It was the week in which Andrew Little learned the wisdom of the Tenth Commandment.

That reads: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour's."

The ass in question was Willie Jackson, the neighbour was the Maori Party, writes Claire Trevett.

Labour leader Little was sparked into action by word the Maori Party was talking to Jackson about standing for them - in the Tamaki Makaurau seat against Labour's Peeni Henare.


Jackson became an unlikely Helen of Troy - the face that launched 1000 ships.

The jealous Little took on the role of Paris, dispatching his boats to capture Jackson for himself.

When he secured him and the grand announcement was made (four days after the news leaked out) Little must have expected celebrations in the street.

Instead he got a civil war (well, a game of slaps at least.)

Some MPs in Labour were admirably restrained at the news.

Kelvin Davis and Peeni Henare stood alongside Little and Jackson when the announcement was made and both made supportive statements about Jackson.

Others openly disapproved. MP Poto Williams put up a statement on Facebook objecting on the grounds of Jackson's Roast Busters interview.

Since he took over the leadership, Little has drummed the need for public unity into his caucus. The entire caucus knows its biggest enemy is not National, but division within its own ranks. It learned that the hard way.


There is some sympathy for Williams' view in caucus. There will be less sympathy for her decision to express it publicly.

Nor does it seem to have been an inadvertent blurt by an inexperienced MP. Williams has not commented since then - but nor has she resiled from it.

If Jackson does not get that high list spot, it will be because of Little's handling rather than anything Jackson has done.

Loyalty is a two-way street and Little had managed to both blindside and insult members of his own caucus, whether he intended to or not.

Little did mount a sound defence for recruiting Jackson. He acknowledged the concerns of MPs about matters ranging from the Roast Busters interview to Jackson's past critiques of Labour and its MPs from his RadioLive pulpit.

He said everyone came with baggage, MPs were not meant to be angels and Jackson had repented since.

The most compelling reason was pure pragmatism. Jackson came with a profile, was a go-to person for media and could get Labour blue-collar and Maori votes that it badly needed.

Even from a purely defensive point of view, it made sense. Little had neutralised a threat and converted it into a force for himself.

But in process Little managed to insult his Maori MPs as well as Williams and likely other women.

Labour's Maori MPs were the only success story for the party in the 2014 election - they won back three of the Maori seats which had been held by the Maori Party and Mana Party.

Yet even the senior-ranked Davis was not brought into Little's Grand Plan for Jackson until late in the piece.

It also transpired the man who had won one of those seats back - Peeni Henare - had been asked to hand over the Tamaki Makaurau seat and go on the list.

Little has pleaded ignorance of this and it is unclear who approached Henare.

Henare refused and has since been re-selected.

The further slight was Little's claim Jackson could reach constituencies Labour MPs were failing to reach. That was young, urban Maori.

This may have been clumsy messaging on Little's part rather than a deliberate slight. But the implicit message was that his current team were not doing the job.

National will be delighted by this development.

The flow of former Alliance MPs to Labour feeds National's narrative that Labour under Little is surging to the hard-left of the spectrum (a narrative Little has admittedly done little to dispel). It is already crowing that Matt McCarten was a Trojan Horse for the rest of his old Alliance mates - Jackson's decision followed Laila Harre's move to Labour.

What is worse for Labour is that it also feeds the perception Labour still cannot manage to sustain a united front.

The Helen of Troy myth also offers the cautionary tale for Little. Paris, who abducted Helen from her first husband, was killed in action.