Labour leader Andrew Little has told his caucus to keep their concerns about Willie Jackson in-house as he tries to contain any damage from his decision to bring Jackson on board as a Labour candidate.

Little met with the Labour caucus this morning and said afterwards he had driven home the need for them to raise concerns in caucus first rather than in public.

It followed MP Poto Williams' Facebook post on the weekend in which she said she could not support Jackson unless he publicly apologised for his role in an interview on the Roast Busters case in 2014.

Little told RNZ Williams was right to raise those concerns but he was surprised she had done so on Facebook.


He had explained to caucus why he was supporting Jackson, and he was satisfied Jackson had acknowledged his wrongdoing and had since been involved in domestic violence programmes as the head of the National Urban Maori Authorities.

However, Little also took the step of assuring some MPs they will not come a cropper to his promise to get Jackson a high place on the list.

He told Fairfax he would expect MPs such as David Parker, Trevor Mallard and Kelvin Davis to be above Jackson - a change in tune from earlier in the day when he refused to say whether he wanted Jackson ranked higher than others.

Mallard would be Speaker if Labour was in Government and Parker is an important figure in the caucus. Davis is an electorate MP but faces a challenge from Mana leader Hone Harawira to win the seat back.

The backdown indicates Little came in for criticism over his handling of the situation, which appeared to blindside many in caucus.

The fallout from the announcement has turned into an unwanted distraction for Little to deal with in the first week of Parliament.

​Some Labour members are circulating an open letter calling on Labour's Council to reject Jackson's candidacy.

Jackson is also supportive of charter schools and has criticised Education Spokesman Chris Hipkins over the issue. Hipkins refused to endorse Jackson, saying it was not his job to endorse or criticise any possible candidate.


It has been picked up on by Labour's rivals in Parliament. Prime Minister Bill English joked it could be a chapter in a book on "Lessons in Leadership" by Little: "Chapter 2 is 'how .. I picked a star political candidate and united the Labour Party.'"

The Maori Party had been in talks with Jackson about standing for them until Jackson broke the news to them last week.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox also had some fun with it, saying Little should ask Jackson about charter schools when Little was talking about educational achievement in Parliament's opening debate.