The Parliament press kit and political pundits made much of popular dissent from the Greens, undermining James Shaw’s leadership after last week’s AGM. But only a few of the many reports and comments have probed the people at the heart of the problem.
“Greens co-leader James Shaw is fighting for his political life,” Newstalk ZB news said in the newsletter’s headline Monday night.
“James Shaw is fighting for his political survival,” Newhub Nation said over the weekend.
He had been forced to re-nominate himself for the job after failing to garner the support of 75% of delegates at the party’s AGM last Sunday – but that week went by with no one else saying they wanted him.
“There were members of the Young Greens who were mobilizing to force this reopening of nominations,” TVNZ deputy political editor Maiki Sherman explained to TVNZ’s 1News on polling day last weekend.
“Today we spoke to a delegate who was eligible to vote. They said today was a sign of growing member dissatisfaction with him, adding that this vote is a call for other candidates to stand up well,” she added.
But so far none have been and the serious candidates among the ranks of the party’s deputies have all quickly moved aside.
But some media have nonetheless amplified the sense of conflict and crisis.
1 News on Monday called it “the splintering of the Green Party” and “an uprising…triggered after a third of the party said it did not support James Shaw”.
Thirty-two of the party’s 107 national delegates had voted that way, but the question of whether they really represented the whole party membership was really at the heart of it. And party members were not featured in most news reports and commentary.
James Shaw hesitantly told reporters he didn’t expect the drop in support at the AGM – and that prompted many pundits and presenters to say he should have seen it coming – because they thought they had.
On the spin-offToby Manhire said Greens leaders ‘must do better to keep their ears to the ground’.
He pointed out that just two weeks earlier, the University of Victoria student magazine Saillant reported a post in a Young Greens Facebook group – accessible only to party members – indicating that a vote of no confidence could be coming.
“You should be living under a rock in New Zealand if you didn’t see this coming,” said ZB Wellington host Nick Mills.
“Anyone who follows any form of politics would know that James Shaw’s tenure was under scrutiny when the party changed those rules to allow two female co-leaders as long as one was Maori,” he said.
“We all knew this was coming months ago,” said Newstalk ZB’s Heather Du Plessis-Allan, joining the choir later the same day.
“There have been blogs and there have been columns,” she said, quoting an opinion piece by Matthew Hooton for the Herald in April, warning that “the stage is set for Chloe Swarbrick to replace James Shaw”.
Hooton had even suggested James Shaw’s next job.
“If not wanted by an international agency, he is a shoo-in to replace Rod Carr as chair of the Climate Change Commission if Chris Luxon becomes prime minister,” he wrote.
This week, ZB’s Nick Mills also attempted to chase Shaw.
“James Shaw is the past, I have a great position for him if he is knocked out. He would make a great mayor of Wellington,” he told ZB listeners.
While there, Nick Mills threw his own weight behind Chloe Swarbrick. National Party pollster David Farrar also released old polling data to show how popular Swarbrick was with the public (as of last November).
It’s a whole chorus of commentators using the media to theorize the downfall of a party leader who currently enjoys historically high support – and who is also the climate change minister.
Clearly, there is significant discontent among some members of the Greens. To gauge the appetite for change at the top, the media also surveyed former Green MPs.
Sue Bradford told RNZ that many people believe the Green Party has gone astray under Shaw’s leadership.
Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking called another former MP – Gareth Hughes, who is no longer a Green Party member – to ask: “Is this a little clique of radicals? Or is it the larger vision of the party?
“You should ask party members and delegates why they voted that way,” Hughes replied, assuring him there was no shortage of them to talk to.
Instead, Hosking told listeners his own view of dissenters.
“It’s kind of a movement, it’s a grouping, they like to hold hands, sing Kumbaya and everything is fine with the world in their Roman sandals. That’s about all they ever wanted to accomplish,” he said.
“It is often assumed that the rebellious rump of the Greens is much bigger – because they are so much louder,” Andrea Vance pointed out in the Sunday Star Hours Last weekend.
Parliamentary politics is the most scrutinized topic and our news these days, but members of political parties are constantly ignored.
Even at annual party conferences, you might get the odd voxpop of rank and file members in some of the reports, but they’re usually just the backdrop in stories focusing on what party leaders have to say. .
TVNZ’s Maiki Sherman spoke to delegates after the vote – and also to others in the days that followed.
One told him on camera that James Shaw should ‘go further and faster on climate change’ and another told him they had just joined the party at the prospect of new leadership, another member told him that the party has no shortage of leaders and a contest is a good thing.
the heraldThomas Coughlan described the goals of two important sub-groups, the Young Greens and the Green Left Network.
Things Andrea Vance said Greens members are mostly “quieter and devoted loyalists” and she estimated that dissatisfied among them would make up around 15% of the party.
“It’s about the same proportion as the mutinous factions and other green parties around the world,” she added.
“In an ideal world it would be a healthy debate,” said Gordon Campbell, a Greens staffer for a small part of the penultimate decade. written on Scoop this week.
“It is completely understandable that a minority within a party that sees itself as a radical vanguard would want to push things forward at a faster pace, especially given the urgency of the climate crisis,” did he declare.
But without any sign of mutiny, yet the NBRBrigitte Morton, columnist for ‘Right of Centre’, said this “episode is likely to fade in Green history”.
Earlier reports this week of ‘green blood’, revolution, seething resentments and long knives in the back could be picked up at the party’s AGM 12 months from now.
Hopefully coverage of the extent and nature of dissent will be more helpful.