Audrey Young

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

Controversial exit from Charles Chauvel

Charles Chauvel. Photo / File
Charles Chauvel. Photo / File

A controversial exit speech by Labour MP Charles Chauvel this week pointing to the lack of racial balance in the shadow cabinet and factions in the party has opened up wounds around the last leadership battle.

Most of the caucus top-ranked 20 are Pakeha, with only three exceptions, Nanaia Mahuta, Su'a William Sio, and Shane Jones.

The majority of the MP who comprise the party's ethnic diversity are not ranked at all: Parekura Horomia, Moana Mackey, Raymond Huo, Rajen Prasad, Kris Faafoi, Louisa Wall and Rino Tirakatene. They comprise half the unranked MPs and most of them supported David Cunliffe over David Shearer for the leadership.

Mr Chauvel is heading to New York to work for the United Nations but almost certainly would have been Attorney-General in a Labour-led Government.

Unusually for a valedictory speech, he directed some of his comments to the splits in Labour.

They were evident most recently in the leadership contest between Mr Shearer and Mr Cunliffe, who was demoted last year after failing to express loyalty to the leader.

Mr Chauvel, a Cunliffe supporter, extended a very public olive branch by expressing the hope in his speech that Mr Shearer would become Prime Minister at the election next year.

But then he effectively offset it by turning his attention to internal politics, party rankings and the last election result.

He called on those who ran the 2011 election to quit, and said the party needed to recognise both factions of the party.

Mr Chauvel, of Tahitian ancestry, also made pointed criticism of Mr Shearer's reshuffle announced on Monday for not recognising the"diversity" of the caucus.

"It's time to stop wasting time and energy seeking to identify and exclude the supposed enemy within," Mr Chauvel said. "Instead, in order to avoid history repeating, an honest, open and overdue assessment is needed as to why the 2011 campaign produced Labour's worst-ever electoral result.

"Those responsible for it should make dignified exits and all the undoubted talent and diversity of the caucus needs to be included in the shadow cabinet.

"To put it another way, in [former Australian Prime Minister] Gough Whitlam's words, the party needs both of its wings to fly."'

Cunliffe himself was given substantial portfolios though remains unranked, supporter Lianne Dalziel was demoted but supporter Sue Moroney was promoted.

Shearer loyalist Trevor Mallard - and former campaign manager for the last election - was demoted down the rankings but promised the job he wants, next Speaker.

Social media reaction to the speech has been strong particularly against Mr Mallard.

Mr Mallard clearly identified himself as one of those intended for Mr Chauvel's barbs and indicated in a tweet after the speech that he would be declining the challenge to step down: "My decision to seek Hutt South nomination just reinforced," he tweeted.

Mr Mallard said yesterday he hoped Mr Chauvel was directing his comments only to him but he doubted it.

He would not comment on the merits of the reshuffle.

He disputed Mr Chauvel's claim that the factions of the party still remained.

"I think the party had people who it could closely identify with definite factions in the 1980s and certainly before that. I dont think that is the case now."

People in the caucus tended to deal on an issue by issue basis.

"I've seen the Australian faction system work and I've never seen anything like it here."
He did not even think there were Shearer - Cunliffe factions operating.

"I think most people in the caucus deal with issues on their merits, not because their mates think they should 'think this."'

Mr Mallard said Mr Chauvel had made a real contribution in Parliament and his power of analysis especially on legal questions was superb.

"I'll certainly miss him."

Mr Chauvel said he was now an international public servant and it was not appropriate to have political views or comment on the New Zealand political scene after his valedictory.

- NZ Herald

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