Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Tamihere eyes Labour comeback

Former minister tipped to challenge for Waitakere seat as party leader announces reshuffle in his ranks.

John Tamihere cold-shouldered by Helen Clark in 2005, is said to be keen to challenge for the seat of Paula Bennett in 2014. Photo / APN
John Tamihere cold-shouldered by Helen Clark in 2005, is said to be keen to challenge for the seat of Paula Bennett in 2014. Photo / APN

John Tamihere is understood to be eyeing a return to Parliament in 2014 - almost a decade after his former leader Helen Clark said he faced "a very long route to redemption" for an outburst in which he called females "front bums" and was dismissive of the Holocaust.

Sources said Mr Tamihere had joined the Labour Party again and was sounding out the hierarchy about standing.

Mr Tamihere would not comment yesterday, saying it was too early to speculate.

However, he is understood to be considering standing in the most marginal seat in the country: Waitakere.

That would pit him against Social Development Minister Paula Bennett but he could have to fight for selection with Carmel Sepuloni, who lost by just nine votes to Ms Bennett last year.

Ms Sepuloni said yesterday that there was "a good chance" she would stand again.

Another option for Mr Tamihere is Tamaki Makaurau, which he held before losing it to Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples in 2005.

Since then Mr Tamihere - now in his early 50s - has co-hosted a show on RadioLive with Willie Jackson and heads the Waipareira Trust.

In 2005 he was quoted in Investigate magazine talking about the Holocaust and describing women as "front bums" - in a conversation he claimed had been off the record. He described Helen Clark as too emotional and criticised other Labour ministers.

His return could upset those on the left of the party.

But Mr Tamihere gets on well with Labour leader David Shearer and other Labour MPs said they would not object to his return.

One hoped he would have learned better judgment during his time out and another questioned his criticism of the Labour Party as a radio host.

Meanwhile, Mr Shearer has confirmed he will go ahead with a reshuffle, either before or after the Christmas break, to give MPs just under two years to get to grips with their portfolios before the election.

"I did say a year ago I'd look at how the year went and fine-tuning what we're doing and that is exactly what I'll be doing."

He would not discuss details, but MPs including Andrew Little and Chris Hipkins have performed well and Mr Little could pick up the employment spokesmanship from Sua William Sio - Labour has chosen jobs as one of its main prongs of attack.

Education is also likely to change hands - Nanaia Mahuta's second child is due in December and it is possible Mr Shearer - a former teacher - could take the spokesmanship for himself at that stage or pass it on to Chris Hipkins.

Mr Hipkins has shown an interest and was recently added to the education team to spearhead Labour's attacks of the handling of schooling in Christchurch.

The fate of Shane Jones could rest on the outcome of an Auditor-General's report into the decision he made while a minister to grant citizenship to Bill Liu - who wasunder investigation by officialsat the time because of multiple identities.

Changing the guard

Ups: Chris Hipkins (possibly to education).
Andrew Little (ACC and employment).

Downs:
Nanaia Mahuta.
Sua William Sio.

Question mark?
Shane Jones.

- NZ Herald

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