Thursday, January 28, 2010

Goodbye Jeanette

Jeanette Fitzsimons has announced that she will be retiring immediately when parliament reconvenes, to spend more time with her grandchildren. She's my favourite MP, a wonk's wonk, and her departure will be a tremendous loss to parliament, but as with the other Green MPs who have moved on over the last few years, I can't begrudge her for it. She has spent 13 years in parliament, more than we have any right to ask. And by retiring now, she's living that Green value of putting life before mere work.

She was also one of Parliament's most effective backbenchers. In her 13 years in the House, she managed to get 6 bills drawn from the ballot, and one of them passed into law. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act 2000 and the establishment of EECA is her legacy. That's a pretty significant achievement for someone who never held Ministerial office. But she was also influential on policy, shifting the ground and wearing people down by quietly arguing and waving facts and figures. This term she seems to have found that more difficult - Gerry Brownlee is sadly not a member of the reality-based community - and I can understand why she didn't want to spend another two years beating her head against that brick wall.

Jeanette's departure also makes the generational change in the Greens clear. The co-leadership has passed to new, younger, hands, and there are now only two MPs left out of the original intake: Sue Kedgley and Keith Locke. Neither has announced any plans to retire soon, but it will likely happen this term or the next. Their eventual replacements (and Jeanette's) will have some big shoes to fill. OTOH, some of the new MPs elected this term are already establishing their niches and expanding their own footwear, and I don't think they'll have any problem managing.