The silence of the (Green) lambs

Claire Trevett writes:

The silence of the Green Party’s high-profile MP Chlöe Swarbrick should be the most concerning part of the developments around the leadership at the Green Party AGM.

Since the party delegates managed to rummage up enough support to force the re-opening of nominations for the co-leadership role held by James Shaw, Swarbrick has not said a word. She has not ruled out putting her hand up or indicated whether she is considering it.

There are three possible explanations for this, ranging from the perfectly innocuous to the opposite.

The first is that she has no intention of standing but wants to tell the party’s MPs and rank and file before telling the rest of the world.

That would please the rank and file, who like to hear these things before the media are told.

The second is she is waiting to hear what Shaw’s final decision is – he has said he is “inclined” to stay in the ring, but is talking to members and MPs before a final decision. If Shaw decided to withdraw, she would almost certainly stand.

The question is whether Swarbrick would force a contest against Shaw.

So the third possible explanation is that she is taking soundings on whether she has a chance of toppling Shaw in a vote.

The effective no confidence vote in James Shaw was not a coincidence. The changing of the rules to allow there to be no male co-leader was not a coincidence. And there would not have been a no confidence vote, without there being a contender willing to stand. The only question is who it is, and can they be pressured out of it?

If she has no intention of forcing a contest against Shaw, she needs to make that clear quickly and put Shaw out of his misery.

There can be no doubt that Swarbrick is ambitious and confident. You don’t stand for Mayor of Auckland as a 23 year old if you lack that.

She will be aware of the polling data released in late 2021 by the Taxpayers’ Union Curia poll which showed Swarbrick had three times the favourability of James Shaw with all voters – she was at 23% and Shaw at 8%, They both had similar unfavourability ratings of 38% and 37%.

It is really going to come down to timing. She will replace Shaw as co-leader, the question is when? In 2022 or 2023?

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