Labour’s maverick MP John Tamihere is more isolated than ever after it was revealed he attacked even more people in a controversial interview in which he had already managed to offend most of his colleagues.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said Mr Tamihere was now taking "extended leave" due to "considerable stress" and would not be attending a caucus meeting on Tuesday where he had planned to apologise to colleagues for causing offence.
The move follows Mr Tamihere saying he was sick of hearing about the Holocaust, that an ally in caucus was being held back because he ran a "nasty" campaign against Miss Clark, and again abusing women in top jobs.
Miss Clark said the statements were "deeply offensive" and "utterly unacceptable".
Both the Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday today reported further comments made by Mr Tamihere that had not been previously published by Investigate magazine.
The Herald on Sunday reported that Mr Tamihere also told Investigate journalist Ian Wishart that while he was revolted about the Holocaust he was sick of being told about how many had died in order to make him feel guilty.
The paper also reported that Mr Tamihere said his friend, ally and fellow Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove was not being promoted because he had conducted a "nasty telephone campaign" against Prime Minister Helen Clark and her husband Peter Davis before she took over control of Labour.
Mr Cosgrove told NZPA that the story was "pure fantasy" and Miss Clark would confirm that as well.
"I have a good working relationship with the Prime Minister," he said.
Mr Cosgrove refused to comment any further.
The Sunday Star Times said Mr Tamihere abused women who were appointed to top jobs.
"I don’t mind front-bums being promoted, but just because they’re (women) shouldn’t be the issue, they’ve won that war,"Mr Tamihere reportedly said.
On the weekend it was also reported that Mr Tamihere had been trying to prove that the controversial interview in which he attacked many colleagues and Labour party policy was conducted with no tape recorder present and off the record.
Wishart told Radio New Zealand he released the quotes to Sunday newspapers because of the standoff between himself and Mr Tamihere on the status of the interview.
"I’m taking the view people can judge for themselves now; this is what John Tamihere said that you haven’t heard before. This is fresh, make your own mind up," Wishart said.
Mr Tamihere has apologised for causing offence for the first wave of comments and was to return to the Labour caucus on Tuesday.
It was unclear last week whether he had gone far enough to mend bridges with his irate colleagues and the latest reports may see him damaged even further.
In the original article he called colleagues "smarmy", "queers", anti-family and duplicit. Mr Tamihere also lashed out at unions, women, gays, Maori, Miss Clark (as over-emotional) and her advisor Heather Simpson as "butch" and "dangerous".
The only comment he has retracted is a claim that Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen tricked other parties over legislation deals.
Last week, Miss Clark welcomed Mr Tamihere’s apology, which she said was a "first step".
"Mr Tamihere clearly recognises the seriousness of what he said and recognises the need to rebuild the confidence of his colleagues."
Labour Party president Mike Williams said then that Mr Tamihere’s comments did not undermine the party because there was "an apology and a healing process".
Miss Clark was not so conciliatory today.
"John Tamihere has been under considerable stress. By agreement with the leadership of the Labour Party he is now taking extended leave. He will not be attending caucus this Tuesday," Miss Clark said.
"He has made statements to a journalist which are deeply offensive to New Zealanders. The statements are also offensive and utterly unacceptable to the New Zealand Labour Party."
Labour believed the Holocaust to be one of the "most repugnant and ferocious events" in history.
"The pain caused to the Jewish community and to others who suffered in the Holocaust by these thoughtless comments is acknowledged and deeply regretted by the Labour Party."
Mr Tamihere had earlier said he intended to start building bridges with offended colleagues and build up support for an eventual return to Cabinet, but today’s criticism from Miss Clark and the decision for him to go on extended leave means any attempts to come back into the fold could be seriously or fatally damaged.
Labour party insiders said it was also possible that a formal complaint about Mr Tamihere could trigger internal party disciplinary action.
This could potentially lead to everything from censure to deselection.
Neither Mr Williams nor Mr Tamihere returned calls today.
But their political opponents latched on to the latest Tamihere comments.
National Party leader Don Brash said Mr Tamihere had to apologise for his comments on the Holocaust.
ACT leader Rodney Hide said Holocaust deniers would take great comfort from Mr Tamihere’s comments.
"Helen Clark must demand his resignation," Mr Hide said.
Mr Tamihere resigned from Cabinet last year as several inquiries were undertaken into his time as chief executive of south Auckland’s Waipareira Trust. He was cleared of any wrong-doing, but was not immediately returned to Cabinet.
Earlier this week Miss Clark said she no longer had confidence a "somewhat isolated" Mr Tamihere would ever return to Cabinet as he had seriously damaged his colleagues’ goodwill.