It is not quite as entertaining viewing as The Bachelor, but the Green Party's leadership contest has had moments similar to the cocktail parties that cap off each day on the reality television show.
Those parties show a group of women vying for Bachelor Art Green's affections. They alternate between swiping at each other and trying to elbow some one-on-one time with Green to boost their chances of getting the booty of a rose.
Between those moments there does appear to be some genuine rapport among some of the women. It is the same for the Green Party contenders, whose equivalent of the rose is the co-leadership.
Kevin Hague has taken a strategic approach. He was first to announce and started stashing away newsworthy material like a squirrel hoarding acorns in autumn. Hague was sent an information release about ACC funding for GP visits for under-13s on March 25. He waited until this week to use it - nearly a month later. The official line is the Green Party wanted it to be closer to the Budget. By happy coincidence, it also ensured Hague could front up with a fresh hit on the Government on a 10-stop provincial tour to address the party members voting on the leadership. Headlines and government hits are a valuable commodity when it comes to leadership contests, especially when the leader being replaced is Russel Norman, who was adept at both.
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The three parliamentary contenders - Hague, Gareth Hughes and James Shaw - all have an advantage over Vernon Tava. They can use their positions and resources as MPs to increase their profiles. Tava lacks that advantage, although he is the only Auckland-based contender.
His rival Hughes sought to steal even that advantage, promising to move to Auckland if he won because he believed the Greens needed to have at least one co-leader in the Biggest Smoke.
Shaw's pitch is based on being Russel Norman Mark 2. He pointed to Norman's credibility on economic issues and said he was "the strongest candidate to continue that vital work". His profile says he enjoys Bikram yoga, learning to cook and going to the movies. He has been a little busy batting away unwanted endorsements. The first was former Act leader Rodney Hide's, which Shaw said misrepresented his position on dealing with National. The second was a bit harder to deal with. It came from Laila Harre, who is from the right (as in left) side of politics but whose defection to the Internet Party left the very sour taste of betrayal in the mouth of the Green Party she had worked for. The Green Party co-leadership is no small thing.
The difference between The Bachelor and the Green Party is that that the rose secures ongoing tenure in the French Country House for only one show. They are up for the vote again the next night. The Green leadership is traditionally a much longer affair. The party boasts about its democratic processes, although in practice it is more accurate to say it has spurts of democracy. In between there is a whiff of North Korea about them.
Technically, the incumbents can be challenged but in practice it never happens. It does at least have a higher refresh rate than NZ First, in which nobody would dare challenge Winston Peters. There is much meaningless talk about whether the Greens would cut a deal with National. But dealing with NZ First will be a bigger problem for the new co-leader than National. There is constant jockeying for position. Last term the Green Party was a more dominant voice than NZ First and sometimes even Labour.
Leadership changes have the detrimental effect of temporarily sidelining a party for a while as it undergoes a necessary period of tending to itself. The Green Party is effectively in an interregnum, and will remain so until the end of May - after the Budget.
That has given Peters room to move. Peters got a lot of momentum during the Northland byelection. He used it. One of the first jobs of the new co-leader will be to try to wrestle that advantage back. But cheated of the balance of power last year, Peters will fight tooth and nail to be the Bachelor in 2017 standing there with his rose and deciding whether to give it to the suitor in blue or the suitor in red. He won't want any rival bachelor beside him.