Labour leader Andrew Little has gone into bat for Willie Jackson after further concerns from Labour's ranks about Jackson's past comments on radio and support for charter schools.

An open letter which says it is from Young Labour members is urging Labour's New Zealand Council to reject Jackson as a candidate, citing his past comments on the Roastbusters case, his questioning of Labour MP Grant Robertson about his sexuality, and his support for charter schools.

The letter say all three demonstrated his unsuitability to be a Labour MP. It also points to Labour's own rules to have a higher proportion of women in Parliament.

It follows Labour MP Poto Williams publicly saying she was concerned about Jackson's candidacy after his part in a Radio Live interview over the Roastbusters case - for which Jackson was suspended but then reinstated and has apologised.


Labour's caucus will meet for the first time since Jackson was announced as a candidate and other MPs are likely to voice concern then.

Little, who asked Jackson to stand for Labour, has stood by Jackson.

"They've raised some concerns and they are valid concerns. They are right to do so, and we are going to work our way through them.

"I just hope they will have an open mind about Willie, the full breadth of what he's done, certainly since he was last in Parliament and the value he will bring in terms of Maori representation."

He said it was up to the council to decide whether Jackson was suitable - but he believed he was.

Jackson's Radio Live co-host Ali Mau has also gone into bat for Jackson. She tweeted that Jackson had sought out rape crisis groups and worked with them until they were satisfied he understood the impact of his actions.

In response to one reply, she said: "I sit next to him EVERY SINGLE DAY. We talk about these issues all the time. I'm a survivor of sexual assault myself​."

Jackson was a driving force behind two charter schools as chair of the National Urban Maori Authority. He has previously publicly criticised Labour and its education spokesman Chris Hipkins for campaigning to get rid of them.

Jackson said today he did not believe that was a deal killer for Labour.

"We are running a charter school and if Labour gets in and changes it, what they said to me is they are into any school that will be successful and if they change the charter school idea, or name, they're not going to get rid of the principle of charter schools, which is to help kids turn their lives around."

Little clarified that Labour did not agree with the charter schools model including its provision for unregistered teachers and the ability not to adhere to the formal curriculum. However, it had supported special character schools.

"We are supportive of school systems that work and particularly that help to address educational underachievement."

Jackson said he was not surprised there were mixed views about his candidacy for Labour.

"I think the majority of the Labour Party members are supporting me. Of course there are some who don't like me. That's life. That's the territory we are in."

He said he was happy to sit down with anyone who had those concerns to talk them out, but pointed out he had a history of supporting homosexual law reform and had apologised for the Roastbusters interview he did with co-host John Tamihere.