Labour leader Ardern seeks to keep Greens' troubles at arm's length as Kennedy Graham and David Clendon withdraw from Greens' caucus; English seeks to heap pressure on the Left, but ends up putting more on himself

By Alex Tarrant

Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern spent Tuesday morning trying to keep the Green Party’s troubles at an arm’s length as the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two parties was thrown about as why she should be wading further into her potential coalition partner’s affairs.

Meanwhile, The Greens spent most of the morning – and into the afternoon – in a caucus meeting discussing the future of rebel MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon. The two on Monday night said they would withdraw from the party’s Election 2017 list if co-leader Metiria Turei did not stand down, which she has said she won’t do.

Update: Just after writing, the Greens issued a statement that Graham and Clendon would withdraw from the caucus, but remain as Green MPs until the election. The remainder of the caucus was 100% behind Turei, the party said.

Co-leader number two James Shaw said Monday night he would seek to have Graham and Clendon expelled not just from the caucus, but from the party as well. (Update: He’s not anymore, having slept on it). That would have helped though if the two decide they want to stay in politics – TOP’s Gareth Morgan on Tuesday morning issued a statement in support of Graham and Clendon.

Prime Minister Bill English sought to increase the pressure on the Left, saying Labour and the Greens were tied at the hip by their MoU and that Ardern would have to take a stronger position on the situation at some point.

However, he did little to shift the media attention that way as he then told media he had no record of 450 text messages between himself and his former Clutha-Southland office manager in the lead up to her quitting from the office of English’s successor in the seat, Todd Barclay, last year.

English had portrayed himself as a bystander to the situation before Winston Peters revealed in Parliament last week that the 450 messages had been sent by English to Glenys Dickson over a 12 month period. The PM had sought on Monday to clarify that he was a bystander to the employment dispute settlement between Dickson and Parliamentary Services over the Barclay Affair – that he wasn’t aware of the settlement’s contents.

Either way, English maintained he wasn’t too concerned about what was in the messages, if it turned out New Zealand First leader Winston Peters had the actual content. All eyes on Parliament’s Question Time at 2pm, then.

Ardern not eating her Greens

Labour’s Ardern had her lines practiced and ready by the time she arrived at her pre-caucus media stand-up Tuesday morning. The only thing green-related she would talk about was an environment report released yesterday which hadn’t received the attention it deserved.

That didn’t stop the questions from flowing though. Yes, Ardern accepted she had ruled Turei out from a Cabinet position in any Labour-led government after the election. But that was because this is a question she’d have to answer as potential Prime Minister, in charge of the Cabinet. Any other issues were purely the Greens’ to attend to, she said. After all, Labour handled its own leadership crisis last week without input from other parties.

But, Labour has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Greens and promised the first of any post-Election phone calls will be to them, media pressed. Surely voters deserve to know what Ardern’s thoughts are on the whole situation?

Not at all, the Labour leader shot back. The MoU was to give transparency to voters that if the election results allowed for a Labour-Greens government to form, then this is what would happen. There would possibly be phone calls to “other parties” as well (note plural), Ardern said. That the first call will be to the Greens shouldn’t be surprising – the two are trying to change the government.

Meanwhile, Labour is set to announce its own climate change policy on Wednesday. Ardern has already said she wants New Zealand to position itself as a leader on climate change mitigation, giving the impression that a block-buster package is in the wings.

Bill English on Monday said National was largely comfortable with its current climate change policy, and that any tweaks between now and 23 September would be on the minor side.