25 Jul 2022

Green Party's James Shaw confirms he will run as co-leader again

1:24 pm on 25 July 2022

James Shaw has confirmed he will contest the Green Party's co-leadership after being ousted from the role.

Watch Shaw speaking here:

"I'm not done," he told RNZ's Morning Report.

Shaw made the announcement after failing to get the 75 percent votes of delegates at the party's online annual meeting at the weekend to be reconfirmed in the role. Co-leader Marama Davidson was reconfirmed by delegates.

Speaking at a Parliament on Monday morning, Shaw said he takes the events of the weekend seriously.

"I was surprised that the vote did go the way it did."

Shaw said he had heard from some branches of the party that didn't cast a vote on Saturday, and he had been contacted by some members, "and that has reassured me that I had the support necessary to be able to retain the leadership".

"If I am successful I will redouble my efforts and push for bold action on climate change, to heal our native wildlife and to end poverty," he said.

"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 told Morning Report.

Shaw wasn't entirely sure why people voted the way they did but said the conversation of 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."

He said it takes all people everywhere to make change.

While climate change policy hadn't gone as far as he would have liked, he believed he was the person who had been able to make the recent changes possible.

"I believe that the things that I have done as Climate Change Minister have dramatically outweighed anything that we've done on climate change over the course of the last three or four decades," he said.

"My work in climate change is only just starting to bear fruit."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed Shaw would retain his position as Climate Change Minister regardless of the leadership decision, he said.

Shaw told Morning Report he would also 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."

Shaw said he was not going to walk away from a job he considered "barely half done".

He said he and leader Marama Davidson had a "great deal of mutual respect and trust for each other".

The vote means any Green Party member can now put their name forward for the role 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.

Former Green Party communications director David Cormack said the party needed to settle on a co-leader swiftly as infighting does not look good heading towards next year's election.

Political scientist Lara Greaves said although the majority of delegates backed Shaw, Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick's popularity could bring a needed change for the Greens, if she decided to seek the co-leader job. Swarbrick has not said whether she will put her name forward.

"Chlöe is an astonishing political talent and I think that anybody else can see that, but again, it's her choice, that's entirely up to her if she wants to make that announcement to do so," Shaw said.

Most Green MPs had not responded to RNZ's request for comment on Shaw's decision to run for the co-leadership.

Green MP Eugenie Sage told RNZ she was not standing for co-leader and "strongly" supported Shaw.

MP Elizabeth Kerekere said she would likely issue a statement after the Green Party caucus met tomorrow.

Kerekere has not ruled out throwing her hat in the ring for the co-leadership position and said she was "considering her options".

MP Golriz Ghahraman said she would not be standing for the co-leadership.

"I prefer not to take a position on any co-leader candidate to allow the member based process to run its course."

'The consensus within the party is not there'

Former Green Party MP and former member Catherine Delahunty told Morning Report she was not surprised by Shaw's decision.

"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".

Party delegate Nicole Geluk-Le Gros, also one of the conveners of the anti-capitalist Green Left Network, said Shaw was known to be from the more moderate wing of the party in contrast to what she believed was a growing leftist membership.

"I think over time, particularly in the last five years since Metiria Turei gave her really strong 'mending the safety net' speech - which brought a lot of members into the party, myself included - that the membership of the party has sort of drifted a little bit more to the left than where James sits," she said.

"I know that there are a lot of folks who feel that the changes and the action that were taken on climate change isn't any more radical than the Labour Party would have taken themselves."

She rejected any suggestion Shaw's ejection from the co-leadership was the result of concerted efforts by his fellow Green MPs.

"It was sort of a collection of individuals across the party who all felt that it was time for James to restate his vision and get a new mandate from the party, or for somebody else to get that," she said.

A competitive leadership contest was good for the party, and whoever won would have the full support of the 250-strong network, she said.

"What we will come out with at the end that will be really positive going into the 2023 campaign is a really clear vision from our new co-leader - whether that's James or somebody else - and a really clear mandate that they need to take our party into the future."

She said members of the caucus - sitting MPs - were more likely to be successful in contesting the role against Shaw, but party members had also considered the possibility of a non-Parliamentary co-leader, for example someone in local government.

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