James Shaw and the challenge for the Greens: how to get the politicking right when you want to steer clear of the centre

A  week  ago   Point  of  Order  noted   how James Shaw was  fending  off  challenges,  first  from  his  political  opponents on  his  climate  change policies,  and  then against  his co-leadership  of  the  Green  Party.  He   emerged  unscathed  from  the  first  but  then lost  his  co-leadership.

Yet  beneath that  quiet  exterior  lurks  a  man  with  intent.

He   truly  believes  in  what  he  is  doing in  shaping  the  country’s  climate-change  policy,  and he  is not  blinking in the  face  of  the  challenge  from within the  party  that  he  is  not  doing  enough  to  stave off  back  the  climatic  apocalypse.

Radio NZ’s Morning Report today  reported  he will contest the Green Party’s co-leadership after being ousted from the role.

“I’m not done,” he told  the  programme.

Shaw made the announcement after failing to get the 75% of delegates’ votes he needed at the party’s online annual meeting at the weekend (a formidably high threshold) to be reconfirmed in the role.

Co-leader Marama Davidson was reconfirmed by delegates.

Before Shaw   spoke  to Morning  Report  there  had  been  widespread  speculation that the  Greens’  rising  star,  Chloe  Swarbrick, would  stand for    the  vacant  co-leader  spot.  Whether  she  will  still do  so  adds  to the eccentrically convoluted  style  of  Green politics.

Meanwhile  PM  Jacinda  Ardern  is  steering  clear  of  interfering in  the  Green-style infighting,  but she confirmed Shaw would retain his position as Climate Change Minister regardless of the leadership decision.

The  internal  ructions within  the  Green Party  pose  a  problem   for  the  Opposition  parties.  In   theory  a  governing  party   suffering  a   struggle  over  its  leadership  should be  a  sitting  duck, but in  this  case  neither  National  nor  ACT   have   framed  their  own  climate- change  policies  into  a  coherent  pattern  that  would  enable  them  to  offer an  alternative    to  what   the  government  is  doing     and so  put them in a  position to  declare   Shaw   is  out  of   court  and  out  of  time.

In   the  face   of  it  all Shaw  has said he would  stay on as an MP.

“Being the co-leader of the Green Party is not the only way to make a contribution, my primary concern is that we do everything in our power to stave off the climate crisis and stop it from getting any worse and I will find any route that I can find to achieve that outcome.”

He hoped people would see it as a good thing that the party held its leaders to account.

“We are the only party that elects our leaders on a one-year cycle and that’s a very deliberate choice that we have made to stay as democratic an organisation as possible.”

The vote means any Green Party member can now put their name forward for the co-leadership job over the next week before another vote within five weeks.

Shaw spoke to his caucus last night but said he would not speak on their behalf.

“It’s entirely up to them and it’s their prerogative to make that choice for themselves and to make any announcement about that on their own time.”

Shaw told Radio  NZ:

“The climate crisis is unabated and we have a lot more work to do as a country there. We have huge wealth concentrations and people who are locked out of housing … and as long as those kinds of challenges are there, they need the Green Party more than ever.”

He wasn’t entirely sure why people voted the way they did but said the conversation about climate change came up “a whole deal”.

As the Climate Change Minister, it was

“… not surprising that that frustration circles around on me.

“You have to understand that the Green Party comes from a very strong activist base, these are people who for decades bashed their heads against the brick wall of inertia in New Zealand calling attention to the climate crisis, and that crisis is now upon us.

“So there is a level of frustration at the slow pace of government and I share that frustration, it drives me absolutely wild. That is the pace at which government changes.”

Just   why  Shaw is  having internal  battles  within his  party was  summed up  by former Green Party MP and former member Catherine Delahunty who  said:

“For me, the issue isn’t really James or who is the leader, the issue is how strong are these people going to be when they’ve gone in with Labour with overwhelming power of them…”

Delahunty said the Green Party needed to be strong because Labour may need it and Te Pāti Māori to form the next government.

The party needed to look at who would be best positioned as a leader to take it into government fighting for its values, she said.

“James is a good person for the Labour Party because he’s … taking small steps with them.”

Delahunty said New Zealand had not made progress on climate change – “this country is actually weaker”.

“We were embarrassed at COP this year, it’s not looking good. It’s not just that, there’s a deeper issue here that as a co-leader James is not connected to people who disagree with him, he hasn’t managed to achieve relationships across, the consensus within the party is not there, he may have a consensus with the right wing – the right wing love him.”

She didn’t believe the Greens were in Parliament

“… to be in the middle of the road where you get run over”.

We may suppose the Greens would rather be on the far left of the road where cycle lanes are being established to enable bikers to reach their destination at pedalling pace.

For a party pressing to have its climate-change programme implemented with great urgency, the conundrum is all too palpable.

3 thoughts on “James Shaw and the challenge for the Greens: how to get the politicking right when you want to steer clear of the centre

  1. Presumably, and assuming Shaw sees off this challenge, the steeper challenge will be to secure a list ranking to make it back to parliament in 2023 – doesn’t the Green membership rank the candidates for the election? Tick, tock.


  2. Amazing that such a non-achieving waste of MP space idealogue as Delahunty should think that her opinions are worth listening to. Thanks, taxpayer-funded media.


    1. My guess is she was contacted by someone from the `bought and paid for media’.

      After all they could not go to Steven Joyce or Bill English for an opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

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