James Shaw - Hero of the Week | The Jackal

24 Aug 2017

James Shaw - Hero of the Week

Green party leader James Shaw was perhaps, until recently, one of New Zealand’s most underrated politicians. He appears as an easy going, well-spoken and approachable kind of guy. But make no mistake; Shaw has a burning desire for political change.

What made Shaw stand out for all the right reasons was his forthrightness during one of New Zealand’s most controversial political episodes. Despite weeks of continuous attacks on then co-leader Metiria Turei by the right wing and their media accomplices, the Green party remains relatively unscathed and climbing in the polls because of Shaw's steady and commendable stewardship.

At every turn he said exactly what was required to ensure the Green party’s worthwhile environmental and social policies weren’t entirely lost in the brouhaha. Clearly Shaw was exactly the right person to stare down the barrel of the media gun and display a level of cool headedness and loyalty rarely seen in politics, loyalty to his party and friend that makes Shaw a cut above.

It’s not easy being a Green party co-leader either.

On Sunday, Stuff reported:

Anatomy of a Meti-crisis: Green leader James Shaw's candid account of 'the longest week of all time'

In Christchurch on 7 August, Shaw was at a debate with other senior MPs. But his eyes kept darting towards Green MP Eugenie Sage, who was sitting in the audience, texting furiously. After a while, she left the room. Shaw knew exactly what had happened. His MPs, Kennedy Graham and Dave Clendon, had walked.

"These are two people who I've been close to for a very long time," says Shaw. "I had seen them at lunchtime that day, and I was exasperated. I was like, 'Come on! Can you not see how this is going to play out?"

When the news broke, Shaw flew back to Wellington. A taxi whisked him to Parliament, and at 9.30pm he stepped onto the black and white tiles in the foyer, where the TV cameras were positioned. He was calm, but there was fire in his eyes. He spat out the word "betrayed". He wanted to expel both men from the party. But by the next morning, Shaw had changed his mind.

"I had realised that these guys had taken what they saw as a principled stand. Everybody disagreed with them, and it was painful. But who are we if we just say, 'Okay, you did a bad thing; now we're gonna screw you over?'"

The party made peace with its rebel MPs. They would leave caucus, and Turei would stay on as co-leader. But just as the dust was beginning to settle, another scandal was brewing. Media had been contacted by a member of Turei's extended family, who claimed she had made herself out to be poorer than she really was.

You can tell how well a left wing politician is performing by how spiteful some right wing blogs, journalists and politicians get towards them. Judging by the vitriol directed at James Shaw he was and still is performing exceptionally well. His assuredness in trying times clearly makes Shaw the type of politician we need to lead New Zealand in the 21st century.

Amongst other work and within 24 hours, James Shaw attended the political panel at the Pasifika Business Network, gave a number of good interviews on Green policy and position, provided a great political pitch at Villainesse, attended the Massey University and Stuff’s opportunity gap election debate, presented the Green party vision for a net zero, low-carbon economy at the Business NZ conference and attended the Maori Television’s first leaders debate where he highlighted a number of issues including the fact that the National party failed to attend. This is a blistering pace that will likely result in the Green party gaining much needed support on election day.

That’s why the Green party leader wins this week’s Hero Award. Let’s hope the Labour party also recognises James Shaw’s considerable abilities and provides him with a ministerial position in any centre-left coalition Government that forms after the next election.