When Russel Norman announced his resignation from male co-leadership earlier this year, many were saddened. But there’s no need. Apart from the fact that he’ll be missed, of course. It’s not every leader who can claim to have co-presided over a 100% increase in their party’s share of the vote.
And that’s the point. The party’s no longer small. With 6 male MPs, it’s not a question of whether there’s a leader waiting in the wings, but who it is, and what they’d be like. The Greens have earned themselves the best kind of leadership debate: one that attracts headlines for all the right reasons; that puts up vision, policy and media adroitness amidst a contest of ideas.
Only, it doesn’t. The problem for the Greens is telling their leadership candidates apart. They all agree on everything. Yes, the Greens aspire to a post-spectral political world of evidence-based policy. Yes, they can work with any party on any topic they agree on. No, they probably won’t support a National government. Yes, there are big economic opportunities in green energy. No, we can’t go there straight away, it has to be a transition …
They’re the very image of unified teamwork. You couldn’t get more like the National party rowing TVC if you tried. So what difference does it make who leads the party, if all the candidates think the same way and hold the same values?
It might well be less about choosing the right set of politics and values, and much more to do with who has the personal style and professional skills to lead. It’s less about politics, more about HR.
In a nutshell: Kevin’s the oldest with the most leadership experience. He’s been an MP longer, has run a DHB, and was a political activist before Gareth was born. Being young, Gareth has the strongest connection with the party’s important young voter base, and is also a savvy and effective campaigner. And James is the rank outsider, a first time MP formerly of accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers, with a strong brain for strategy and – perhaps – the natural heir to Russel’s ability to win an argument about economics.
If it were down to me, today, I’d vote for Kevin simply because I think he has the most mana. The opportunity cost is the specialist areas of both James and Gareth that would be kind of awesome in a leader. Economics in James, young voters in Gareth. Both are vital. But I don’t think either of them define a leader. The ability to lead defines a leader. Kevin has proven ability to lead.
What they don’t want is a leader to fall foul of his own team of MPs. We’ve all seen what that’s like.