The Green Party has been thrown into turmoil after two MPs quit in protest at co-leader Metiria Turei’s refusal to step down.
Long-serving MPs Kennedy Graham and David Clendon will leave Parliament immediately the caucus today approving a motion from co-leader James Shaw to oust the pair for the remaining two weeks of the Parliamentary term.
The Greens’ hierarchy was also moving through procedures to expel them from the party, Greens co-leader Metiria Turei confirmed.
The party spent most of Tuesday morning in crisis talks, following the decision from Messrs Graham and Clendon to reveal to the media their ultimatum, late last evening.
Arriving at Parliament this morning both spoke briefly to the media, standing by their decision last night to withdraw from the party’s list just over six weeks out from the election.
Both say they cannot stand by party co-leader Metiria Turei, who has confessed to being a benefit cheat in the 1990s, and maintained she would protect others currently in the same position as she was.
Ms Turei said she would not be standing down despite the latest drama.
Dr Graham said he did not want to inflame the situation before the meeting but expects to have plenty to say at its conclusion.
Mr Clendon was a little more vocal, standing by the decision he says he made on Friday after Ms Turei announced she would not stand down as leader but would not seek a ministerial position in a Green government.
He hit out at a claim earlier in
the morning by the party’s newest MP Barry Coates that he had
found out about their decision on the radio.
“I don’t believe the caucus did find out by the media. That’s interesting,” he said.
Mr Clendon also rejected “untruths” told by Green Party general manager Sarah Helm, including that he and Dr Graham had done little campaigning and were disgruntled about low list positions.
“I’ve responded to that and I’m disappointed that a senior party employee should resort to telling, basically, lies. That’s very unfortunate.”
Co-leader James Shaw said all remaining members of caucus were firmly behind Ms Turei.
Colleagues including Mr Coates, Marama Davidson and Steffan Browning all said this morning they continue to back her.
“Metiria’s done a great thing and I’m absolutely very, very pleased with what she’s done,” Mr Browning said.
Mr Shaw said not giving the party sufficient notice was grounds for Dr Graham and Mr Clendon to be expelled from caucus.
Mr Shaw said he felt betrayed by the way the MPs had acted, and so did the rest of the caucus.
“It has put the Green Party at extreme risk at this point in an election campaign,” he said.
“They didn’t have to do it this way.”
The party has already redrawn its candidate list and moved other candidates up two places.
Dr Graham was eighth on the list, meaning he would almost certainly have been re-elected on September 23, while Mr Clendon was in a precarious position at 16th.
Ms Turei caused a sensation last month when she told a party policy conference that when she was a solo mother in the 1990s she did not tell the truth about her circumstances because she was afraid she would lose her benefit. She admitted she had flatmates who were helping pay the rent, but had not told Work and Income.
Ms Turei is under investigation because of that, and electoral law expert Andrew Geddis said she could face up to seven years in prison if she was prosecuted and convicted.
Even without serving jail time, a conviction would end her political career because an MP has to resign from Parliament if they are convicted of an offence that carries a sentence of two years or more.
Subsequent to that admission, Ms Turei confessed to giving the Electoral Commission a false address before the 1993 election so she could vote for a friend who was standing in Mount Albert.
At the same election, she was standing as a McGillicuddy Serious Party candidate in another electorate.
Mr Shaw said Ms Turei was at home in Dunedin. He expected her to return to Parliament this week.
She has so far made no comment. NZN