Talk of a new Left-wing party is gathering steam, with veteran activist Sue Bradford confirming behind-the-scenes discussions and revealing she would consider leading it if asked.
Expectations are growing in Left-wing circles that renegade Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira could be the lightning rod for a new movement if the rift between him and the Maori Party hierarchy ends in divorce.
Mr Harawira faces disciplinary proceedings after Maori Party whip Te Ururoa Flavell complained about a newspaper article that was highly critical of the party's relationship with National.
Efforts to resolve the complaint without a formal disciplinary hearing failed after Mr Harawira's electorate excluded party leaders from a hui last week, and it now seems increasingly likely he will either leave or be expelled.
He has left open questions of whether or not he would form a new party if he was cast into the political wilderness – a notable shift from his previous insistence that he was interested only in the Maori Party.
He did not return calls yesterday.
Ms Bradford, a former Green MP, said the row posed a major threat to the Maori Party, which was facing mounting internal criticism over its support for National.
"The Maori Party is a total mess now. They have so betrayed their base and now Hone is out there painting the picture in words of one syllable.
"If some other party or individual [comes along], I think they're done for. Even Pita [Sharples] isn't that strong if a credible candidate is put up against him."
She said a lot of discussion on a new Left-wing party was "happening under the surface", but she would not be drawn on who was involved or what was being discussed.
Ms Bradford does not appear to be actively involved in setting up any new party, though she said she would consider any approaches to lead one "in the right circumstances".
She declined to elaborate on the circumstances.
Ms Bradford was a Green MP for 10 years till 2009. She quit after failing to win election as co-leader after the retirement of Jeanette Fitzsimons.
Mr Harawira's future in the Maori Party could be made clearer by tomorrow, when he is scheduled to meet Mr Flavell to discuss his complaint.
The meeting was called by the party's disciplinary and disputes committee and follows a refusal by Mr Harawira's electorate to allow a showdown at a hui near Whangarei last week.
The hui was supposed to see whether Mr Flavell's complaint could be resolved at electorate level, but neither he nor any of the party leadership were invited.
The outcome of tomorrow's meeting is likely to be a significant factor in whether the committee takes action against Mr Harawira – which could include expulsion – when it gives a final ruling on February 9.
Would you cast a tactical vote against your preferred party?Related story: Fringe parties look for deals