Member log in

Tamihere decision will define Labour for generation


Labour’s New Zealand Council will soon consider John Tamihere’s application to re-join the party.

Despite Mr Tamihere being encouraged by current leader David Shearer, who believes he would make a fine social development minister, the council faces a terrible dilemma.

Either choice will define Labour for a generation – neither in a good way.

On one hand, Mr Tamihere’s membership should be automatic.

He is a former New Zealander of the Year and Labour cabinet minister, a popular working-class media personality and an undisputed community leader in the region that could well decide the next election.

On the other, Mr Tamihere has offended all the party’s factions.

The Women’s Council may have forgiven him calling them “frontbums” and for slamming Helen Clark.

But, since leaving parliament, Mr Tamihere has continued to be an outspoken critic of identity politics, including feminism.

A year ago, he attacked David Cunliffe for selecting Nanaia Mahuta as his running mate: ''The only thing she's lacking is a limp.  Then he would have got the disabled vote too.”

Choosing her made Mr Cunliffe “smarmy,” he said.

His relations with Rainbow Labour are no better, having called gay people a health hazard to the rest of the community.

Nor is Mr Tamihere a friend of the unions.

Then, in February, he backed Act’s charter schools policy, planning to set one up.

“All we're looking at doing,” he said, “is bringing the best practice from Remuera to the west.”

Mr Tamihere has also lost friends in Labour’s caucus.

A month ago, he criticised them on national TV: “The front bench is not firing, across the whole line, whether it’s health, welfare or education.”

These are just a fraction of the comments the ruling council (and National and the Greens) will have uncovered.

Accepting Mr Tamihere’s application would not only offend the party’s membership, it would provide wonderful ammunition for Labour’s opponents in 2014.

Rejection risk
Nevertheless, rejecting Mr Tamihere is also fraught with risk.

There is almost no precedent for a rejection, and certainly none involving a person of his calibre.

A judicial review would be certain and no doubt Mr Tamihere is already operating with the benefit of legal counsel.

Mr Shearer’s encouragement of Mr Tamihere’s return would surely be brought up in court and it would be argued the council, dominated by unionists and Rainbow Labour, was not an impartial jury.

Even worse for Labour are the political risks.

Mr Tamihere and Winston Peters are again on good terms.

If Mr Tamihere joined NZ First, the two could hit the road in the provinces and West Auckland portraying Labour as controlled by feminists and gays with no residual interest in good old working-class kiwi blokes.

That would undoubtedly transfer 5% of the vote from Labour to NZ First, putting the former down to 25% and the latter well above 10%.

Mr Tamihere may dream of being social development minister in a Labour-led government.

But, if his membership application fails, it’s not impossible to imagine him as social development minister in a National/NZ First coalition.

More by Matthew Hooton

Comments and questions

Let him stand as a Labour candidate. Let the people decide. If he gets in he will be expelled within 6 months, or resign labour to be an independent.

I quite like Tamihere, its a shame he is wasted in a moronic party like Labour.

We need to be moving away from the back room dealing and backscratching of the party system that has proved to be such a disappointment towards a more independent MP-based system that works for electorates rather than toeing the party line.

We will never get this under MMP, which is why NZ was wrong to vote for this system. FPP is what we need, or perhaps the Australian preferential vote system, which accomodates minor parties, but leads to an electorate based outcome.

Let's hope it happens. National needs some right wingers in its cabinet and JT is more to the right on most issues than most of Key's hand wringers.

Too much of a maverick for central govt politics. However, he does have what it takes to be an independent councillor, and dare I say, a Mayor?

Why would any party want to go backwards??? too much of an outspoken Tutai stirring Maverick to run a country, we really need Business type leaders, not radical idiots plus far too much influence from his racial stirring mate, can you imagine the after hours phone call by the wagging tails.
Goddamit move forward NZ.
I am very sure that Halan will not authorise this move, end of story one thinks.

Mmmmm, I can see the NZ first thing working actually. JT as leader , solves JKs issue with Winston.

He would make a first rate addition to NZ First and giving that party a stronger influence in a National coalition would be a good thing as a buffer against Key's left leaning tendancies.

Except Peter's eternal drum-beating about not partially floating 'the family silver' keeps Winston First at odds with National, and would mean extra borrowing weakining the countiry's credit rating. Mind you, he's been known to weaken at the fitrst sniff of baubles that don't interest him.

It would be a shame if he was lost in the labour morass;
he is much more suited to a right wing party.

JT wants homosexuality recriminalised, and health/education privatised. He should be not allowed into the Labour Party full stop.

Wouldn't trust any Maori MP -- as far as I could throw him/her.

I think JT is one of the few whom with a bit of a spit and polish could hold that "X" factor similar to Clinton and Obama and put this country on the right track. There is not one person I respect enough to follow in NZ politics, I am almost ashamed of them all. I found myself actually listening to Winnie the other day and nodding, heck we are in dire straights when that happens!

John T in the post Shipley post Brash National era is an easy fit within a National Government led by a centralist like John Key. And would sit comfortably within NZ First although he couldn't lead it.

National will be pleased to see him in the house, and if it is within Labour JT will undoubtedly cause factions to form long before he unreconcilably upsets some sector of society.

Go JT, anything is an improvement on the Shearer's gang.

JT should consider the Maori Party - they are looking for new leadership in the future.
He could then get a ministerial warrant in the next coalition without being neutered by feminists and gays in Labour.

NZF and Labour should do a deal... Winston PM, I think they would win on that.

I’d like to see him join Labour – that will certainly be some great entertainment from the sidelines.

If the selection/approval process doesn’t make Labour implode upon itself with factions at each others throats, maybe the imminent coup attempt will certainly have them implode upon themselves… as karma finally catches up. Reap… sow…

Pass the popcorn… the “rationale” for imminent changes from Labour will be funny, if not kind of pity-worthy in a humane, humanitarian kinda way. Death by a thousand cuts for a political party can’t be nice if you’re on the inside…

Labour has much bigger fish to fry than JT. Party unity, discipline and long term strategy are three that immediately come to mind. JT is not a team player, thinks with his mouth and is totally self-absorbed.

We need less racist idiots not more. JT is blatantly racist, arrogant, out spoken and represents the 1% who seem to have too much to say.

We need less racist idiots not more. JT is blatantly racist, arrogant, out spoken and represents the 1% who seem to have too much to say.

Fancy having 'too much to say'... yes in little ole Zealand we wouldn't want anyone to think they are above their station by having an actual opinion or two they might want to express passionately, hell no.

Paul having a lot to say is fine, sadly JT has too much to say and too little to offer. Try listening to what he is on about, it's nothing other than racial dribble, that only radicals thrive on.

We don't need an arrogant, self-seeking individualist without substance in parliament. The man, who is a radical conservative, is simply incapable of understanding team dynamics.

He will be accepted as a member and then rejected as a candidate.
NZ first would never support a Key led government. Nationals future is dependent on the Maori party and the Conservatives.

Yes, why not JT, he is the only one who had the guts to stand up to Helen Clark, but please not the Labour Party, JT has more to offer than that......

Do you want homosexuality recriminalised?