that don't deserve support.

Yes, I believe there should be some level of entitlement: people should be treated with dignity, all people should have access to food, good housing, health care and education.

You don't see that all your examples is because of the current system...what's the bet you don't think climate change is real too.



Paranormal said…
Save your own generalisations BS. Nowhere did I say the things you say I said. Just because I don't agree with your prescription to increase human suffering you create a straw man of what I allegedly want and then charge at it.

Shame you can't acknowledge I was right in what I said above, as proven by last nights polls. By your example, the Greens are clearly just another nasty left party.

bsprout said…
I don't think populism serves those who are marginalised, Paranormal. The real nastiness comes from a society that treats tax fraudsters with leniency and and most beneficiaries as potential criminals. Our rapidly growing prison population, child poverty and homelessness is a real reflection of what we have become. Spin can't hide what this government has allowed to happen over the past 9 years.

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