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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Labour leader deserves more respect from his party executive

Labour's list ranking process has hardly been a glowing reference for the party that wants to run the country.

And it is a prime example of how a party executive should not behave.

Astonishingly for a Labour Party list, there is no Maori candidate in the first fifteen.

Willow Jean Prime at No 16 is first. There could have been one in the top 10 and there should have been if Labour leader Andrew Little had been allowed to keep his word.

But Little was unable to deliver on his public undertaking of a "high list position" for Willie Jackson.

A high list place would undoubtedly have been in the top 10. Arguably it might have been in the first fifteen. Stretching reality to breaking point, it might have been in the top 20. But 21 cannot be said to be a high list position.

Little could not keep his word because the list ranking committee prevented it.

It was not unreasonable of Little to have made the public promise to Jackson.

Having lured him away in February from a high-paying broadcasting job and a likely candidacy with the Maori Party, a public statement by Little was a signal to the party that this was his call.

It wasn't a decision made by Little because of the calibre of the candidate.

Various encounters with the media including today's have shown that Willie Jackson hasn't adjusted from talkback to politics.

It was a perfectly legitimate "Captain's Call" made by Little for legitimate strategic reasons in the wider interests of the party.

It was to prevent a challenge by Jackson and the Maori Party in the vulnerable seat of Tamaki Makaurau and the nationwide attention that contest would have garnered for the Mana-Maori alliance.

The list ranking committee of 22 members, the New Zealand Council and three caucus members, blocked Little's bid to make good on his pledge.

Little has had to resort to claims that he promised Jackson a "winnable" list position - the statement said "high" - and that he is effectively No 8 on the list when you take away the candidates below him who are sure to win an electorate seat, and that if the six Maori- electorate MPs had not elected to go off the list, they would have been on the list in high places.

Anything but the glaring reality that the New Zealand Council overrode the party leader.

The New Zealand Council played a big part in unseating former leader David Shearer to install the leader it wanted, David Cunliffe, who turned out to be hopeless.

In Little's campaign for the leadership, he made some, not many, Captain's calls over policy issues such as the superannuation age and capital gains tax.

Since then he has spent the past two years getting some unity and discipline into the party and creating a more solid base from which to launch a campaign for Government.

Little deserves more respect from the party's New Zealand Council.

- NZ Herald

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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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