Top Green resigns and says party has become socialist
By Richard Harman (author)
A former top Green official .and leadership contender in 2015 has resigned from the party because he believes it has lost its way and he is now working with National.
Though he has not joined National, Vernon Tava is part of the campaign team for Erica Stamford – an old friend --- who is standing for National in East Coast Bays.
In 2015 he was the only non-MP to stand for the co-leadership; he was the party's Northern convenor at the time.
Last year he stood for an Auckland Council Community Board under the City Vision banner.
City Vision was essentially a vehicle for Labour and Green local body candidates in Auckland.
But over the weekend he attended National’s Blue Greens Forum in Auckland.
He said he was there to support his old friend because she was as concerned about the environment as he was.
As for the Greens, he said he began to part ways with them because he began to doubt whether the environment was seriously at the top of their agenda.
He also began to doubt that there was any genuine will on the part of the party to work with the Government whoever they were.
That was a central theme of his campaign for the party co-leadership in 2015.
He talked about the primacy of environmental values in the party and said the party should re-focus on its core Green values.
He said the charter’s values of ecological wisdom and social responsibility were neither left nor right.
And he went on to suggest he would be happy in Government with National.
“Currently we say it is not enough that you care about the environment and that have a concern for ecological wisdom and social responsibility but you must also identify as left.
“And in doing that we alienate all the people who might share those values.
"Conservation, after all, can be inherently conservative.
“We leave these people out.”
He said the party needed support from across the spectrum because the problems facing the country were too urgent and too pressing.
“The Green Party should be the sustainable axis around which every government turns, he said.
But he didn't win the leadership, and he watched as the party signed its Memorandum of Understanding with Labour, and that was enough.
"When I stood for co-leader one of the great things about that was that we travelled around the country and I was contacted by a lot of the older, founder members who thought it was no longer the party of Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald.
"And the composition of the party did change very significantly with the collapse of the Alliance.
“A lot of those people did move into the Greens and being people who had backgrounds in teaching, union organising they were people who were very good at working with an internal structure.
“I do feel that there was a point where the emphasis and the balance of the party shifted.
“I had joined what I thought was an environmental party and I did find that on the whole, it was more of a socialist party."
Tava is not alone in that view --- postings on "The Standard" website yesterday over the Greens disappointing showing in the Mt Albert by-election make frequent reference to the party being the true left wing party.
But Tava goes further. He believes the conflict between being an environmentally focused party as distinct from a socialist party is reflected in the difference between the co-leaders, Mwetiria Turei and James Shaw.
“I think so,” he told POLITIK when asked whether the leaders differed in their fundamental approach.
"I don't think it hurt James' chances that I stood; I drew a lot of flak away from him."
Tava says his fundamental question of the Greens was to ask how serious they were about the environment.
"Is it that we will only protect the environment when it feels good or will do what it takes to work with whoever is in Government.”
And he says that in 2012 the Greens began to change the way they dealt with the National Party.
“I was very disappointed, and I know some members and MPs were too, that a decision was taken to personalise the attacks against the National Party.
“When Russel Norman really started going after John Key, a lot of us were very unhappy about that.
“It was like we’d burned the bridge, and the party was traditionally always meant to be above the fray, and you didn't hear Jeannette Fitzsimons or Rod Donald making personalised attacks against people.
"So there was a feeling, and a lot of founder members did express this to me.”
Tava finds the National Party now is a more comfortable fit.
“They are a very socially liberal centre-right party," he said.
"On social issues, it's getting hard to tell them apart from Labour.”
National are well aware of the kind of disillusionment among some former Green supporters like Tava – that’s why the Government has been prepared to risk its relationship with its own core farming support on issues like water quality or even climate change.
But by going public, he has raised real questions about the current direction of the Greens which many in that party will feel uncomfortable about.