James Shaw brushes off Greens leadership challenge

Maiki Sherman
Source: tvnz

Green Party co-leader James Shaw is brushing off the threat of a fresh leadership challenge ahead of the party’s annual conference.

The party faithful will meet in Christchurch this weekend, with some members of the youth arm planning to force a vote on the leadership.

Appearing as Climate Change Minister before a select committee on Monday, Shaw defended the recently-announced Emissions Reduction Plan under criticism from National and ACT.

But it's dissent from within his own party plaguing Shaw, with some members disappointed the co-leader had not gone further to address climate change.

Shaw, whose leadership role was challenged at last year’s AGM, was realistic about the possibility of a repeat situation this weekend.

“I do expect that there will be some people who vote to reopen nominations, but that happens every year," he said.

The problem for Shaw was that it doesn't happen to everyone, with co-leader Marama Davidson avoiding similar leadership challenges.

Asked why members wanted to see him gone, and not his co-leader, Shaw it was a question that needed to be put to party members.

“Really that's up to them. But, you know, there has been a small group of people who have been wanting to see the back of me ever since they saw the front of me,” Shaw said.

The latest move has been from members of the Young Greens private Facebook group.

In a post by one member, first reported by Salient Magazine, there was a call for a meeting to discuss "re-opening nominations for co-leader... a lot are unhappy with his leadership".

A second member agreed and said they would love a co-leader on par with Davidson.

Another member told 1News they'd been questioning Shaw's leadership among their friends.

“Frankly, I do not concern myself with what somebody writes on Facebook,” Shaw said.

“Every year I continue on as co-leader. So, frankly, my job is to focus on fixing climate change.”

While Shaw will likely have the numbers this weekend, the problem speaks to a deepening divide within the party.

Political commentator and former National staffer Brigitte Morten said the situation with the Green Party rules, which require leaders to be reconfirmed by the membership each year, means the discussion around Shaw was no great surprise.

“I think a bit of healthy accountability amongst leadership is always a good thing, but it is interesting that it's always directed at him and not at his counterpart," Morten said.

“You'd see many within the Greens are much more of the activist point of view, rather than the pragmatists. Shaw is without a doubt a pragmatist."

It’s a split the party will need to manage carefully ahead of next year's general election.