Greens swing left with Marama Davidson in the co-pilot seat

JASON DORDAY/Stuff
The Green Party has announced its new female co-leader is Marama Davidson.

OPINION: Marama Davidson was at home on Saturday night when she got the call. She had won the Green Party co-leadership race.

"It then finally became real," she said on Sunday.

The left of the Green Party have been in a kind of dream-state, ascendant but not quite sure how strong they were before this vote. That feeling of strength is now concrete. 

Marama Davidson soon after winning the co-leadership.
JASON DORDAY/STUFF
Marama Davidson soon after winning the co-leadership.

With 110 delegate votes to Julie Anne Genter's 34 Davidson has been handed a strong mandate from the 6500 or so members of the Green Party to keep the party true to its activist roots.

READ MORE: Marama Davidson named as new Green Party co-leader

This should finally and completely end the notion that the Green Party could consider going into Government with National. It was never going to happen under James Shaw and it is really never going to happen with Davidson, who took care in her victory speech to trash-talk the former National-led Government for the massive problems at Middlemore Hospital.

Note which of the co-leaders are smiling.
JASON DORDAY/STUFF
Note which of the co-leaders are smiling.

Some voices on the right will promote the idea of a right-wing environmentally-focused party to partner with National, or just an exodus of centrist Green Party voters to National. But as much as Simon Bridges might talk up his teal ideals the party's reflexive defence of cars, oil exploration, and subsidised irrigation in the last month or so show they are hardly going to win over many current Green voters fast.

By supporting Davidson so strongly the membership of the Green Party have shown their desire to make the party more than just a junior partner in Government, pushing Labour to the left in the areas its ministers are responsible for.

There was little real policy difference between Genter and Davidson. Both said they were uncomfortable with how much the Budget Responsibility Rules they had signed up for with Labour were restricting the Government from filling social deficits left by National. This was one of the least popular calls Shaw has made while leader, but also one both Genter and Davidson were complicit in.

In tone, tactics, and perception, however, Davidson was always the left candidate, even if she prefers to say "progressive". Genter emphasised the need to simply win back the huge number of voters who went for the Greens in 2011 and 2014 but ditched them for Labour in 2017, at least at first.

Davidson has now started to work that line in too, but has focused more actively on outreach to people who have traditionally voted Labour or not voted at all: the working class, Māori and Pasifika.

How this outreach might look in 2020 is still up for debate. Davidson wouldn't rule out making a real run on a Māori seat in 2020, an idea that might become even more desirable if their polling dips below five per cent. But asking Māori voters to properly ditch their historical relationship with the Labour Party can be a very tall order - just ask the literal Māori Party.

The wider bet is that there is a decent chunk of the electorate keen on more than just the pendulum swing back to the left Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ushered in, keen on stuff the elite commentariat will never see as viable.

Many Green members don't want to put more women in the boardroom, they want to destroy it. Davidson made clear in her acceptance speech her distaste for the fact that two men held more wealth than the poorest 30 per cent of New Zealanders. In our debate she professed support for a new top tax rate on higher earners and free dental care for all Kiwis. 

Of course, the Green Party hasn't lost the more suit-and-tie Shaw as co-leader. There will be plenty of members who voted for Davidson because they want balance at the top, with the environmentally focused climate change minister fighting besides the new co-leader for a holistic Green vision.

But for the next wee while -  at least -  Davidson has the mandate to make some real change to how the Green Party operates in Government. Ardern and Winston Peters should expect some well-publicised disagreements - which will be particularly biting as non-Minister Davidson isn't bound by Cabinet collective responsibility.

The party now enters into a somewhat strange two-year period, where the Green ministers actually making change arguably represent the wing of the party just rejected by the membership.

But there are over a hundred thousand more Green Party voters than there are members. For that number to keep steady or properly increase both wings of the party will need to rack up some decent wins in the real world, not just the tiny landscape of internal party politics. Everyone in the party will be watching the next poll with a whole lot of interest. It'll be what makes this whole thing finally real.

Stuff