Labour MP Damien O'Connor says he is genuinely sorry for the offence his words had caused to his caucus colleagues but remains convinced that the list process is flawed.

"It is not ideal and I think we need to look at it. I think there is general agreement there is a number of issues we need to work through."

Mr O'Connor emerged from the party's caucus meeting this morning and
said he had apologised for his use of the words "gaggle of gays and self-serving unionists," as well as for raising his concerns publicly rather than internally.

His caucus colleagues emerged soon after, most refusing to comment.

However, Charles Chauvel, one of the four openly gay MPs in Labour's caucus, said he accepted Mr O'Connor's apology.

Mr Chauvel said he was offended by the comments but would not say what he had said in caucus.

"He's apologised for his comments. That was the appropriate place to
do it and I accept his apology."

Another gay MP, Louisa Wall, said his apology was "gratefully
accepted and we are moving on."

* * *

Damien O'Connor also says provincial MPs are isolated - do the potential Labour MPs bear out his concerns? Labour MP Damien O'Connor has raised concerns about the influence of "self-serving unionists and a gaggle of gays" over the party's list. The Herald analyses whether the 47 candidates - list and electorate - who could make it to Parliament in 2011 bear out his concerns:

1. Narrow horizons

"Provincial MPs in the Labour Party have ended up being isolated ... there's a risk that then the party doesn't represent the wider New Zealand."

If Mr O'Connor does not win the West Coast Tasman electorate, Labour will have only one MP in rural/ provincial South Island - Nelson-based list MP Maryan Street.

None of the 10 newcomers among the 47 are South Island based and only one, Lynette Stewart, comes from a provincial area. The Northland candidate is unlikely to make it in on the list. Parliamentary staffer Deborah Mahuta-Coyle will now move to her Waikato hometown.

In the North Island, the only "provincial" electorate held by Labour is Palmerston North. That is held by Iain Lees-Galloway, who was given a low list placing at 37. The Maori electorates held by Parekura Horomia (Ikaroa Rawhiti) and Nanaia Mahuta (Hauraki-Waikato) cover rural areas.

Overall, Labour has more candidates from Auckland alone than it has from provincial areas nationwide. Of the 16 Auckland candidates, nine are likely to rely on the list rather than an electorate.

One-third of Labour's top 47 candidates are provincial (13) and only a couple are rural. It has 34 in main cities: Auckland (16), Wellington (10), Christchurch (5) and Dunedin (3). Thirty-seven candidates are North Island and 10 are South Island

2. Union power

Self-serving unions?: "Personal agendas and politics in the unions shouldn't dictate the outcome of what should be a democratic system."

Nine of the 47 candidates have worked for trade unions in the past, although far more have been union members. Seven of the nine are likely to be list MPs. Of the newcomers, three are from union backgrounds: Andrew Little (EPMU), Michael Wood (FinSec) and Jerome Mika (EPMU). A further four newcomers were endorsed by the unions in their wishlist for rankings.

3. Gaggle of gays?

Of the 47 candidates, five are openly gay and three (Maryan Street, Charles Chauvel, Grant Robertson) are in the top 15 on the list. Of the new faces, one - Jordan Carter - is gay but he is placed low at 40. By comparison, there are 17 heterosexual white males - five of whom are in the top 15.