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Trouble ahead for Labour as Tamihere let back in

Party rehabilitates the popular MP-turned-talkback host, expelled in 2005 for his comments about women, gays and The Holocaust. UPDATED: Hooton sees victory for Shearer, but highlights trouble ahead.

NBR staff
Sat, 01 Dec 2012

Labour has made a bold play, rehabilitating the popular MP-turned-talkback host John Tamihere.

"Labour has chosen the least bad option, and avoided a certain legal circus had the decision gone the other way," political commentator and NBR columnist Matthew Hooton says.

"But already Mr Tamihere's public comments [calling National's women MP's "fat"] suggest he is going to be trouble for the party and his enemies will redouble their efforts to ensure his return to politics goes no further."

Mr Hooton adds, "It is not just the women's council and Rainbow faction who will be alarmed - the teacher unions will be horrified by his support for charter schools and excellence in education."

Win for Shearer
"The decision is a win for David Shearer, who has actively encouraged John Tamihere's return, against the far left that has rejoined Labour now that the Alliance has ceased to exist," Mr Hooton says.

Mr Tamihere was censured by the party in 2005 for derogatory comments about women ("frontbums"),  gays, unions, The Holocaust ("[I'm] sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed") and Helen Clark.

The comments all featured in Investigate after a lunch between Mr Tamihere and editor Ian Wishart. NBR suspects the magazine might shortly recycle the material.

Mr Tamihere went on to lose his seat to Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples in the election of the same year, then left the party. His efforts to renew his membership this year have been dogged by controversy.

Today, Labour's ruling council allowed the former cabinet minister to rejoin.

Mr Tamihere is seen having cut-through with working class voters, and is expected to have a tilt at the candidacy for the Waitakere, West Auckland seat held by National's Paula Bennett.

Mr Hooton wrote earlier that the "rainbow" faction on Labour's council remained suspicious of Mr Tamihere. But to shun him would have risked his defection to NZ First.

"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 Hooton said.

Like joining the Head Hunters
Regardless, Mr Tamihere did not make things easy for himself.

“It’s a bit like joining the Head Hunters,” he said of the process of trying to rejoin the party on the eve of its annual conference in November 16.

“As I'm trying to walk through, trying to get my membership, they are all there beating you – it’s a bit like a gang, a gang initiation.”

Today, the RadioLive host pledged to behave.

Mr Tamihere said he can't take back what he said in 2005 but he has no intention of repeating it in the future.

NBR staff
Sat, 01 Dec 2012
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Trouble ahead for Labour as Tamihere let back in