Politics

Little focuses on diversity, not division at Labour list announcement

Labour leader Andrew Little has sought to draw a line under disharmony about the party’s list rankings for the 2017 election, saying it was unfortunate but the party had to move on.

The party revealed its candidate rankings on Tuesday morning, after a planned announcement for Monday was delayed due to concerns expressed by some candidates about their positions.

Former broadcaster Willie Jackson, believed to be unhappy about his placement at number 21, did not secure any change to his spot but was named as Labour’s Māori campaign director for the election.

Speaking at the party’s Wellington headquarters, Little said he wanted a list “that was as reflective and representative of New Zealand as possible”, including those from the Chinese and Indian communities.

“We made the big mistake last time of having them too far down and we’ve been in the embarrassing position up until recently of having no Chinese or Indian MP for the Labour Party - that won’t happen again after 2017.”

Asked why there were no Māori MPs in the top 15 spots, he said Labour would have “one of the biggest levels of Māori representation in the history of New Zealand politics” between its list MPs and those running only in the Māori seats.

Little conceded the discord which led to a delayed announcement was “unfortunate”.

“When we’re dealing with a list for a general election, we’re dealing with people’s livelihoods, potential careers, and I think it was a gross discourtesy and disrespectful for people who were entitled to have their issues dealt with with appropriate decorum and confidentiality.”

He denied Labour’s constitutional requirement for a caucus of at least 50 percent women had led to difficulties, and insisted that female candidates chosen were there solely on their ability.

Jackson sought to dampen down media speculation about his unhappiness, saying he was feeling “very good” about his final ranking.

“There’s never been any bitterness - was there a little bit of disappointment? Well, probably…

“We all get a little bit of disappointment - I suppose Trevor’s [Mallard] not feeling too good today and Greg [O’Connor] too, but that’s politics.”

Jackson said he preferred for his younger Māori colleagues to be above him on the list, given he did not want to sit in opposition if Labour performed below expectations at the election.

However, he acknowledged he was disappointed there were no Māori MPs in the top 15, saying: “That’s something we’re going to take up as a party - I’d be lying if I didn’t say that.”

Jackson said he was looking forward to his new role as Māori campaign director, and believed the Māori electorate MPs who stood aside from the list would perform well at the election.

“I think we’ve got exceptional Māori MPs who stood aside on principle, and we’re bearing the fruit of that, and they will be rewarded with positions in those seats.”

Little and Jackson shared a handshake and a hongi after the press conference, in a sign that both men are keen to move on.

The winners

Priyanca Radhakrishnan - The policy adviser and Kiwi-Indian candidate for Maungakiekie is 11th on Labour’s list.

Raymond Huo - The lawyer re-entered Parliament as a result of Jacinda Ardern’s Mt Albert by-election win, and is now likely to return after being given the 12th spot.

Willow-Jean Prime and Kiri Allan - the two women, candidates for Northland and East Coast respectively, are the two highest ranking Māori candidates on the list, at 16th and 20th.

The losers

Trevor Mallard - the Hutt South MP chose to stand down from his electorate, and at 32nd on the list may find it touch and go to hold a spot in Parliament depending on whether Labour can maintain its current polling.

Greg O’Connor - the former Police Association president may have to beat Peter Dunne in Ohariu if he is to make it into Parliament, given his ranking of 40th.

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