Firstly, James Shaw hasn’t been thrown out as co-leader. The normal democratic processes within the party have been engaged. The nominations for leadership have been reopened, and there will be a selection process over the next few weeks. Shaw will need to stand again to be reselected, he may or may not choose to do so, and he may or may not be chosen. There’s a good likelihood that in a month he will be co-leader.
This has been on the cards for a few weeks, but I’m guessing from Shaw and Marama Davidson’s reaction they weren’t expecting it to get over the line yesterday. It’s worth paying attention to what is going on, but we should resist projecting what other parties do with leadership challenges.
For those of us that value dissent and see it as healthy and necessary for political functionality, the late attempt to get a new co-leader isn’t a problem. It’s only bad if you think dissent is bad, or that the Young Greens (apparently driving this) shouldn’t have a voice or take part in the democratic processes in their own party. But it’s also about trust, that the Greens know how to manage their internal issues even if the public at large isn’t used to things being done this way. There’s no need to panic.
There are two things happening here. One is the internal battle over pragmatics vs the need for fast and substantial system change. Expect to see more debate about this over the next weeks. This twitter discussion is a way into understanding that,
Fair to say it's a bunch of naive children posing as radicals throwing their toys?
— QP (@quellesurprise8) July 23, 2022
Not really fair to say because some of us have huge experience of politics and don’t support centrism and believe the climate crisis requires someone in leadership to be honest that no techno fix and growth model will work to stabilise our ability to live on planet in future
— Catherine Delahunty (@greencatherine) July 23, 2022
You can trust James to support corporate solutions to climate change but unfortunately they won’t work because we got to this dire impasse on planet from extractive growth economics / that isn’t purity it’s uncomfortable fact,
— Catherine Delahunty (@greencatherine) July 23, 2022
More from ex Green MP Delahunty on RNZ,
Delahunty said it was important to focus on the vision other potential leaders offered, rather than speculating on which individual might replace Shaw.
She said the Greens needed transformative policies to stop climate change, defend the vulnerable in society, and improve social justice.
“I can’t encapsulate that and say there’s one individual right now that I would support,” she said.
“It’s more about if James doesn’t stand again, it opens up an opportunity for somebody to come out and show some vision, and we really need to hear that…”
My own position is both/and. We need people in parliament who will do the pragmatics, but we also need radical honesty and fast change. Whether replacing Shaw is a risk worth taking I don’t know, but not doing everything we can right now to effect system change is doomed to failure.
The second thing is how the Greens function as a party. Leadership in political parties as an internal matter. We don’t vote for the PM, we vote for parties and local MPs. Who leads those parties is a matter for the members, the people who do all the work to make the party functional. The public are of course interested for a range of reasons, and the MSM will be circling to see what clicks can be gleaned.
But with the Greens there seems to be another thing beyond that political interest: it’s that New Zealand treats them as a kind of conscience for the country. Don’t necessarily vote for them but get upset at the idea that the Greens might not be around. There was a lot of reaction yesterday that seemed to stem from people feeling their security was at risk, or that losing Shaw as co-leader means National will win next year.
My own immediate reaction to the news yesterday was to feel a sense of frisson, that something might be about to change and there was finally potential for this. If we believe that change is urgently needed, then we have to stay open to these possibilities.
We’re in a kind of inertia due to the pandemic. Shaw and his team have been working hard doing what they can within a culture that is still largely resistant to the kind of change that will work (one of the reasons I respect him). But it’s not enough. The issue here is whether a leader with a different vision would change the Green Party strategy, including speaking up much more on climate, and whether this would bring a new vitality to parliament and the electorate.
If the people wanting Shaw replaced have a good plan and an appropriate replacement, then this should be considered. Not because Shaw is wrong or bad, but because something needs to change and we’re running out of time.
I can for instance see a Green Party with Marama Davidson and Chloe Swarbrick as co leaders, and Shaw freed up to focus solely on Climate. This doesn’t have to be a diminishing of Shaw’s mana but a shift in how the party works. I’m thinking particularly of the point where Andrew Little stepped aside and allowed Jacinda Ardern to come forth and win the 2017 election.
But I’m looking from the outside, and this doesn’t take into account a number of factors: what happens to the relationships within the caucus and wider party if Shaw is replaced (or decides to leave) and how would that impact on them going forward? Is Chloe Swarbrick ready? Does she want the job? How will the electorate respond to two female leaders in one party? What will the MSM do with that? What does the membership want?
(as an aside, a co-leader doesn’t have to be an MP).
I haven’t seen any such plan though, and I guess this will happen,
I expect the outcome of the Greens leadership election will be James Shaw confirmed as coleader, having had to do some work to reaffirm his commitments to more radical policies for climate and social justice than are being delivered by this government. That's no bad thing.
— Comrade Nick (@Comrade__Nick) July 23, 2022
Finally, there is a general freak out in the left. Some of that I think is the anxiety I pointed to above, people want stability and reassurance that a Shaw co-led Green Party implies. But some of it is the ongoing leftie own goal. There are people who hate the Greens sufficiently that they would rather see a diminishing of the left than support them. ABG.
There are others who apparently now support the Greens (yes, climate news does focus the mind) but seem incapable of understanding that if you want a strong green government, then slagging off the Greens every chance you get is just not very smart. A big chunk of voting in New Zealand is based on perceptions of competency, so the people running around today going on about how useless the Greens are, or that they are in disarray, might want to consider whether this is a useful way to behave.
Btw, the impetus for that urgently needed change could come from outside of parliament. The Greens, Te Pāti Māori and Labour will all be strengthened by a strong extra-parliamentary movement on climate. We can all take part in that.