Sue Bradford is packing up. Her office in Parliament contains 17 cardboard boxes, packed with files, soon to be sent down the road for archiving - and public access - at the Turnbull Library.

The office is a sparse, ordered space, with only a few mementos to remind visitors of where their host has come from.

There's a couple of certificates of thanks for her work in going over the top to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act, and cartoons lambasting the present Government's unwinding of social justice policy.

There's also a Chinese calendar, a reminder of her MA from Auckland University in the subject. One date is circled in both red and black Vivid. (The colours coincidentally match a flag in her office celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Blackball miners' strike.)

That date is October 28 - Wednesday next week when Bradford will give her valedictory speech and leave Parliament, ending a decade-long stint in the House marked by bruising political victories, a painful realignment of the Green Party, and some decidedly unexpected friendships.

Greg Fleming, founder and head of the arch-conservative Maxim Institute, has clashed repeatedly with the Green MP in recent years. On smacking and prostitution reform Bradford describes the organisation as a "deadly enemy", but Fleming says he's sad to see a fellow ideologue go.

"The thing that's been delightful about our friendship - and we've disagreed over almost everything - is that she's actually very clear about why she believes what she believes," says Fleming.

"Contrast her with the pragmatism of John Key. Politics is increasingly being directed by claims to pragmatism. I think it's all nonsense, and it's basically someone trying not to say what they believe."

Of course, the mutual respect is mostly abstract. Bradford says she's been invited several times to Maxim-hosted public debates held at the Parachute music festival, "speaking in front thousands and thousands of fundie Christians".

And while she made it to a Business Roundtable function in her first term, she hasn't cemented ties with the business sector: "Roger Kerr personally introduced me; they were very friendly. That was interesting, but once was enough."

She's leaving the House, but she still knows her enemies. Does business, especially big business, still fit into that category? "Sure, yeah, definitely ideologically."

BRADFORD STARTED early in radical politics and was arrested for the first time in her teens. The scene was an occupation of the United States consulate in 1969 protesting the Vietnam War.

Her fellow protesters were - and still are - an eccentric lot. They included the now-mayor of Invercargill, Tim Shadbolt, and Stephen Chan who is now the Zambian national karate coach.

But Bradford stood out at the time for her youth.

"I was the only one who was under 16, who was a child. I was in the Children's Court and had to endure the indignity of having the social welfare department coming round to interview my parents," she says, laughing. "It was a very bad scene on the home front."

An additional arrest later that same year led to her moving out of home and into fulltime political life. She founded the People's Centre, and flirted with New Labour in 1989, becoming its founding vice-president.

She says she had high hopes that Jim Anderton's breakaway party could shatter the male-led old boys' club of national politics. "But of course in New Labour I was right back into an old patriarchal model - with bells on."

Bradford quit in 1990, barely a year after she had joined, and refused to take part in the Alliance because of bad blood with Anderton. She joined the Greens in 1998 only after they split from the Alliance.

(Asked about his brief political liaison with Bradford, Jim Anderton declined to comment.)

For Bradford, the political is the personal. She's worn substantial personal vilification for fronting the Section 59 amendment - including death threats - and she has raised her son's suicide and her experience as a rape survivor in Parliamentary speeches.

But despite this personal bent of her politics, she's been lauded for her ability to draw cross-party support in a stubborn campaign for her goals.

While Bradford was able to eventually recruit both John Key and Helen Clark into her drive to remove the Section 59 defence, resulting in a resounding 113-7 victory when the third reading was passed, her inability to connect with the public has been labelled a "catastrophic failure of propaganda" by a source who previously worked for the Greens.

"It ended up being labelled a bill against smacking, which it never was," says the source.

While Bradford won the battle in the House, the resulting public backlash - illustrated by the resounding success of her opponents in the recent citizens-initiated referenda - left her exposed and helped drag down the Government of Helen Clark.

Bradford had bulldozed her bill over hesitant political allies. "They were quite nervous about the timing," she says about non-governmental organisations and the Labour Party.

"They've got good policy, but they're always worried about the electoral fallout.

"Helen Clark of course copped a lot of it. She was staunch on it."

The collateral cost was of little concern to Bradford. She sees the Green vote as a maximum of 15 per cent, "and in that 15 per cent there would be very few people who would support beating their children legally. Those are the votes the Green Party should be after, although not all people think that way."

This divergence in opinion is what precipitated Bradford's resignation. She leaves behind a party that, if not riven by ructions, is at least experiencing a painful evolution. That sidelined Bradford.

THE GREENS have always been an oddity in New Zealand politics.

From their structure (which mandates gender-balanced co-leaders), to their aversion to the term "whip" (MPs are instead herded instead by a "musterer"), comes a certain lack of cohesion, says former MP Nandor Tanczos.

Another former party staffer compares the organisational structure to "working for a nine-headed hydra".

And the early days of the Greens, says the first former staff member, were marked by candidates such as Bradford and Tanczos whose ideas were as revolutionary as their backgrounds were unique in the debating chamber.

But now, with the election of the relatively clean-cut Russel Norman and fresh-faced Metiria Turei as party co-leaders? This is a party where the wild things aren't.

Bradford and the late Rod Donald, the former co-leader, "were much more about working class politics and protests, a struggle to make lives better," says the source. "Since then we've seen the rise of the intellectual Green MP: cogent, abstract, and not as connected with how people really live their lives. Both types are helpful, but Met and Russ are different only in an obvious sense: one's a boy, the other's a girl; one's Maori, the other's Pakeha; and one's short and the other's tall."

Turei defends the change, saying it has been a conscious process.

She does not openly criticise Bradford, but it's impossible to hide Turei's differences with the MP who unsuccessfully battled her for the leadership.

Turei explains the evolution in Green thinking: "I don't want to
exclude people who don't hold that old left-wing culture, that can't relate to that old 1970s hard-core working-class struggle."

While Turei insists that Green policy remains unchanged, she supports moving the party away from under Labour's wing and into a position where they could - conceivably - work with National in the future.

Says Bradford: "I've always been clear that if we wanted to be a party that would enter coalition with National, I would leave it.

"I wouldn't call it blackmail though. I went into politics and was determined not to sell out."

Bradford sees her bottom line as having been undermined by Turei. But the victor in the leadership struggle views the debate as more about style than substance - and appealing beyond Bradford's 15 per cent catchment.

"We need to open it out and broaden our appeal," Turei says. "It's a matter of being more inclusive, not more conservative."

As for the possibility of the Greens turning blue, Turei casts a pox on both major parties. Asked of the possibility of entering into coalition with National, Turei cites the moves to privatise ACC and open the conservation estate to mining and is emphatic: "This National Government? Not a chance in hell."

Labour is not spared either, particularly after three elections where the Greens were left as the shunned bridesmaids after coalition negotiations that gave New Zealand First and United Future seats around the Cabinet table.

Says Turei: "Labour made their bed and lay down, and now they've got themselves some fleas."

As to what Bradford will do in the future, she's still to write her farewell speech. She won't, however, be enjoying Parliamentary perks. "Contrary to popular opinion, you get no pension and no free airfares. Anyone that's elected after 1996 doesn't get anything. Which is fine."

She's looking forward to spending some time away from the "imprisoning" life of an MP. She'd like to do some writing - specifically a media column. And 100,000 words of an authorised biography are already penned.

She wants to be remembered for her legislative achievements - her record passing private members' bills is unsurpassed in recent memory - but she's realistic that, for a while at least, it'll be one bill she's associated with: "Above all, I'm likely to be remembered for amending Section 59. The day will come when I won't be vilified."

THERE'S ALSO the possibility of a return to politics - albeit not in Wellington. Auckland Supercity mayoral candidate and Manukau Mayor Len Brown has expressed an interest in having her around the council table.

"I do support Len Brown for mayor and think he's a great guy, and I live in Manukau at the moment," she says, non-committally.

"Standing for council would be a big job and I think the process of forming tickets and who will be on those tickets will be tense. I don't want to cut off the option, I'm quite open to it, but that does not a campaign or ticket make."

Bradford's tossing up whether to study towards a PhD, or return to the union movement. And the movement paid its respects when Bradford attended a Council of Trade Unions social function this week. One salty member of the EPMU kissed Bradford on the cheek saying, "All the bloody best, comrade!"

Phil Goff, leader of the party that had kept the Green Party in the cold after three consecutive elections in 1999, 2002 and 2005, also has kind words.

"What I admire about Sue is that she is 100 per cent genuine and 100 per cent passionate. Sometimes we've been on different sides of the barricades, but she'll leave a huge gap in Green politics."

Eulogies are easy, of course.

However, Goff reckons Bradford would have "worked her heart out" as a Cabinet Minister: "But it's a really hard question for someone who's been denied that. You can't worry and think 'what if?' That's no way to live life."

* Matt Nippert worked for three months as a media officer for the Green Party Parliamentary caucus in 2003.