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Chris Ford: A tribute to Green Co-Leader Russel Norman

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

I want to briefly pay tribute to Green Co-Leader Russel Norman who in a shock announcement yesterday announced his intention to stand down at the Greens AGM in late May.

Russel has co-led the Greens since the death of the previous male co-leader, the internally popular and well respected Rod Donald, in 2005. Coming to the leadership at such a young age, he gave the Greens further impetus, one which would see their vote double within a decade.

As a parliamentarian, Russel has been (alongside Metiria Turei) one of the best, if not at times the best opposition leader during the National-led era. Given the poor performances of successive Labour leaders, he most brilliantly stepped up to the plate and criticised the Government countless times in a way that no Labour leader since Phil Goff could. No wonder John Key once gave him the back handed complement of being the 'real' opposition leader.

I also admired Russel's ability to come up with ideas to challenge the predominant neo-liberal hegemony. One of the most prominent of these was his proposal for New Zealand to engage in quantitative easing (i.e. printing more money) in order to bring down the high interest and exchange rates which were crippling our manufacturing sector in 2012. National and (to a lesser extent) Labour unfairly ridiculed him and the Greens for it. Nonetheless, I was disappointed (before I became a member of the party) that Russel and the Greens dropped the policy due to its being too controversial. Perhaps now people might begin to think differently given the European Central Bank has decided to engage in this policy, alongside the Japanese, the British and the Americans and, for that reason, we remain outside the economic mainstream in that respect.

Still Russel has contributed an immense amount of time to building the party up to where it stands today. This has come at the expense of his young family. I don't doubt that he is one of the few politicians who genuinely wants to step aside for family reasons. I honestly don't know his intentions post-May but that will be something he is probably thinking about now too in terms of whether he continues to serve as an MP beyond 2017. 

Nevertheless, Russel has reached a difficult decision and I as a Green respect that. It will be exciting for me and other members, though, to participate in the democratic process that will select the next male co-leader.

In the meantime, I wish Russel and his partner Katya Paquin and whanau well for their future whatever it might hold.




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