The ‘initial’ Greens list for the election is a bit light on Auckland, strong on women and insufficiently regenerative, argues Simon Wilson.
Like most parties, the Greens hold a conference to decide their list. Unlike most, the result then goes to the whole membership for a vote. They’ve had the conference and now the result, which they call the “initial” list, has just been sent to members and publicly released. The member vote uses STV (single transferable vote), so in effect they get to rank the candidates. Compounding the issue, the Greens have a bunch of rules designed to ensure adequate representation across genders, age, geography and experience. It’s very democratic.
The full draft list is here.
The draft top 20:
- Metiria Turei
- James Shaw
- Julie Anne Genter
- Marama Davidson
- Eugenie Sage
- Jan Logie
- Gareth Hughes
- Mojo Mathers
- Jack McDonald
- Barry Coates
- Kennedy Graham
- John Hart
- Chloe Swarbrick
- Denise Roche
- Golriz Ghahraman
- David Clendon
- Teanau Tuiono
- Leilani Tamu
- Teall Crossen
- Chris Perley
The Greens won 11% of the vote in 2014 and that gave them 14 seats. All other things being equal, a good campaign could see them push that out a little to 15. If that happens, the initial list looks pretty good: a strong balance of rejuvenation and experience, and Auckland (currently their weakest area) is served pretty well, too.
Chloe Swarbrick will become an MP and so will human-rights lawyer and former refugee Golriz Ghahraman. That’s two of the four high-profile young Auckland women who put their names forward. Leilani Tamu and Hayley Holt will miss out. Tamu is close at 18 but Holt has been pushed way down to an unwinnable 29. She’s late to the party but she’s been a high-profile activist in Auckland: clearly, she still has to impress the rest of the Greens with the quality of her contribution.
With 15 MPs, party rejuvenation would also see the young parliamentary party staffer Jack McDonald become an MP, along with livewire Wairarapa farmer John Hart. For the energetic boost the party needs, they really should have six new MPs in the 15, but four isn’t bad.
In that 15, only one sitting MP misses out: David Clendon.
But what if that’s just fantasy? Will the Greens really hold their own? The sober approach is to look at the top 10, because party planning should always consider a poor outcome as well as a good one. If things don’t go so well for the Greens this election, who will they be left with in parliament?
Only one newbie: McDonald. That’s trouble, because they should have three or possibly even four and they really need at least two. If you don’t renew your caucus each election, as both the Greens and Labour have found out this last parliamentary term, you go into the next one with a stale lineup and too few good people with the experience to take on senior roles.
Having McDonald as the only newbie spells trouble for another reason. Whatever his undoubted talents are, it’s a problem for every party when the best route to becoming an MP is to work for the party in parliament. MPs should come from a wider pool.
The Greens had many very talented young people offer themselves as candidates this year and as a party they haven’t responded to that particularly well. Sure, they have to be many things to many people and that’s always hard with a small caucus. But for the sake of their appeal to the electorate, if nothing else, it’s essential for them to be the party of youthful talent. Given who votes for them, that should be beyond dispute – and yet this list doesn’t signal that nearly strongly enough.
More weaknesses. The top 10 has three South Islanders (Metiria Turei, Eugenie Sage and Mojo Mathers), which is too many for an area that represents less than a quarter of the NZ population, and three Aucklanders (Julie Anne Genter, Marama Davidson and Barry Coates), which is the bare minimum. This is a bit surprising. There’s a potential avalanche of Green votes among Auckland’s urban liberals, especially as Labour is quite happily positioning itself closer to the centre, thus leaving more of the progressive vote to the Greens. They need to go after them hard.
Put it another way: the Greens already get most of the provincial votes they’re ever likely to attract in places like Nelson and Coromandel. But they’re short in Auckland. Their list needs to signal they’re taking the big city more seriously. The Greens need Chloe Swarbrick and Golriz Ghahraman standing up as core components of their party.
Read Toby Manhire’s campaign previewing interview with Metiria Turei and James Shaw here
The list has a notable quirk in that it ignores the party’s own rule about gender: there should be at least two men and two women in each group of five, but James Shaw is the only man in the top five. The quotas don’t become binding until the final list, though, and it’s not a biggie anyway because there are four men in the top 10.
Julie Anne Genter and Marama Davidson are the two biggest winners from within the existing caucus, being promoted to spots three and four respectively. With Davidson and Turei, the party now has two Māori in its top five, and with McDonald, three in its top 10.
Barry Coates and Kennedy Graham are the luckiest MPs, having both secured top 11 spots even though their names were on many commentators’ “shouldn’t they retire?” lists. Denise Roche is not so lucky. She’s also on those lists, but she’s not going anywhere quietly: she recently beat out Swarbrick to become the party candidate for Auckland Central, a seat she has contested twice before. The party has responded by placing Roche in the highly marginal 14th spot, one below Swarbrick.
There’s a message for her in that, for sure. If she wants to get back into parliament, she’s going to have to work very hard to turn out the party vote. Actually, the list carries that same message for Swarbrick and her supporters: if they want the Greens to be their party, now’s their chance to prove their worth. Roche and Swarbrick alike will be going to Wellington only if they can persuade more Aucklanders to vote Green.
Of course, if the party does very well it will have more MPs than now, and much of the above will be moot. Can they do that?
Note: This feature has been updated to correct the comments about Auckland, as we did not previously identify Marama Davidson as an Aucklander.
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