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Monday, 2 October 2017

Elections 2017: The temptation of James Shaw

When the Devil had finished all his tempting, he left him until an opportune time – Luke 4:13

It’s been interesting over the last week to watch the mainstream political media in NZ twist desperately as they try and fill their daily news quota because Winston is simply stalling for time and there is almost nothing else to discuss in politics until parliament starts up.

Thus it’s been right royally entertaining and somewhat depressing to see the slew of articles coming out discussing James Shaw taking the Greens over to National.

Now to be fair it’s a prospect I have also raised in the past but the difference is my portrayal of the situation (which I shall elaborate on a bit below) was always based on the impulse of Shaw himself and not via any conscious decision by the party, its vote base or some sort of policy pragmatism.

No, what’s being hailed here is something very very different. What is being set up here is the pre-greasing of the public to accept a Green/National government, via a strangely compliant media, based on the rational (and dare I say public choice) idea that who cares about principles or where you are on the political spectrum just think about the what you will get if you do!

Normally dependable reporters like Stacey Kirk and Tracy Watkins on Stuff have been busy shoveling the kind of half-baked analysis that is more at the level of my standard stream of consciousness rot than their usual astute analysis and reportage.

Elsewhere Isaac Davidson over at the NZ Herald has not been immune to “going with the flow” and turning out something that is similar to his counterparts over at Stuff.

Meanwhile leave it to Martyn Bradbury over at the DailyBlog to get to the point (also here) and explain why a Green/National coalition would be a toxic result for Greens.

Because what would happen if James Shaw, and I mean James Shaw, not the party, took the Greens over to the other side would be for all intents and purposes and the end of the Greens.

It would be the birth of the very short lived James Shaw party which would live and die in exactly the same fashion as the Maori Party did when it cozied up to National and then got obliterated at the polls for essentially betraying its core vote base.

Because what Shaw would be attempting to do is pole vault the Greens over two other parties on the political spectrum (Labour and NZ First) to place it next to National, as long term coalition partner or just for some casual confidence and supply (the political equivalent of friends with benefits (or should that be benefits?), at the expense of any solid understanding of how democracy works.

Shaw, like Winston in my last post, is not free to buy and sell, horse trade or even prostitute his vote share to any and all parties that come a courting, despite what the media is trying to say. It not only betrays the democratic mechanic and spirit, its also just plain stupid.

And the alarm bells that should be ringing in Shaws brain right now do not stop there as the only actor in recent NZ political history I can think off of that managed to pull off that trick is Richard Prebble when he went from Labour to ACT, and we all know how that turned out.

Prebble, the golem of the Treasury Trokia from the mid-1980s, who, along with Roger Douglas and David Caygill* had their names etched forever in infamy as men who poisoned the well in NZ left-wing politics and set NZ on the unwholesome path it is treading today is not a good example of how to manage your party, its brand or its future.

What Prebble is a good example of, is one individual selling out his constituents and party (Labour Leaning Auckland Central in the 70s and 80s) for his own personal gain and in doing so being remembered only as scumbag political hack who once lead ACT.

And Shaw could have all of that if he takes the bait and goes to National.

Sure it makes all the policy sense in the world, when Stacey Kirk phrases it along pure policy lines, but it would be a very personal and very short term gain for James Shaw; and those lucky few high enough on the party list to get into parliament, who get a few years to play in politics while the Green brand goes from skating just above the 5% threshold to the same level as the Maori Party today (essentially 0%).

But given how bastardized the Green party is at this time, with its skew towards social justice more than the environment and their feet suddenly feeling the chill after having come down from the lofty heights of Mt Morality it is a possibility that could happen but what the media is not making clear is what happens to little green fish that swim with the big Blue Shark.

Sure the Greens were kept in a rather limited bowl by Labour but they were never threatened with annihilation (just subservience), as they would be for sucking on the teats of National.

So while we can blame the dictates of Winston Peters (and his refusal to ever work with the Greens) for being the primer for nudging Shaw along this path, that is the only rationality which would justify such a move and, as noted above, it would be purely short term and purely personal gain.

If Shaw needs any evidence of what decrepit fate awaits him its right there in the now vacant offices and work spaces of the Maori Party in Bowen House and Parliament.

Of course if Shaw is a corporate Trojan horse or Security Service mole, like has been speculated for some time in Wellington, then his going with National would lock those theories into pole position on the grid as Shaw is not stupid enough to think he could salvage the party from such a fate that has befallen so many in NZ politics and around the world but he might be willing (and stupid) enough to sell the party down the river for his own gain (or that of his masters).

The track record for voter betraying minor political parties is not good and if Shaw was a deep cover operative then this would be the perfect time to follow his MK Ultra programming and take the party over to the dark side.

However what sits in my mind now is not some political parable but the story of St Paul who started out his career as hunter of Christians but was struck down and blinded, on the road to Damascus, by the glory of Christ, and spent three days blind and suffering before a Christian healer made the scales fall from his eyes (hence where the saying comes from), he “saw the light” and converted to Christianity.

If the story stopped there is would be warm fuzzies all around but it doesn’t, what happened after is that St Paul went on to become one of the most prominent of the Apostles and his works and thought dominates early Christianity and the New Testament as one of the most rabid evangelists for Jesus Christ.

In short Saul became a “prisoner of Christ”, suffered Stockholm syndrome, changed his name to Paul and then became a Jihadi proselytizer for the JC Franchise.

And if that is not making it clear enough then I will spell it out. If Shaw goes to National then he will spend the rest of his days as a raving believer for the rightness (pun intended) of his dark deed, religiously defending his actions because his total reversal for all that the Greens stand for will require a stupendous level of missionary zeal to convince, even himself, that his deal with the devil was worth it.

This is the temptation that James Shaw is facing because just as the Maori Party constantly kept referring to how they were doing it "for Maori" the end result was they really were doing it for themselves only and Maori in general got little to nothing from the bargain that Maori struck with National; and Shaw & Co will have to utter the exact same lines and platitudes as the Maori Party did while National gets a free pass for another three years***.

For the Aro Valley** champagne environmentalists, which now make up the limited core of the party, they might feel good for the initial moment when the Greens get to lick the lever of power in ritual subservience the the Great Wyrm but as they say, revenge is sweet but not fattening, and election 2020 will probably be time enough for Shaw to become as toxic as dairy stream in voters minds and as popular as Clitter.

So if Shaw wants to kiss the devils buttocks so be it but the media should not be trying to fool people to which way he is really going.

*-(Douglas as Hitler, Caygill as Gobbles and Prebble as Himmler)
**-And I should know because I lived just up the hill from Shaw for five years
***-To be fair a NZ First/Labour/Greens govt has all sorts of potential issues lurking just below the surface but its still better than another three years of National at this point


  1. A National Green coalition might be unwelcome to many Green Party voters, but there are ample precedents in Europe for Green Parties entering into coalition with right-of-centre parties, and there are many environmentally concerned people in this country who are right-wing or National leaning. It is not just a question of one man (James Shaw) and where he might lead the Green Party.
    So if the Greens were to enter into alliance with National - to save the nation from Winston? - we should not be too surprised or shocked.

  2. Small problem Geoff above. Green isn't Green, its Red. The idea would see the end of Green entirely. Its an invitation to suicide, we could bury Green alongside ACt.

    1. Hi Paul: I have herd the term "red" and "communist" used a bit lately as a pejorative term.

      I suppose we could say they were socialist for their stance against free markets but in actual political orientation they would not be communist.

      If the Greens did go to National it would be less a "Red" move and more one of being a traitor to their cause.

      Next three years will be crucial for the Greens, I think Shaw knows he may have stuffed up and will have to tread carefully least he kill the party, its a nice way of seeing democracy in action.

  3. Hi Geoff: Im not theoretically opposed to a Green/National government. What I am opposed to, and what voters are as well, is that this was not signaled prior to the election and as such voters (and the public) would have reasonable grounds to believe that the Greens would not do such a thing, as its known that there has been no love lost between these two in the past and much of the greens policy perspective (its the environment) runs counter to that of National (its all about the $$$).

    In the case of the Greens as they stand today they are not the James Shaw Party just yet but Shaw gutted much of the core of the old Greens and replaces it with "new" Greens meaning that he is in fact positioning the Greens much like Winston created NZ First (ie more a vehicle for his personality rather than any serious political agenda).

    The only thing I would say in Shaws defense on this is that his political inexperience and naivety could explain this behavior but my own feeling is this is a deliberate move by Shaw (a coup of the Greens).

    So Shaw working with National is not an impossibility but that is not the position of the Green party in the past or its vote base today and for him to do that he would have to re-jig the party to do so in a way that would strip it of its previous views and even its mandate.

    As for neutralizing Winston, I fully agree, National trying to woo the Greens over is purely as a means to limit Winstons negotiating position, and I think Shaw knew this BUT if it would go bad I definitely think National would have taken the Greens had Shaw agreed and simply cut Winston out of the deal but that would be the death of the Greens as we know it.

  4. The idea that the Greens could go with National is not some new thing that only appeared with the Shaw leadership:

    Found that with 2 minutes of googling.

  5. Hi DPF: Forget what you have read on those fine publications and consider how far such a discussion would have made it into the public domain pre-James Shaw and not just on some online blogs?

    The Green dilemma has existed before Shaw took over but it took Shaws action in the last 24 months to take it from theoretical possibility to train wreck reality and yet if you look back at the comments on those posts (specially the Pundit one) you can already see people pointing out the obvious issues with taking such a course of action.

    Yes, the Greens have always wanted out from their little corner of the political spectrum, Its something I noted in my post on them last year when I was at KP, but the theory is all fine and dandy until it hits the road of political reality which is what happened on Sept 23rd this year when the vote base for the Greens (the real Greens not the Labour refugees or the Activists) made it very clear that such a move was not going to wash.

    I know a lot of people who used to vote Green (including myself) who did not this election because of the views we have had regarding where we see the Greens in regards to positions on the spectrum. I also know a lot of people who still voted Green (side effect of living in Aro Valley for six years) who did so only with great reluctance and after some soul searching.

    So yes you can find evidence of people thinking about how to exit the Greens from their situation by doing deals with National but I can google up in 2 mins theories about how Reptilian Aliens run the world and we are all just cattle for them but it does not mean that those theories have any credibility or are based in reality.

    And yes I have noted that the Pundit column was written by Sue Bradford but what that shows is the split between those in the Greens who were always on the environmental side and those who were on the social activist side.

    The rise of James Shaw shows that the activists have won out at this time but if that's the case they had better change the party name and secure their vote base because it would be false advertising to keep on under the Green label after 20 years given what they are trying to do.

    If Shaw was serious about this then he would solve the matter by forming a new party or purging the environmental elements (which he has sorta done) and then re-branding the party. However he does this at great risk and I don't think it would ever pay off as social issues is Labour territory and they wont take kindly to that.

  6. " consider how far such a discussion would have made it into the public domain"

    The first link is about a 2014 TVNZ interview with Norman and Turei where they discussed the possibility.

    1. Hi DPF:

      And again, how far did that go, it went nowhere.

      Im not saying it has not been discussed, I am saying that in terms of it being a palatable topic for public discussion (as in being something the votebase can get its head around) but being something that the average Green voter was going to be down with.

      It was a fringe topic, it briefly surfaced before the election and then got put back under when it became clear that the average Green voter, still loyal to the party, would not be down with it.

      So date of the topic is irrelevant, its how long it lived as a topic for discussion. Parties do float ideas from time to time but that can be to test the waters or in some cases rouge opinions.

      Does not make them set in stone or viable.

      As I say in the post, the track record for pole vaulting your party that far along the political spectrum is not good, and I don't think Shaw is that crazy to risk it, certainly not now.

  7. " how far did that go, it went nowhere"

    It's hard to imagine something being more in the public sphere than being seriously discussed on a major TV network by the people most directly involved with it. (e.g. the politicians themselves).

    And it's hard to see how it's gone further now - right now, it's still just talk, but for some reason you view the current discussions as substantive but the 2014 and 2008 ones as insubstantive. What's the difference?

    I think you've just fallen for the novelty fallacy - "I just noticed this, therefore it is new".

  8. No, as an ex Green voter who lived in the heartland of Greens (Aro Valley) and who knew plenty of Green party members its not new BUT its not been an idea with legs.

    The reason this keeps on coming up is because the Greens know they are in a political corner and keep trying to find a way out. Its like some animal trapped in a box and running around trying to escape but there is none.

    Until Shaw cleaned out the old behind the scenes hands in the party and brought in new MPs over the older MPs the older, and saner, minds had prevailed in the Greens at the impossible prospect of working with a party that far across the spectrum AND still remaining viable to their vote base.

    Yes it did turn up in the media from time to time but that means little given how outlandish it is/was and how/why it never got traction.

    And I don't view the current discussion as substantive, thats exactly what my post was about, its only Shaw being wooed by National (who would do any deal to remain in govt) and Shaws own temptation to avoid being seduced by the illusion of any genuine benefit the the Greens coming from doing such a deal.

    The only major difference between then and now is we are in week three of the slow news week for political reporters and, as with the endless Winston coverage of no real value, we are being treated to watching the political press scrabble around trying to find work to do and grabbing at any story which will hold up for any period of time.

    Don't get me wrong though, it caused a fuss in some circles but thats because Shaw has so blown apart the stability of the Greens that such a desperate move might actually be an option to a guy (and those backing him) who is willing to do what he has done but all for what?

    Also with so much uncertainty around party negotiations there is always the possibility that the Greens could/would jump BUT its the end of the Greens as we know it if they do and that's why they don't.

    The only escape for the Greens out of their corner is to cease being Green and reinvent themselves (and their voter base) as something new as the standard Green voter is not down with National.

    Further if you consider how Labour sucked back many of its stray flock in the wake of jacindamania that would also give you a good idea of why such a move would not work just on the sheer mechanics of voter movement on the political spectrum.

    Just think how hard it has been for MP's to cross the line between National and Labour (some have done but I cant recall many of them) and those two are only one degree separated (not counting NZF first as it sits across their closest ends) yet that is a hard thing to do yet somehow there is a positive outcome in attempting that feat but double the distance? Not really, thats a superhuman political feat.

    Your fighting against the tide here my friend, maybe some overseas Green party could pull this off but not in NZ at this time with those voters.

    But if your not convinced let us agree to disagree on this one and I will get back to exploring Algeria for you.

  9. "Your fighting against the tide here my friend"

    What gave you the impression that I thought this was a -good- idea? I just said it wasn't a new one.

    Please try to read what I write a bit more carefully before responding to my comments in future?