Congratulations to James Shaw. I understand that he ran a really impressive campaign and although he started as an outside chance he persuaded Green Party delegates that he was best skilled to advance Green Party interests. There are interesting comparisons with Andrew Little’s successful election campaign because Little also started as a rank outsider but ended up being the logical choice. Shaw won slightly more comfortably, having achieved 54% of the vote on the first ballot.
The right are talking Shaw’s success up and trying to give the impression that he is the person most likely to get the Greens to go into coalition with National. He is part of a new breed of MPs who are younger, highly educated and appear to be more conventional. The chances of a Nandor Tanzos and Sue Bradford type candidate appear to be on the decline. But the choice of coalition is I understand one for its members and most of the Greens I know would rather gnaw an arm off than go into coalition with National.
The other narrative the right is trying to build is that Shaw is the person most likely to get the Greens to eat into Labour’s vote. Obviously their preference is that Labour and the Greens fight it out and forget about taking the battle to National.
Danyl Mclaughlan helped Shaw with his campaign and offered this justification for doing so.
The key role of a leader in a modern political party is to be the public face of that party, to front to the media and the public, and to win new voters. Maybe I’m just blinded by partisan bias, but I think James is going to be a lot better in that core role than the other candidates.
That doesn’t mean he’ll win. Kevin Hague also has a lot of great qualities, and they make him one of the most beloved guys inside the Green Party – which gives him a big advantage in a contest to become leader of it. But being the leader is about connecting with the public, not just the party’s own membership. The best thing for the future of the Green Party is to elect a leader who can grow it.
Shaw was quick to distance himself from the suggestion he may be willing to negotiate with National. From the Herald:
[Shaw] said the members had seen that the Greens needed to expand into a broad-based party and he was the best person to do that.
But the party already had solid foundations, he said, and he did not plan to make a drastic change in direction. He reiterated his opposition to forming a Government with National, but said that would ultimately be decided by the party’s members.
Mr Shaw said both Labour and Greens were in good shape, having changed leaders, and were looking ahead. He noted that the two parties polled highest when they presented themselves as a unified, alternative government.
Mr Shaw has only been in Parliament since October, but said: “I wouldn’t have stood if I didn’t believe that I was ready.” He added that he was a “fast learner” and “a pretty safe bet”.
He repeated this comment this morning on Q&A saying that he could not see how a National Green economy could functionally work. He also said that he wanted a pre coalition deal ironed out. He did offer however an invitation to National to try and form a cross party consensus on climate change.
Shaw’s talk about sustainable business is not something to be afraid of. Short of revolution if we are going to save the planet we will need to get business onside.
So what direction should the Greens take? My personal belief is that Labour and the Greens need to publicly sort out how a future government would look and the sooner the better. Last election National had a rock solid no doubt focus group generated campaign that a left Government would be too unstable. Their rowing boat analogy hurt. It is hard to understand how the Greens and NZ First can exist in the same Government.
The UK election result undermines how important the concept of stability is to many voters. Labour’s inability to forge a proper relationship with the Scottish Nationalist Party meant that the Conservatives could play up on latent anti Scottish feelings amongst part of the electorate drain Labour of vital votes in marginal seats. The rest is, as they say, history.
What should a Labour Green relationship look like? First of all it needs to be a respectful one. This sort of Shane Jones type lunacy should not be repeated. Secondly if there is to be a Labour Green coalition then the likely portfolios and identities need to be known beforehand. I for one would relish Julie Anne Genter being Minister of Transport. And as a general rule cabinet positions should reflect the proportions of Parliamentary seats that each party has.
Thirdly, and this will be the most difficult job, there needs to be a public understanding of commonly held positions on policies and a way to resolve disagreements. I suspect that a major reason the electorate does not like instability is that, unlike us political activists, they tend to not like election campaigns.
Of course the important thing is to get into a position there a progressive Government can be formed. Both parties would need to improve current polling by up to 40% which will be a stretch.
And New Zealand First will again be a likely holder of the balance of power.