Future of the planet more important than the Greens survival, former co-leader James Shaw says

Before he left Parliament, former Green Party leader James Shaw sat down for an interview on RNZ’s 30 with Guyon Espiner programme. He said there were some people in the party who “don’t like the fact that I seem different from them”.

As the Green Party struggles with yet another controversy involving one of its MPs, former leader James Shaw has suggested it needs to be more open-minded about working with others who do not share its views.

Shaw was speaking before the latest controversy involving the party erupted last week. Senior MP Julie-Anne Genter faces an investigation by Parliament’s privileges committee over her conduct in the House, as well as allegations of intimidation by critics of her views in the wider public.

Days before the incident that sparked the complaints against Genter, Shaw said he was concerned about increasing political tribalism and hyper-partisanship in parliament.

“I think a lot of it is driven by global social media giants. The way they operate is by taking something that has always existed in our society and exacerbating it, supercharging it with technology,” he said.

“That’s not a healthy phenomenon … the technology that we’re using that triggers that sense of personal identification with a tribal, political niche.”

In the unedited interview on 30 with Guyon Espiner, Shaw suggested he was sometimes made to feel like an imposter within his own party.

“It’s been true since I got there. Particular factions within the Green Party … don’t like the fact that I seem different from them.

“There would be people who would say that a middle-class white guy in a suit with a corporate background isn’t the kind of profile that they identify with.

“There was this kind of suspicion that I was [something like] a ‘Tree Tory’. It means, essentially, a right-wing environmentalist.”

* 30 with Guyon Espiner comes out every week on RNZ, Youtube, TVNZ+ and wherever you get your podcasts.

Shaw, who survived an attempt to oust him as Green co-leader in 2022, was quick to brush off these criticisms as “politics” but is adamant that overcoming political prejudice is key to solving the climate crisis.

“This is the thing that I’ve always been frustrated about in this country, and in politics in general. We’re locked into this left/right binary, and I think it’s really unhealthy.

“If we’re going to solve the great challenges of our time, we have to get above that sort of petty partisanship and work out what the long-term challenges are that we need to fix.

“Frankly, I don’t care what your identity is, what I care about is whether or not we’re actually resolving these challenges together.”

Deal-making in future governments

The Green Party requires its members to endorse any agreement that sees its MPs having a role in government.

Shaw said the Greens were “pretty identifiable as a left-wing political party” so people who voted for them did not want a right-wing government led by the National Party. But even working with Labour in 2017 had been a bitter pill for some members to swallow.

“It was a difficult one getting us over the line even in 2017, but we got there,” he said.

“My point is, if [the Greens chose to work with National] you might be able to stop National from doing even worse things, particularly if you’re able to block Act and New Zealand First. But you would probably be punished at the next election existentially.

“The other view, is that if you look at the current government, by way of example, and you say, well, actually, we do care about our planet, and we do care about our people, then actually, your own survival as a political party should be a secondary consideration to trying to stop those bad things from happening, if you can have some good things happen.

“I think it’s more important than the fate of any political party. I don’t care about the survival of any of our political parties if the survival of our planet is up for grabs.”

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According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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