Opinion: James Shaw - The 'Green-changer'

  • 12/03/2015

James Shaw's entry into the Greens co-leadership race is a Green-changer.

Green insiders tell me that Shaw can definitely beat Kevin Hague.

So a genuine leadership race is on. By putting his hand up today, Shaw has changed the Green leadership game.

Shaw offers what Hague doesn't – a fresh, different and slightly more moderate face for the Greens.

It really is a Hague versus Shaw race now. There is a real edge to the race and the Greens should be thankful, because the political reality is the post-Russel Greens look to be pretty much stuffed.

They will of course survive, but they could be much weaker. The Greens have failed at two elections and must be worried that without Russel Norman they are heading back to being a single-figure 6-8 percent party.

Hague is a top bloke and could make both a decent leader and minister. But there are some big question marks over Hague. Does he have the cut-through? Is he just another Metiria? Is he a leader for 2020? Can he make a difference Does he have crossover? Is he fresh?

The Greens need something different, and that could be James Shaw.

Shaw's big weakness is that he is a bit green on the experience front because he has just got into Parliament. His other big weakness is that he is a bit geeky. He is a green Green geek.

But Norman came into the leadership with less Parliamentary experience than Shaw has and he turned out OK, didn’t he?

On the positive side, Shaw is younger, has a business background and is modern and moderate.

At the same time, Shaw won't be the circuit-breaker who works with National. It is simply too soon, and besides, he would never win over the Green grassroots if he suggested that.

It may also be that he is overrated, and gets completely mowed down by John Key.

The other contenders are Gareth Hughes and Vernon Tava. Hughes is surely doing it to build his cred; he would run a slightly more radical Green crew, a bit like what the Internet Party was after.

Tava is a highly regarded Green and Waitemata Local Board member, in it to build his profile and push his lets-work-with-National barrow.

It is a good four-way contest of ideas, but the Hague and Shaw battle gives it a real edge. It is a proper contest, and that's good for Green supporters because they will see both Hague and Shaw tested properly.

Make no mistake, the Greens are in trouble. They need a bit of a clean-out. At the very least, two MPs need to quit to allow Marama Davidson and Barry Coates into Parliament.

They need to pick a male co-leader that can keep them in double figures and preserve the dream of 15 percent.

And they may even need to ask themselves a really difficult question: what do we do with Metiria?

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