ON SATURDAY James Shaw announced he had been re-elected Green co-leader. He was joined at a sparsely attended press conference by fellow co-leader Marama Davidson. The two could be said to be made for each other. Davidson has achieved little as Assistant Minister of Housing while Shaw, as Climate Change Minister, can point to little in the way of real achievement as well. As Branko Marcetic has observed: 'Giving the biggest polluters a free pass, lagging behind on emissions cuts, accruing a reputation as a climate dilettante on the world stage — all of this would be pretty damning for anyone with the title of minister for climate change. The fact that the minister is the co-leader of the Green Party is an added indictment.'
But while his opponents successfully ousted him as co-leader first time round, much to Shaw's shock, they failed to organise a candidate to stand against him. This might, on first appearance, look like something of a disorganised botch-up. But there also seemed to be an assumption - wrong as it turned out - that Chloe Swarbrick would put her name forward.
As the Green's finance spokesperson it's been noticeable that she has become increasingly more critical of the economic status quo. It was just a few short months ago that she wrote in a NZ Herald column: 'As Ursula K. Le Guin put it, "We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.'
Although she hasn't gone as far as to describe herself as an ecosocialist, and maybe the label doesn't matter anyway, she has also commented that 'The political status quo is unfit to confront the climate crisis....Status quo politics cannot solve climate breakdown. It created it.'
Her views stand in contrast to that of James Shaw who continues to peddle his corporate environmentalism and his fantastical notion of an environmentally friendly capitalism. So while Chloe Swarbrick's views might be in synch with the views of a large swathe of the Green Party membership, they could well be stuck with James Shaw - and the equally conservative Marama Davidson - until at the least the general election in thirteen months time.
But while James Shaw may have been re-elected co-leader, he is damaged goods. His authority has been severely undermined and it will no longer be assumed and accepted that he speaks on behalf of the entire Green Party.
Shaw's strategy is to attempt to both paper over the cracks in the Green Party and take the focus off his disputed leadership by encouraging the membership to focus on the general election instead. According to him the job is 'to get more Green MPs into the next Parliament, and more Green Ministers into the next Government.'
But this is a strategy doomed to fail if Shaw assumes that he will receive full support for a Green Party campaigning, yet again, on a platform of market-friendly policies and that continues to play a subservient role to Labour. The signs aren't encouraging though that Shaw has learnt anything from his struggle to remain co-leader.
James Shaw might have won this battle - by default - but, as someone observed on Facebook over the weekend, 'he hasn't won the war'.