20 Apr 2018

Former Green MPs criticise party's deal with Nats

8:11 am on 20 April 2018

The Green Party is being told it risks losing votes unless it ditches its deal to share parliamentary questions with National.

Green Party Leader, James Shaw

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says "patsy" questions are a waste during Question Time. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The party has had a rough six months, with members railing against decisions made by the caucus and former Green Party MPs voicing those concerns publicly.

Members were stunned by the caucus' decision to give most of its question allocation to National.

One of the party's founders, former co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, said the party had gone from 14 MPs down to eight and with that had a big reduction in support staff.

She said questions did take some preparation, so in that respect she could understand the decision.

But she said it was not something she would have done.

"Questions are one of the main ways a smaller party can differentiate itself, especially on areas where it disagrees with the government. And there are areas where they do disagree with Labour."

Former Green MP Keith Locke said the agreement with National could be damaging for the Greens.

"Giving the questions to National does give that perception of a tactical alignment which seriously damages the Green vote," he said

"Historically any suggestion of the Greens being aligned with National has tended to dent the Green vote, so I think it is important that the agreement to hand over the questions be ended."

Party co-leader James Shaw was unapologetic, however.

He said the Greens had a long tradition of wanting to improve Question Time, and by not asking patsy questions it was not wasting Parliament's time.

There is also division in the party over caucus's decision to support the government's waka jumping bill.

Party members and former MPs said it went against the Greens policy and precedent to support the bill.

Ms Fitzsimons suggested the caucus simply did not realise that at the time, and events were probably moving so fast they simply could not keep up.

Another former MP, Sue Bradford, said the Greens needed to carve out their identity as quickly as they could.

She said from the outside it appeared Mr Shaw was very keen to support Labour without being in any way challenging.

"That's a position that could lead to disaster for the Greens at the next election."

Dr Bradford said it seemed quite strange as Mr Shaw appeared to be wanting to support Labour, but then also align with National by giving the questions to them.

She was hoping that Marama Davidson would be able to redemocratise the party.

"Working structurally so that the party members have more say, and so the caucus does not ride rough shod over their interests and wishes."

New Green party  MP, Marama Davidson, after she was sworn into Parliament today.

Co-leader of the Green Party, Marama Davidson. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Ms Davidson admitted it had been a tumultuous start to the term for the Greens, especially with just one leader.

But she said it was now her job to bring the membership together and the first thing she planned to do was to put in place better internal communication.

"[I will] start looking at how we can maintain regular transparent communication with our members to bring down that angst when political decisions are made."

Ms Davidson said talking about the wins the party got but also trying to maintain a point of difference would be tricky, but she was confident it could be done.

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