NZ First, Greens lick wounds ahead of annual meetings

by Mei Heron / 14 July, 2017

Green co-leaders James Shaw and Metiria Turei and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo / RNZ

This week's jostling by the minor parties is typical pre-election behaviour, says political expert.

After a week of public squabbling, New Zealand First and the Green Party head to their annual conventions in Auckland this weekend vowing to focus on themselves, not each other.

The Greens called Winston Peters out for having 'racist' policies, while he's warned them there will be consequences.

On current polling both the Green Party and New Zealand First would need to support Labour if it's to lead the next government - which is why the Greens' attack on Mr Peters caught some people off guard.

The bickering continued with Green MP Barry Coates writing in a blog post his party would refuse to support a Labour - New Zealand First government and would be willing to force a new election if need be.

Greens co-leader James Shaw quickly rejected that suggestion.

But it's all part of the pre-election game, according to one political analyst.

Canterbury University associate professor in politics Bronwyn Hayward said all this attention had helped the Green Party show it is distinct and different.

"It's against all of that background and ahead of these AGMs that we're seeing this jostling between the parties.

"But of course remember in MMP, this will all come down to coalition agreements afterwards. So all the small parties will be trying to shore up their votes as strongly as they can, to be in the strongest bargaining position later."

Mr Shaw hoped the Green Party could put the week of scuffles behind it, as delegates head to their Annual General Meeting at Auckland University.

"We're going to be talking about ourselves and what we stand for, the vision we want to put forwards to New Zealand.

"We're just going to play the best game we can possibly play."

Further south in Manukau, New Zealand First is also holding its AGM. Mr Peters said the party would not be engaging in spats with the Greens.

"But we'll get on with winning the next election," he said.

Mr Peters has never said whether his party would prefer to work with National or Labour, and he has not ruled out working with the Green Party.

This weekend, he said he would be listening to what his party members had to say.

"That's one of the key reasons why we have a convention and why people come from Invercargill, Kaitaia, all the way up and down the country."

After months of speculation, former Labour MP Shane Jones announced in June he would stand for New Zealand First in Whangārei.

Bronwyn Hayward said Mr Jones changed the dynamic of the party.

"Previously this has been a Winston Peters Party. He has a certain charm, he affirms their base. So going into their AGM they're going to have to reassure their members that this is not a distinct change in direction.

"What I don't think is clear to the electorate or the community as a whole, is whether the rest of the public will be so comfortable with Shane Jones having a kingmaker role."

The Green Party will make two announcements this weekend, on economic policy and its own version of a Families Package.

New Zealand First would not give away too many hints about its policy announcements, just that they would all be aimed at putting New Zealanders first.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

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