The Greens meltdown: why Shaw says Graham and Clendon must be expelled.
By Richard Harman (author)
Greens co-leader James Shaw is clearly lining MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon to be expelled from the party.
The two MPs who resigned yesterday in protest at Metirira Turei remaining as co-leader appeared right from the start to have placed themselves out on a limb with no support coming from even the moderates within the Green caucus.
Significantly, Economic Policy spokesperson, Julie Anne Genter, was last night saying on Twitter that she was standing with James Shaw on the issue.
Genter is widely regarded as a moderate.
And standing by Shaw’s side at his late night press conference was Eugenie Sage, the party’s Environment spokesperson and another regarded as a moderate.
Shaw has refused to bow to demands from Graham and Clendon that he support the removal of Metiria Turei as co-leader.
Technically he couldn’t do that anyway. The Greens constitution places most of the power to elect leaders in the hands of its branches.
Speaking to RNZ News, Graham and Clendon said they would resign at the election if Mrs Turei were still co-leader, because they regarded her position as untenable.
The long-serving MPs said her position on benefit fraud meant she was no longer fit to be co-leader.
"We do not believe that lying to a public agency - WINZ, IRD or any other - can ever be condoned," they said in a joint statement.
In a way, their resignations play into Shaw’s hands because they promote up the Greens list some of the younger candidates that he has been so keen to see become MPs.
The downside is that they add to the perception that the Greens are disorganised.
Labour won't mind that, with Labour insiders saying they expect that much of their anticipated "Jacinda bump" in the polls will come from the Greens.
This may enlarge that bump, and since one of Labour's key objectives is to maximise its vote so it can get new MPs into its caucus, it could regard last night’s events as a plus.
Shaw at a press conference late last night said he had been keeping Labour briefed on the two weeks of talks that had taken place between he two MPs and the party leadership over their demands.
He had also spoken to Grant Robertson last night.
He paid tribute to the two MPs work in Parliament and said he was sorry to lose them.
“I respect the decision that Kennedy and Dave have made to remove themselves from the Greens list,” he said.
“They have made that decision on principle.
“However the way that they have gone about is strongly in violation of every Green party norm, culture and process that we have.”
Shaw said that as a consequence he would move a motion this morning to suspend them both from the caucus and make them in effect independent MPs.
"And I will be speaking to the executive about their membership of the Green Party," he said; a strong indication that he wants them expelled.
“I feel betrayed by the way that they have gone about this and so does the rest of the caucus.
“We had a phone call this evening about that.”
And Shaw said that the caucus members on the phone call had strongly backed Turei to continue in her role.
“Essentially what you have got is two people who say that is unacceptable to them.
“We respect that choice, but we are just going to go on.
“The great thing of course is that we have got a tremendous list of candidates and it does increase the chances that some of those new talents will be elected to caucus.”
Shaw said the two MPs had put the Greens Party at extreme risk in the election campaign.
“They didn’t have to do it this way,” he said.
“There were more dignified ways for them to exit and I have to say that we feel that we followed due process and we feel that they have not.”
The loss of Kennedy Graham to the Greens will be a big blow.
The former diplomat has been a powerful force on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee and his work chairing the multi-party GLOBE-NZ which recently produced a major report on climate change in New Zealand has won wide support from across the House.
There were suggestions yesterday – and last night on social media – that another party in Parliament might seek to recruit him. But he wasn’t replying to calls last night.
Ironically perhaps the biggest winner out of all this might be Winston Peters and NZ First who now stand as the most stable of the Opposition parties.
Tn the meantime the Greens will have to stand by nervously waiting for the next poll.
It will be surprising if it does not show a fall in their numbers --- how far will now be the big question.