"Now don't cut me up, Claire" says the man who has spent the past 10 years of his life cutting up other people.

The plea comes at the end of an interview with Willie Jackson, Labour Party candidate wannabe and former radio host, who has spent the week discovering the consequences of cutting people up.

Jackson has come under fire on all manner of topics since the word came out that he was standing for Labour - homosexuality, sexual abuse, and just for being a man when Labour is trying to increase the number of women it has.

Labour leader Andrew Little has spent much of the week fighting the fires sparked by the announcement that he had asked Jackson to stand.

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Dover Samuels threatened to give up his life membership, Young Labour members set up an open letter urging Labour's Council to reject Jackson, former MP Maryan Street made public jibes about males being parachuted up high on the list while women struggled to get selected.

Jackson had a visit from Mana leader Hone Harawira at one point, and Harawira joked "Oh, it's all falling apart mate - you can join Mana."

Yet Jackson insists he's had a week of support.

"The average person doesn't know about all the intricacies of what's happening. They just know I've put my hand up and I've been really encouraged with support on the street, people ringing and asking how can they help.

"You might be surprised but it's been an encouraging week given what's happened."

As Jackson is being interviewed, Poto Williams is saying on camera that she regrets the way she raised her concerns about Jackson's Roastbusters interview because it had caused distress for the party.

She does not say she regretted those concerns - or that she now welcomes Jackson.
Jackson says he is a bit disheartened at the response from some. "I didn't expect the reaction that happened."

He says he hadn't warned Little he would cause a firestorm, because he had not seen it coming himself.

"Obviously it's been a bit tough in the last few days for him, more so than for me. He's been nothing but supportive."

Labour MP, Poto Williams. Photo / John Borren
Labour MP, Poto Williams. Photo / John Borren

The interview that upset Williams happened three years ago.

And ahead of Jackson lies a long path of things coming back to haunt him.

For years (until that interview) he and John Tamihere raised havoc on the radio, sometimes in earnest, sometimes for shock value, sometimes for a laugh, sometimes going too far.

Jackson can't even remember who he's insulted.

"I've run across people and they say 'hey, Willie remember me? You called me a mongrel on air.' And I go 'oh that's alright brother'. That's politics, its commentary, Don't take it to heart.

"That's why I don't get too bruised when people have a crack at me. What I reject is when I hear continual lies - some of the stuff that's been said is just outright wrong.

"All that anti-gay stuff, that irks me. I believe in equal rights and a fair crack for people. Just because you're the devil's advocate doesn't mean you're the advocate."

Jackson has taken the precaution of appointing his mate and partner in doing people over, John Tamihere, to a new position: chief scapegoat.

He believes people have confused Tamihere's statements with his own.

This is probably even true sometimes - Jackson points to the radio debates they had over homosexual law reform, gay marriage and equal pay for women.

"It's JT who always had the opposite view - not me. But for some reason people think 'oh, those Maoris [sic] think the same'. I keep saying 'it's JT who's the homophobe! It's not me!"

It comes as little surprise that the views of one are conflated with the other, for Willie and JT rarely move without each other.

They shared media gigs and now work closely in their social services work.

When Jackson decided to talk to the Maori Party, JT signed up with the Maori Party.

He even managed to ensure Jackson supporters took over the Tamaki Makaurau electorate branch to ensure Jackson was selected.

Now Jackson has switched to Labour, Tamihere too has gone back to Labour.

They don't always share political views - but they do have each other's backs.

Jackson says he and Tamihere decided a while ago one of them would run for Parliament again.

"I'm unhappy with the level of political advocacy that we are getting, particularly for us Maori, at the coalface. So with John and I, we both talked about it. We knew one of us had to chuck ourselves back into the ring and then I made the choice."

He laughs when asked to imagine the maelstrom now if Tamihere had decided to stand instead, given his more complicated history.

"If me and him had both come into the Labour Party we wouldn't have got past first base. But my mate's had history with some of them in the Labour Party. I don't have that history."

Jackson had initially been tempted by the Maori Party.

Jackson had support from Maori Party President Tukoroirangi Morgan and Marama Fox, but does not think fellow co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell is keen. While Flavell had not told him he didn't have a shot "he didn't exactly embrace me either."

"You can't join a party if that's the attitude. But he's got every right not to be interested, no grudges from me."

Little gave Jackson a much warmer welcome and Jackson concedes the high list placing offer could be easier than winning the Tamaki Makaurau electorate, which he would have had to do for the Maori Party.

Jackson will step down as chair of his charter school but says otherwise he will fit well with Labour.

It was the first party he was ever a member of before he quit in disgust at Rogernomics.
Jackson even lives in Mangere Bridge in the house that used to belong to Labour Prime Minister David Lange.

And Jackson will take a hefty pay cut to stand for Parliament. "But I'm not in life just to make money. I want to make differences."

Whatever happens with Labour, his days of cutting people up are not over.

He relishes a good political stoush - even if it's a mate. In fact, especially if it's a mate.
He is mates with Harawira and will have to campaign against him in support of Labour's Kelvin Davis.

"No problem. That's the game we are, I'm in the Labour waka now and I've got to go after them."