Newshub Nation Backstory: Green Party co-leader James Shaw reveals 'lowest moment' of his life, growing up with two mums, and what turned him green

How well do we really know our politicians and the personal values and experiences they bring to decisions that affect us all?  

Newshub Nation's Backstory series goes behind the scenes into our political leaders' lives and childhood photo albums.  

Green Party co-leader James Shaw grew up in Aro Valley, Wellington, and he attended Wellington High School and later Victoria University.   

"I was raised by a solo mum until I was about eleven," Shaw told Newshub Nation's Laura Walters.  

His mother then met his "other mother, and they've been together ever since".  

"They both mean an enormous amount to me; they've been huge supporters of me in my political career."   

The stirrings of Shaw's political career began when he was very young, but he admits "I was a terrible student".  

"I talked in class, I didn't go to class, I didn't do my assignments, I didn't do my homework, I sort of chaffed against authority," he said.   

Despite not being a model student, Shaw said he excelled in English.   

"I could write really well and loved creative writing," he said.  

One of Shaw's first political memories was hearing about the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior.  

At just 12 years old, he was in class and heard his teacher say: "Countries go to war over things like this".

"That really grabbed my attention," Shaw said.   

"It kind of outraged me and so really in that moment was when I became an environmentalist."  

He also recalled watching an election debate at his high school during the 1990 general election.  

He found himself agreeing with the points that the Green candidate was raising.  

"I went up to the Green candidate and asked, 'how I can help?'"   

Shaw ended up volunteering for the Wellington Central Green candidate that year, Stephen Rainbow.  

"That started my political journey," he said.  

Shaw later moved to the UK, where he lived in London.   

"I was so poor, I was eating a can of baked beans a day," he said.  

"London is a very hard city to be broke in."   

"It was definitely, for sure, the lowest moment of my life."  

He said that he came to the realisation that, if this was his rock bottom, everything else is fine.  

"I think I've had a sense of perspective since then," he said.  

It was a couple of years after this low that Shaw decided to move back to New Zealand.  

He initially moved back in with his parents in 2010 till he and his wife purchased a home in Northland where they still live.  

His return to New Zealand also came with a drive to run for Parliament.  

In 2011, Shaw was number 15 on the Green Party list and they got 14 MPs elected, he is now co-leader of the Green Party.  

Watch the full video for more.   

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