Where next for the Greens?

In the NZ Herald yesterday, following the announcement of Russel Norman’s retirement from the Greens’ leadership, Fran O’Sullivan essentially called for the head of Metiria Turei. Her argument was largely along the lines that Norman was responsible for providing mainstream credibility, while “Turei’s personal brand is associated with oppositional politics”.

O’Sullivan’s presumption, I guess, is that Turei will now become the main voice of the Greens, given her status as most senior leader. From there, all the bits of the Greens’ policy platform that O’Sullivan liked will be stripped away in a blaze of Marxist glory.

Ms O’Sullivan should, perhaps, at least wait and see who the new co-leader will be before she calls for Turei to walk. The front-runner, Kevin Hague, seems likely to continue in the Russel Norman mould. The party’s policy development for the last election is hardly likely to be thrown out with the bathwater.

O’Sullivan certainly champions that 2014 policy work:

At the 2014 election the Greens did roll out some interesting policies particularly with innovation: 1000 new tertiary places for students of engineering, mathematics, computer science, and the physical sciences; $1 billion of new funding for R&D. They got it that innovation was “one of the best ways to add value to our exports, raise wages, and better protect the natural world we love”.

However, she laments that “there just hasn’t been enough policy consistency in place for long enough for a new image to bed down”.

In the Norman/Turei tag team, Turei generally felt like the better advocate on social issues, while Norman was the more effective advocate on economic questions. If someone like Hague steps up to continue Norman’s role, there is no reason that Greens can’t bed that policy work down, using it as a springboard for 2017.

Of course, the leadership decision is in the hands of the Greens’ membership. Which makes it a little odd that so many commentators mention new MP James Shaw as a dark horse contender for the leadership (for instance, Andrea Vance gives him a plug this morning on Stuff, describing he and Hague as “the top picks”). Shaw was voted down the party list by the membership, who seemingly found him a little too pro-business for their comfort. It seems a large stretch for the party membership to abruptly go from down-grading his list placing, to supporting him for party leader.

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