Peters says he's called Bill English back, after National leader said weekend call went unanswered; English keeps speculation of Blue-Green coalition ticking over

Winston Peters says he’s called Bill English back, after the National Party leader said a weekend call to his New Zealand First counterpart had gone unanswered.

“Media reports that calls from other political parties to New Zealand First and Winston Peters are not being responded to, are again simply false,” an NZ First statement said Monday morning after English had appeared on several media outlets saying he had tried to make contact.

“First, the staff of New Zealand First have been, and are, in contact with staff from other political parties. Second, Mr English left a voice message on Mr Peters phone last evening, suggesting the two talk this week. As one would expect, Mr Peters has already responded to Mr English by phone,” NZ First said.

“Third, preliminary talks will proceed this week when arrangements suitable to both parties are concluded. New Zealand First expects the same will occur if and when other parties make contact.”

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern later confirmed she had also talked to Peters Monday.

“This morning I spoke with New Zealand First Leader, Winston Peters. We will look to hold a meeting between our respective teams later this week, while we wait for special votes to be counted,” Ardern said.

“Special votes remain an important part of the process for the Labour Party with more than 380,000 votes yet to be counted. In the meantime, we’ll continue to prepare ourselves for coalition negotiations,” she said.

‘Waiting for a Green light’

Meanwhile, English has kept the door open for talks with the Green Party, keeping to the line that it is the Greens who must make the next move while indicating there might have been early stage thoughts about which roles could be offered to James Shaw.

On Radio NZ’s Morning Report Monday, English was asked about the potential for National talking to the Green Party as an alternative to Peters. “We’ll see how that unfolds this week,” he said, although he added that didn’t necessarily mean anything would happen. “It takes two parties to negotiate anything.”

“The Greens have yet to indicate that they would seriously intend to negotiate,” English said. While there had been a lot of public discussion about the possibility of a National-Green government, there was doubt within the National Party that the Greens would shift to a position that they would even just talk with National, he said.

Morning Report host Susie Ferguson put to English that there was speculation Greens leader James Shaw would be offered Finance Minister or Deputy PM by National. English said there had been “no discussion of any nature related to propositions like that”.

But he then shifted slightly on that line: “I’m not going to say on or off the table, all I’m saying is there’s been no discussion [that] has progressed to anything like that extent.”

National was waiting to see the Greens give a clear indication that they would want a serious negotiation. “It’s a matter for them,” English said. While there might not be any significant proposal between National and the Greens the next few days, “let’s see how it unfolds this week as to whether there’s any discussions,” he said.