Late in 1990 Judy and I were approached by members of the then fledgling Green Party. They wanted to know if we could provide them with media advice during the coming general election. We were not then involved with Labour and said that, yes, this was certainly something we could consider. They were delighted and invited us out to dinner to discuss the matter. The restaurant we were taken to was, perhaps not surprisingly, modest. But the mainly young people who were our hosts were simply charming and their naïve enthusiasm was infectious. It was agreed that we would provide them with media training and direct their television opening and closing. They were over the moon. At the coffee stage, I felt obliged to bring up the subject of payment. Did they have any money? They looked startled. Clearly they had thought we were going to help them out of the goodness of our hearts. Well no, I said, this was how we earned our living. It was our profession.
A pall of gloom descended over the evening. They had no money.
Then someone said, “Would you be interested in barter?”
“What do you have in mind?”
“Well, is there anything you need doing?”
We had recently bought a house in Huapai and were doing it up on weekends. So yes, there was something we needed doing. So for several weekends small parties of Greens, ranging in age form 7 to 70 and beyond, came to the house where they wielded sandpaper, scrapers and paintbrushes and pruned our fruit trees – sometimes to excess. They brought home-made-bread sandwiches for lunch, occasionally supplementing the filling with borage and other “weeds” from the garden. They were both a delight and a nightmare to have as clients. Their enthusiasm was boundless as they set about designing a logo for the party and making their own banners and posters. But their consensus way of operating was unsuited to film making. When, during filming of their TV opening, we said we wanted to make some minor changes to the script, we were told that the changes could not be make without consulting several people who, unfortunately, were somewhere else and couldn’t be contacted. We replied that the only political system that could work on a location shoot was benign dictatorship, and they reluctantly accepted the changes. From memory the Green Party of Aotearoa polled 7% in the 1990 election. Had we had MMP, they would have had 8 seats in parliament. But, having failed to win an electorate seat, they ended up with none.
I still have a great deal of affection and admiration for the Greens. They are certainly the most idealistic group in parliament and the truest to their convictions, a situation perhaps only possible for a small, ideologically-based party with a distinctive brand but little hope of actually winning an election. I was reminded of our early involvement with the Greens with the election of Metiria Turei as the party’s new co-leader. I’m ashamed to say that I knew almost nothing about her until I saw her interview with Paul Holmes on last Sunday’s Q&A. By the end of the interview one thing was absolutely clear to me. Metiria Turei needs no television training. Indeed it would be almost heresy to suggest it. She is absolutely brilliant – fiercely intelligent, highly articulate, enormously personable, warm, charming, attractive. She has the gift – for that is what it is – of charisma. She will therefore provide a necessary complement to co-leader Russel Norman who has the intelligence and verbal skill, but not the charismatic appeal. On the contrary, he comes across as aloof, bordering on arrogant. No warmth. No charm. No common touch. I very much enjoyed Paul’s interview with Metiria Turei which revealed something else about her. She will have no difficulty dealing with stroppy interviewers. She would not be interrupted and she would not be pigeon-holed as being right wing, left wing or somewhere in the middle. Those terms, she firmly told Paul, were simply ‘not helpful’.