Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere calls Chlöe Swarbrick a 'crybaby' in group chat

By Giles Dexter of RNZ

Green Party MP Elizabeth Kerekere has been chastised by party leadership after calling colleague Chlöe Swarbrick a "crybaby" in a text message sent to other MPs in error.

Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw say they are disappointed, the message appears to go against Green Party values, and they are now launching a full internal investigation.

"We are taking this matter very seriously," they said.

The text was sent to a group chat of Green staff and MPs while Swarbrick was speaking in the House on her Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill on Wednesday night, which failed at first reading.

A screenshot of the message leaked to RNZ shows Kerekere's text: "Sucks that her bill goes through during list ranking! Please Universe, pick my bill tomorrow."

She went on to add "omg what a crybaby".

A second screenshot showed Kerekere was alerted to her messages by MP Ricardo Menéndez March, who texted "I think this is the wrong chat...?"

Green MPs Golriz Ghahraman and Julie Anne Genter, who sit behind Swarbrick, could be seen on Parliament TV apparently reading, reacting to, and discussing the texts.

Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere calls Chlöe Swarbrick a 'crybaby' in group chat
Photo credit: Parliament TV

At one point, Ghahraman clasped her hand to her mouth, and shook her head.

Kerekere was not in the House while Swarbrick delivered her speech. She had sent two messages in response to Menéndez March but both had been deleted in the leaked screenshot.

Kerekere later sent a third message saying "Kia ora everyone. I wrote an inappropriate message on here which was not meant for this thread and I apologise to everyone here".

When contacted by RNZ, she denied calling Swarbrick a crybaby.

"I didn't call Chlöe a crybaby, and I don't think I can comment on it, but I didn't call her that," she said.

Kerekere, a first term MP, appeared to be criticising the increased profile Swarbrick could gain from the bill's first reading, during the period Green Party members choose the final list ranking for this year's election.

The Green Party has actively promoted the bill on its social media.

On the party's draft list rankings, chosen by party delegates, Swarbrick is ranked third, while Kerekere is ranked fourth (up from ninth on the 2020 list). If the final list stays the same, based on current polling both would safely return to Parliament. The draft list now goes out to the wider membership, and a final list will be released at the end of next month.

RNZ understands Swarbrick and Kerekere have not had a good relationship for some time.

Asked by RNZ whether she had concerns over her list ranking, Kerekere hung up.

Swarbrick has declined to comment on the message, saying she was focused on her work.

In a statement, co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw said they were taking the matter "very seriously" and wanted everyone to know they shared their disappointment the message was sent.

"It is not what anyone expects from our MPs, all of whom work tirelessly to deliver positive change for Aotearoa."

They said the party strives to be an open and inclusive party, where everyone has a voice.

"We have a long history of celebrating our individual and collective successes together. Dr Elizabeth Kerekere's message appears to go against those values and will be looked into fully."

The statement said the matter would be addressed internally.

At numerous times during Swarbrick's speech on Wednesday, the last call of the bill's first reading, she pleaded with Labour MPs to side with her, but it failed at its first reading after only a handful of Labour MPs voted for it.

The bill would have banned alcohol sponsorship and advertising in sports.

The government has already planned to adopt one part of the bill, which would abolish the Special Appeals process from Local Alcohol Policies, so councils have more power to control alcohol sales.

Due to the failure of Swarbrick's bill, a ballot was held on Thursday to draw another member's bill from Parliament's biscuit tin.

Kerekere currently has a bill in the ballot - the Human Rights (Prohibition of Discrimination on Grounds of Gender Identity or Expression, and Variations of Sex Characteristics) bill - which her text indicated she hoped would be drawn.

It would add two new grounds to the list of prohibited grounds in the Human Rights Act. It was not successful in Thursday's ballot.

When Shaw was ousted as co-leader last year, Kerekere was floated as a possible contender for the role, and said she would consider her options.

She later ruled herself out, and Shaw went on to regain the co-leadership unopposed.

A few months beforehand, she had resigned from her Covid-19 and health portfolios after admitting she broke self-isolation rules by flying from Te Tai Rāwhiti to Wellington, despite a member of her household testing positive for Covid-19 two days prior.