When Russel Norman announced he was standing down as the Greens' co-leader, his legacy to his party seemed pretty obvious.
Norman's prime contribution has been to make the Greens more electable by burying the "whacky" label and pushing the party far closer to the mainstream economic debate.
But it now appears you can drag a party towards the mainstream but you cannot necessarily make it drink.
This was borne out on by the Greens' horror story on TV3's The Nation last weekend. The debate between the (so far) four contenders seeking Norman's job revealed a startling ignorance when each was asked if they could state the current level of a major economic indicator such as the inflation rate or the official cash rate.
It was pretty basic stuff that any politician should be able to rattle off without a second thought. But the four candidates either stared blankly and silently at the camera or indulged in wild guesswork.
The sole consolation for the Greens was that The Nation screens in the dead-time of Saturday morning. That has not stopped the Greens' opponents highlighting this embarrassment, however.
When Norman asked John Key in Parliament yesterday whether he stood by all his statements, the Prime Minister (and Prime Green Baiter) replied: "Yes, like the one that the official cash rate is 3.5 per cent, the unemployment rate is 5.7 per cent, the current account deficit is approximately 2.6 per cent, and the current inflation rate is approximately 0.8 per cent, and printing money is a really bad idea."
As far as Norman was concerned, two could play the quiz game. He proceeded to test Key's knowledge of the one indicator much closer to Green hearts and minds than the state of the balance of payments. Could the Prime Minister -- Norman asked -- tell the House by how much New Zealand's net greenhouse gas emissions had increased since Key had been in Government?
Key would have had a fair idea that Norman would be asking questions about climate change and would have prepped accordingly beforehand. He replied that New Zealand's net emissions were at about the same level as they were in 2007.
The figure is correct. But Key had not answered the question Norman had asked. And with good reason. Net emissions fell between 2008 -- the year National returned to power -- and 2011.
They then rose sharply back to previous levels before the global financial crisis and related economic downturns.
Norman's question posed a dilemma for Key. He was hardly likely to fess up to a 20 per cent increase since 2008. He instead opted to deflect Norman's persistent questioning by accusing the latter of being "extremely selective with the truth". Norman insisted he was simply stating the facts.
And you have to know the facts before you start trying to trip up a politician of Key's calibre.
That is something for the Greens' wannabe leaders to ponder. Norman is leaving some very big shoes to fill.