COMMENT: The Green Party's new co-leader Marama Davidson will bring stability to her party, but also a few new risks.
The party's selection of backbench MP Davidson yesterday finally fills the gap left by Metiria Turei eight months ago, when the former co-leader quit politics over a historic fraud case.
Davidson's victory over the only other candidate, Women's Minister Julie Anne Genter, will heal some of the wounds left by Turei's resignation. Some Green members are still upset about Turei's treatment and have been concerned about the absence of a strong Green voice on social issues in the Labour-led coalition.
If Genter had won, members' resentment and party divisions over Turei could have festered. Like co-leader James Shaw, Genter is more centrist and known for her environmental and economic credentials. The huge margin of Davidson's victory – 110 delegate votes to 34 – sent a strong signal that the party wanted another radical activist in Turei's place who could provide a balance to Shaw rather than mirror him.
Davidson will play a valuable role in what is known as pastoral care. It means little to the public but it aims to make sure the caucus and party are looked after while Shaw and other senior MPs are busy governing. Immediately after being promoted yesterday, she said keeping the Greens together under the stress of governing would be her "number one goal". Its biggest threat, she said, was not being visible in a three-party government.
While Davidson brings stability to the Greens, some in Labour and NZ First view her as a potential risk.
Davidson has promised to attack the Labour-led Government more vigorously than Genter from her position outside the executive, which could backfire if she overplays her hand. It could be argued that this strategy did not work for Act or the Maori Party, whose vote dwindled in coalition with National.
Some Green members feel Davidson would be better placed championing the not-insignificant victories the Greens are winning as part of the Labour-NZ First coalition, such as the enormous lift in public transport funding announced last week.
Davidson arguably does not have the broad appeal of Genter, who like Shaw is able to communicate with non-Green voters and has a higher profile because of her ministerial role. Davidson's campaign promise to appeal to Maori voters could be futile at a time when they are flocking to Labour.
For now at least, Davidson has ticked off one achievement. The Turei scandal has been pushed further into the background by her selection and the party's restless, activist base are happy. Her next job will be to show that she can fulfil her promise to appeal to those outside the party, not just those within it.
WHO IS MARAMA DAVIDSON?
- Green MP who entered Parliament 2015 on the Green Party list. Stood in Tamaki Makaurau in 2017, placing third.
-Previously worked as an advisor at the Human Rights Commission and was chief panellist on the Owen Glenn inquiry into domestic violence and child abuse
-Detained in Gaza in 2016 after taking part in pro-Palestine Women's Peace Flotilla
-Daughter of Maori activists, including Whale Rider and Shortland Street actor Rawiri Paratene.
-44 years old. Lives in Manurewa, married with six kids. Grew up in Otara and Hokianga.