I don't get to vote cause apparently my membership lapsed, oh well.
But that's not going to stop me voicing my opinion on one of the most crucial decisions the Green Party will face.
I want to talk about two things here. Firstly, what I think the Greens need in a new leader and secondly the pros and cons of each candidate. This is a bit hard for me because I know them all pretty well, some of them very well. So this isn't a complete analysis, but nearly..
Talking about leadership within a Green context is very different than in your traditional political party context. Primarily because the Greens have a very different form of decision making; one which is much more inclusive and supposedly less of the top down stuff.
However, to be a leader of a political party you still need to have a reasonable amount of credibility i.e. not a raving lunatic, in order to ensure the public respects and continues to respect your party. This doesn't have to mean that they're widely known in the public sphere, but it does mean they will need to be able to handle it when they are.
So when I think about someone who would make a good Co-Leader of the Greens I would be looking for someone with a number of qualities. Obviously someone who has a very solid grasp of the Charter, and how the Principles are applied in policy. A thorough understanding of the Party structure is also essential.
One of the most important things for a Green Co-Leader is that they are trusted within the party. A Leader by default needs to be able to make quick decisions without necessarily the time to do a hell of a lot of consultation. While the Greens have internal processes to overcome a lot of the power imbalances inherent in leadership, there is still a need to make decisions which aren't major enough to require consultation. This is where the trust comes in. Party members need to be able to trust the Co-Leader that when they make on the hop decisions, they will use the Charter Principles appropriately to make their decisions.
Which leads me to the next most crucial characteristic and that is an imagination. Politics is generally the most unimaginative form of theatre around. The characters generally stay the same, the costumes rarely change, the script's often the same and the plot is often forgotten after the first couple of lines. Therefore it is part of the role of a Green Co-Leader to be constantly coming up with new and imaginative ways to challenge the status quo, be it direct resistance to a particular decision that's taking place or creative solutions to the same old problems. And this applies both internally and externally. This was one of Rod's greatest strengths, that even though he might not have always had a creative idea up his sleeve (although he usually did), he surrounded himself with people that did, and helped to spark his imagination.
So, to the candidates – in alphabetical order to avoid perceived bias. May I firstly say that I think all of these candidates possess the above qualities, although in varying amounts.
I've known Dave for a number of years and I have an awful lot of respect for him. Dave is very experienced and well-known in the Party and from my perspective was an exceptionally competent Co-Convenor. He has a highly educated knowledge of environmental issues and also has a solid understanding of social justice issues. From what I know he has a pretty high level of respect within the Party and is respected for his calm demeanour.
The obvious issue with Dave is his profile, and it is I think the issue that will prevent him from winning the Co-Leadership. However, I think it's fantastic that Dave stood as he is certainly worth considering and has been on my shortlist for a number of years.
Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, Russel is the main contender for the job. Russel is also someone I know really well and I have an awful amount of respect for. Out of the four, Russel is probably more what you could call a career politician. He has a PhD in Politics and has been involved with political activism for more years than his age would suggest. He has plenty of experience working for the Greens in the Parliamentary environment, was Campaign Manager and is now Party Development Coordinator (or CEO in non-Green speak). Russel is also about the same age that Rod was when he became leader.
I agree that Russel will probably win this election, clean-sweep it in fact (as far as you can clean-sweep a consensus decision making process). I also think this is a shame.
When Rod was elected leader the biggest criticism that was levied against him was his age. That he was too young to take on a position with that much pressure and responsibility. I am led to believe that what won that for Rod was his outstanding ability to campaign and inspire groups of people to action and his profile on certain issues. And unfortunately these are not Russel's strengths. While Russel has a great political mind, is fantastic to work with and understands Green philosophy, he doesn't appear to have his own unique flavour of being Green.
This has been reflected throughout this contest, as every time Russel has been able to mention a particular issue within answering questions, they've all been the issues of other current MPs. And this is Russel's problem; he doesn't have his own unique identity. This is not to say he won't get one, but he doesn't know and this is a shame.
I think Russel will be a great Co-Leader of the Greens and I think he's got the potential to be Co-Leader for at least as long as Rod was. I just think he needs a couple of years in Parliament as an MP to forge his own crown.
I've known Nándor for many years and I have a huge amount of respect for him as a politician. Nándor has leapt over more hurdles than most of the politicians in Parliament to be where he is today and I believe the fact that he's actually running for Co-Leader is a testament to his commitment to the Green cause.
The biggest asset that Nándor would bring to the Co-Leadership is a big truckload of vision, and a brilliant ability to frame debate and strategic thinking. One of the things I’ve always loved about Nándor is his ability to be think 10 years ahead and get those around him to do the same. In fact, he’s a lot better at doing this than Jeanette is and I think the Party could do with it, badly.
The only problem I see with Nándor taking on this job is that he has other priorities in life other than the Green Party. Not that I’m saying this is a bad thing (quite the opposite in fact), but it will be an issue for him and some of the people who would need to work with him within the Co-Leadership capacity.
Personally, I don’t think Nándor’s image is the issue that people are making it out to be. Sure some people in the media like to beat it up a bit and grumpy old people who are never ever going to vote for the Green Party get upset about the way he looks. But the reality is that the press gallery got over it years ago and this decision isn’t about old people who’ll never vote for the Greens. This decision is about careful strategic decision making for the future of a progressively radical political party in a progressively radical open democracy. And the Greens should be wary not to forget that.
I've also known Mike for a number of years and I love him to bits. Mike managed to really drum it into my head the importance about inspiring people to create solutions for themselves rather than sitting around and waiting for someone else to make the decision they'd already made or wait for some government department to make some regulation to save their lives… One of my best memories of Mike was seeing his eyes light up when I suggested to him that his first Private Members Bill could be one to get rid of some wasteful legislation rather than just make up some more!
But as much as I love Mike, he's not right for this job. His age is an issue but not in terms of how much longer he'll last (given that he's fitter than half the Green Party combined!) but rather his ability to connect with future thinking. I thoroughly love the fact the there is room in Green Politics for nostalgic thinking but there isn't room for it in the leadership. I really hope Mike wins the Nelson mayoralty, it's the perfect job for him and it'll be worth millions to the people of Nelson.
But the main reason why Mike isn't right for this job is that there are too many people in the Green Party who are sick of listening to him saying the same old thing. And there are too many people who are sick of him not listening to what their thoughts are. Sad but true.
I would like to see Nándor win this election, because I believe the Greens are in serious need of a visioning kick up the ass. As someone living in a country with a Green Party which is struggling in various areas, I'd hate to see the ANZ Greens slip into that state. From my perspective losing vision is always a very real danger but now in particular is an issue to watch. The biggest hole that Rod has left in my opinion is someone who can lead from within and I believe Nándor is that person.
However, I also don't think Nándor is the person to have as Co-Leader for a long stretch. I think that's where Russel should step in.
I would like to see Nándor as Co-Leader until after the next election, and then I would like to see Russel take over the role a year or two after that. Once he has found his place in the Caucus.
But I don’t think it’s going to work like this. I think too many people within the Greens are going to make their decisions based on what they perceive other people to think, as opposed to what they, as an organisation need.
I think Russel will be elected this weekend and I think he’s going to do a fantastic job. I just hope he gets really good support and I hope he doesn’t get burnt out, that would be a real shame and a waste of great talent.