15 May 2015

Two-horse race for Green Party leadership

8:59 am on 15 May 2015

The Green Party male co-leadership contest has two clear front-runners.

With two weeks till the votes are counted, initial reports put experienced MP Kevin Hague out in front alongside the party's newest MP James Shaw.

Green MP James Shaw

Green MP James Shaw Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Hague, Mr Shaw and fellow MP Gareth Hughes, as well as Green Party member Vernon Tava, are standing to be the Greens' male co-leader following the resignation of Russel Norman.

The four candidates have made their pitches to nine provincial meetings over the past few weeks.

Mr Hague said he had been trying to collect the numbers, which at this stage put him neck and neck with Mr Shaw.

"Some branches are happy to let us know that, whereas others want to maintain confidentiality until the day. It's going to be down to the wire."

Mr Shaw has also been doing the numbers, and said it was tight between him and Mr Hague.

"There are still branches meeting to discuss who they are going to vote for," he said. "Most of us are getting around to those branches to nail the last few delegates, so it's a bit like a US primary in that sense."

Conservation spokesperson Kevin Hague.

Conservation spokesperson Kevin Hague. Photo: RNZ

But Mr Hughes believed the race was close between all four candidates. He said he thought he was competitive and that he was up against very strong candidates.

Mr Hughes said it showed the strength in the Green Party that all four could potentially lead the party.

Mr Tava said being outside of Parliament was a disadvantage. But he said Mr Norman was elected as a co-leader without having been an MP.

"I've been able to attend the main provincial meetings and I've have a good reach to the MPs."

Mr Hague said experience in Parliament was a necessary prerequisite, not simply a nice-to-have. He said when Mr Norman was elected the party was in a very different position.

"Whoever gets elected, literally the day after, will have to go to Parliament and take on John Key and win," Mr Hague said.

Mr Shaw said while he was relatively new to Parliament, he had been working with the party, behind the scenes, since it was formed.

The four candidates all agree the party needs to hold true to its core values to grow the Green vote - but they differed on whether the party should buddy up to Labour to get into Government.

The three sitting MPs said it was essential, but Mr Tava said it limited the Greens' potential.

"I don't think there's a coincidence between the fact that it was when we relaxed the position away from being so hard left, to saying we would at least talk to National to see where we could get gains, that the party's vote has grown."

He said it also helped that the Greens' had a co-leader who sounded quite credible on the economy.

The Green Party's 133 electorate delegates will vote at the party's AGM on May 30 using a a preferential voting system. The winner will be announced on the day.

Metiria Turei is the sole nomination to be re-elected as female co-leader.

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