DAVID HAY is either a very stupid or a very sinister person.
Only a very stupid person would launch a campaign for the leadership of the third largest party in the New Zealand Parliament this far out from the date at which such leadership issues are decided (Queen’s Birthday Weekend 2014). Only a very stupid person would talk about the Greens needing to put forward their “A-Team” without the members of that team ranged confidently around him. And only a very stupid person would talk about testing the level of support for Russel Norman. Successful politicians never “test” anything. Successful politicians have learned how to count. If they’ve got the numbers they bring their opponent/s down. If they don’t, they STFU.
Now I’m pretty sure that David Hay would bitterly resent being called “a very stupid person”. Ever since 2002 he has been the sole director of a private company called “Sophocrat Limited”. Sophocrat? Well, yes, I wondered too. But, no, it isn’t a made up word. “Sophocracy” means “rule by the wise”. Presumably, Mr Hay chose the name of his little company because he includes himself among the wise who should be ruling.
And, to be fair, he does have an impressive CV. He has a BCom in Economics and a BA in Politics from the University of Auckland, as well as a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Victoria University’s School of Government. He has worked, variously, for the Treasury; as an independent policy consultant; and as a full-time policy analyst at both the Manukau City Council and (currently) the Auckland super-city. He is fully fluent in Wellington bureaucratese, with many impressive policy papers and parliamentary select committee submissions to his name. In short, Mr Hay shows every sign of not being “a very stupid person” at all – quite the opposite, in fact.
Green Party members do, however, agree that Mr Hay has “a very high opinion of himself” and that he can come across as “arrogant”. Although, it must be said, not to a degree that prevented him from serving on the Green’s Policy Committee, or from being ranked at No. 16 on the Greens’ Party List. Had the Greens fared just a little better in 2011, Mr Hay would now be a Member of Parliament.
So, if Mr Hay is not a “very stupid” person, is he a “very sinister” one?
If by “sinister” we mean someone who is being advanced as the stalking horse of a large, coherent, well-organised and embittered faction within the Green Party; a faction determined to bring down the incumbent Male Co-Leader just five months out from the 2014 General Election; then, no, Mr Hay is not a sinister figure. As far as I can make out, Mr Hay takes after Lee Harvey Oswald – he is a lone assassin. (Which is not to say that lone assassins cannot do a sinister amount of damage!)
So, if Mr Hay is not the frontperson for a menacing parliamentary cabal, could it be that what he represents is sinister?
This is a much more apposite question – and the answer just might be: “Yes.”
At the heart of the Green vision is the idea that our world can only now be saved if each of us undertakes a profound reprioritisation of our needs: a radical resizing of human aspirations such that the planet and its processes are accorded a degree of reverence that is at least as great our species’ will to survive. It’s a revolutionary idea, the realisation of which would leave no aspect of our lives unchanged. Revolutionary, also, because the Greens are pledged to achieve all this necessary change without resorting to coercive violence.
But Mr Hay, along with hundreds of like-minded Green Party members, is uncomfortable with all this transformative talk. Rather than accept the title of Green Revolutionary, Mr Hay prefers to describe himself as “Seriously Green”.
“Being Seriously Green”, says Mr Hay, “means taking a thoughtful and considered approach to the strategic challenges we face in the 21st Century and beyond. It means facing up to the reality of these challenges and taking action to respond to them. It means setting aside the divisive politics of the 20th century and working co-operatively for the common good.”
Now, whenever I hear people talking about “setting aside the divisive politics of the 20th century” I start to get worried. And the moment somebody urges me to “work co-operatively for the common good”, I immediately start looking for the people with the guns required to enforce their definitions of “divisive” politics, and of what, exactly, constitutes “the common good”.
It is always that way with “sophocrats”. They make the fatal mistake of believing that the wisdom to rule can only ever be the possession of a tiny elite: an aristocracy of superior talent whose decisions should not be questioned. But the true Green is always to be found among the “democrats”: those who believe in the wisdom of crowds. The system under which the largest possible number of people affected by a decision are also expected to have a hand in making it.
Mr Hay is asking his fellow Greens to signal their readiness for a change in the party leadership by including his name among the top five rankings in the first draft of the Green Party List which is due out in February. If it turns out that he lacks the support to rank that high, then he has promised to withdraw.
Personally speaking, I hope that the Greens, in their collective wisdom, decline Mr Hay’s invitation to elect him as their philosopher king. Self-proclaimed intellectual prowess is seldom to be trusted. As Aristotle so shrewdly put it: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”