Green comes in dif­fer­ent shades

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

It may seem like a stereo­type, to be in­ter­view­ing Wellington’s new Greens list MP James Shaw in an Aro Val­ley cafe, with Ar­cade Fire on the cafe sound sys­tem. Yet Shaw doesn’t fit the mould. At 41, he’s en­ter­ing Par­lia­ment after 12 years of work­ing over­seas – ini­tially in a man­age­ment role with Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers, and then with a de­vel­op­ment agency he co-founded.

Last year, Shaw was work­ing in ru­ral In­dia where a ban on bam­boo har­vest­ing was threat­en­ing the liveli­hoods of poor lo­cal vil­lagers.

Shaw’s job? To find a com­pro­mise be­tween the needs of con­ser­va­tion and eco­nomic re­al­ity.

His new job has ob­vi­ous par­al­lels.

Al­ready, Shaw has been in­spir­ing an un­usual level of cross-party good­will. On his Twit­ter feed, new Na­tional MP Chris Bishop praised and re- tweeted Shaw’s maiden speech.

In turn, Shaw re­ferred to ‘‘ friends of mine in the seats op­po­site’’ in a maiden speech that quoted Mar­garet Thatcher ap­prov­ingly, and ex­pressed Shaw’s en­thu­si­asm for as­pects of the mar­ket econ­omy.

The speech ended on the same bi- par­ti­san note: ‘‘ We will all need to let go of some things and to be more com­mit­ted to find­ing the an­swers, than to be­ing right or to oth­ers be­ing wrong . . .’’

Ex­cit­edly, the pun­dits have been hail­ing Shaw as a Green MP with whom Na­tional can do business, and as a Greens leader-in­wait­ing. Shaw rolls his eyes. ‘‘I say, don’t be ridicu­lous. I’ve been here four weeks. I’ve had two weeks in the House. It’s just the sort of thing that pun­dits say.

‘‘ They say it ev­ery now and then about peo­ple in ev­ery party.’’

The ref­er­ence to Thatcher though, he adds, was quite de­lib­er­ate.

It was meant to re­mind a Na­tional Party bent on re­form­ing the Re­source Man­age­ment Act that one of the cen­tre-right’s ide­o­log­i­cal icons had in fact, taken the plight of the planet se­ri­ously.

Sim­i­larly, when Shaw pro­fessed in his maiden speech that ‘‘I’m a huge fan of the mar­ket’’, it had been in the con­text of stress­ing that the state rou­tinely needs to in­ter­vene and reg­u­late the mar­ket, to save it from its worst ex­cesses.

In other words, in James Shaw we’re not deal­ing with a closet con­ser­va­tive, but with some­one smart enough to fight fire with fire.

He plans to use the cen­treright’s strate­gies and ar­gu­ments against it­self, and sees a ne­ces­sity for do­ing so.

‘‘ Be­cause over on the right, they don’t give any cred­i­bil­ity to left-wing ar­gu­ments. You can’t use left- wing ar­gu­ments to rea­son with them.

‘‘You’ve got to go into their ter­ri­tory, to en­gage with them.’’

Th­ese tac­ti­cal skills will be use­ful as the Greens lick their wounds after an elec­tion re­sult that has left them fac­ing a gen­uine dilemma.

Namely, should the Greens con­tinue to com­pete with Labour on so­cial jus­tice is­sues, or should it (a) re­de­fine it­self as mainly an en­vi­ron­men­tal party and ( b) en­gage con­struc­tively with Na­tional in ways that (c) could well win votes from the ‘‘ blue green’’ vot­ers within Na­tional’s ranks. Shaw is aware of the de­bate. ‘‘ I think [ Greens co- leader] Me­tiria [Turei] is right. Our job is to move the cen­tre to­wards the Greens.

‘‘And part of the rea­son why I chose to fo­cus on Thatcher and my cor­po­rate ex­pe­ri­ence is to go, ‘ It’s OK, and what we’re ad­vo­cat­ing is not that weird’.’’


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