Gordon Campbell: From loonie Greens to boring Greens

His likely successor – Kevin Hague – will face the same problems after Norman has stepped down in May. At the moment, Hague is not confirming whether or not he is a contender, but the cupboard is not exactly full of other options. (It would be theoretically possible for the Greens to elevate talented new MP James Shaw, but unlikely.) In the meantime, Norman will continue as Co-Leader and as the Greens’ finance spokesperson.

When the party annual conference in May anoints the new leader however, there is a compelling argument for Norman to relinquish that finance role as well, in favour of Shaw. Not only would that help ensure that Hague is not upstaged by his predecessor, but the finance role would provide a useful platform for Shaw to lift his national profile, and widen his support base within the party. Hague would bring his own skills to the job. He is a solid performer and a good off-the-cuff public speaker, with prior senior management experience in public health. Hopefully, under Hague and Metiria Turei, the Greens might be able to gain some added traction with voters on health issues.

Still, Norman will be sorely missed. The Green Party – and Parliament- will be the poorer for losing his incisive debating skills, and his ability to launch credible attacks on the government’s economic and environmental settings. He has earned a break. The social demands of being Co-leader – the enforced bonhomie with journalists etc – often seemed like a conscious effort for him. In that respect, the grumpiness detected by some commentators post-election was not an aberration, but a sign of his natural tendency not to suffer fools gladly. All up, Norman’s departure does look like it is occurring at the right time, and for the right reasons.

In future, the interesting contrast – or lack of one – will be between Hague and Andrew Little. After May, it seems that the centre-left will be led by two quite similar political personalities – Little and Hague are both plain-talking, uncharismatic and capable managerial types with a good deal of integrity. The “loony left” label will be hard to apply to them. Yet the edgy intelligence that enabled Norman to reach younger, normally apolitical voters will be missing – at least until Shaw has earned his spurs.

I guess hope springs eternal, but Kevin has very little charisma.  There is no doubt in my mind that unless he becomes a manage of people that do, and he makes the mistake of being point man for the Greens, he will become the major cause of the further loss of support.

Problem with Norman was that although he was a good agitator – getting into the Government’s face – he wasn’t able to actually offer anything sensible as an alternative.  Not sensible enough to steal blue-green voters from National, anyway.

Will Hague be able to this?  It’s possible.   If he doesn’t bore them to death first.


– Scoop

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.