Rodney Hide: Little's stinker of a week

Labour Party leader Andrew Little, right and Willie Jackson, left before visiting Te Tii marae ahead of Waitangi Day. Photo / John Stone
Labour Party leader Andrew Little, right and Willie Jackson, left before visiting Te Tii marae ahead of Waitangi Day. Photo / John Stone

Spare a thought for Labour Leader Andrew Little. His week's been a stinker.

It started well. The pundits had been reporting a "good vibe". It was more good news when it leaked that Little had poached Willie Jackson from the Maori Party. Pundits declared it "a deft strategic move". Oh joy! Labour were up and on a roll.

Then Little and Jackson announced, that yes, it was true, Jackson was standing for Labour. And yes, Little had lured him with the promise of a high place on Labour's list, writes Rodney Hide.

That was it. All hell broke loose. The "deft strategic move" proved a total train wreck.

The truly shocking thing was that Labour did it to themselves. Yes, feelings within caucus and the party were running hot but there was no need for that anger to bust out in public. Internal ding-dongs are best handled with the door shut. Especially in election year.

The thinking behind snatching Jackson was sound enough. Labour has decided to destroy the Maori Party. The Maori Party has supported National for three terms. Labour has buddied with the Greens. Labour wants the Maori seats back. All of them.

But the Maori Party is fighting back. The Maori Party and Mana have teamed up. That puts pressure on Labour's Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau. The Maori Party was wanting Jackson to stand in Tamaki Makaurau, putting pressure on Labour's Peeni Henare.

Plus Jackson's megaphone aimed at Labour could prove devastating beyond that electorate and eat into Labour's party vote.

Of course, parachuting an outsider in is always going to cause friction but more especially with Jackson the broadcaster who is happy to share his views publicly and who doesn't shy away from controversy or pushing boundaries. And he's a bloke's bloke.

He's not tribal Labour, having been an MP for the Alliance Party and then supporting the Maori Party.

Little would have been expecting blowback. But he would be expecting the blowback to be immediate and public. His own MP Poto Williams hired a PR company to declare her opposition.

I understand her view. It's an everyday thing for MPs and candidates to be bickering, to have strongly held views in opposition to one another, and to question one another's worth to the party.

But it's devastating to have that split made public and it's unprecedented to have an MP hire a PR company to make a public hit on the party leader's decision making. That's not emotions running hot. That's calculating and premeditated.

Little is clearly not in control. His caucus is openly mutinous. His only response has been to cave in. If he can't run his party, he can't run the country.

Spare a thought too for Jackson. The promise of a high list place is gone. He's now to be below senior MPs. And Little's no longer promising him a high list place but simply to be his champion. He's gone from an electable position to a non-electable one.

- Herald on Sunday

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Rodney Hide

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