Swallowing 'tough pill' of Opposition better than 'dead rats' - ex-Green MPs

The Greens would rather spend another three years in Opposition than sign up to a poor deal, former MPs say.

While the nation awaits a decision from NZ First leader Winston Peters on whether he'll side with Labour or National, it could all be for nought if the Greens don't get what they want. Both NZ First and the Greens are needed onside if Labour is to form the next Government.

Sue Bradford, who was a Green MP from 1999 to 2009, wants the Greens to play hardball.

"I hope they don't go soft and just take anything," she told The AM Show on Thursday.

"I hope they don't take a deal so bad it's meaningless. That would be pointless. It's better to be in Opposition than to just give it all away and swallow too many dead rats.

"They're being shat on by a great height by both Labour and NZ First if that happens. I hope their members understand that."

Sue Bradford.
Sue Bradford. Photo credit: The AM Show

David Clendon, who replaced Sue Bradford from the Green list when she quit the party in 2009, said the party would rather swallow a "tough pill" than dead rats.

"They'd need to get some policy wins so that in three years' time, the Greens can say to the voters, 'Look back: these things were achieved that would not have been achieved otherwise had the Greens not been there," he told The AM Show.

"Ideally we'd like to see at least James in a ministerial position, and maybe a couple of associate ministers as well."

Mr Clendon withdrew from the Green Party list before the election in protest at Metiria Turei's refusal to quit as co-leader after her fraud admission. She later gave up the position, but Mr Clendon didn't ask to be reinstated on the list.

Can Winston Peters work with the Greens?

Mr Clendon said a three-way deal would have to be strong enough to withstand attacks from National, which would still be the largest party in Parliament - even if in Opposition.

"They'll have 56 pretty motivated MPs desperate to hammer a wedge into any gaps they perceive between those Government parties."

David Clendon.
David Clendon. Photo credit: The AM Show

Mr Peters has long been highly critical of the Greens. Mr Clendon says some of that could be "Winston playing the game".

"He is ultimately a pragmatist. If it means getting the job done and achieving what he wants to achieve, then he'll play the game. But I wouldn't bet too many dollars either way on what the outcome's going to be tomorrow."

Mr Clendon says another stumbling block to a left coalition could be the Green Party membership, which would need to approve of any deal with at least a 75 percent majority.

"It's going to be really hard to persuade the membership that the deal on the table is a take-it-or-leave-it deal. There will be a strong wish to renegotiate, to wordsmith it, to maybe add a bit or subtract a bit."

Ms Bradford congratulated Green leader James Shaw for not rushing to sign a deal with National, and said Mr Peters' policies have more in common with Labour and the Greens than National.

"There is a substantial alignment with big areas of Labour and Green policy. For example, on the really critical question of wages, Winston's policy is actually more progressive than the Greens in wanting [the minimum wage] to go up to $20 an hour."

Despite this, both Ms Bradford and Mr Clendon expect Mr Peters however to go with National, Mr Clendon calling it a "gut" feeling and Ms Bradford, "instinct".

But it could play into the left's hands if he does, suggested Mr Clendon.

"Winston is going to be a tricky guy to maintain a stable Government with."