Anyway, I sat down with both Kevin and James to talk about their leadership aspirations. Kevin bought me a coffee. But I also bought him a coffee. James and I went dutch on lunch. Both dates were lovely.
Both candidates had their beats that they kept returning to. Kevin kept going back to experience, and James to wider electoral appeal. Without it having been said, both candidates treated the co-leader election as a two-horse race. And to be fair to them – it is. Vernon was never a serious candidate – and for whatever reason Gareth never developed into one.
In fact Vernon’s candidacy has caused Kevin some consternation. Because of Vernon’s insistence that the Greens look at working with National in future Kevin thinks that it has derailed some other issues that should have been covered – also both Kevin and James ruled out going into coalition with National – but did agree they could work on some issues with them.
Kevin’s other line was that James was more right wing than him – or as he euphemistically put it ‘James has more sympathy for market-based solutions than I do’.
Except that I didn’t get that James was all that right wing. His background is business – though Kevin was also quick to point out that he had an economics degree – but James strongly believes in the redistribution of wealth. Also the businesses of his background are all in the business of sustainability. Hardly the bastion of downright evil capitalist industry.
James did say that he didn’t view himself as left-wing – but that’s not because he’s not – rather it’s because he doesn’t believe that the left-wing/right-wing paradigm is a thing any more. Both candidates actually made the point that people aren’t divided neatly into two camps – but instead there are a whole host of factors that make up people’s belief structures.
And as for the ‘sympathy for market based solutions’ – James agrees he does have some. But says that intervening in the market with heavy handed regulation is a market-based solution. He talks about the ETS as an example. Putting a price on carbon is sending a signal to the market – that there is a cost ‘to treating our atmosphere like an open sewer’ – except the way this Government has done it is that they set up the ETS in such a way that our emissions have actually gone up. Then the National Party has said ‘well it’s not up to us to decide the price of carbon, that’s up to the market’.
So you have a theoretical market – the ETS – doing the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to do. Which James believes is a trick of National’s – being seen to do something – while making the opposite happen.
It is true that if you plotted Kevin and James on the classical right-wing/left-wing divide – then you would find James further to the right than Kevin. But that’s if you believe in such things. Kevin for example, does not believe in homo economicus at all – and doesn’t believe that Adam Smith’s economic positioning has any relevance beyond a farmer’s market – when all parties may have all the information required to make an informed decision.
Every time I interview a left wing politician someone on Twitter asks me to ask them if they’re in favour of a Universal Basic Income. Surprisingly perhaps – James was more in favour of it than Kevin. Kevin broadly speaking supported it – but James waxed lyrically about the Big Kahuna – an overhaul of New Zealand’s taxation system which includes a UBI. In fact revenue something that James is becoming very passionate about – he’d love to be the Minister of Revenue in a Labour/Greens Government. James thought it was very strange that we taxed labour but not capital.