Labour MP Damien O'Connor 'fronts up' over gay comments

VERNON SMALL AND MARTIN KAY
Last updated 13:12 12/04/2011
MARCUS WILD

Labour MP Damien O'Connor has "fronted up" to his caucus colleagues over gay comments.

Phil Goff discusses party list

DAMIEN O'CONNOR
DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Apologised for gay and union slur, but did not resile from concerns about the list selection process.

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Labour MP Damien O'Connor is not backing away from his claim that the party's list is controlled by ''self-serving unionists and a gaggle of gays'' - despite apologising to his colleagues for the attack.

O'Connor fronted up to Labour's caucus this morning to say sorry for the barb, made after he withdrew from the list selection when it became apparent he would not get a high ranking.

He said he had apologised for making the criticisms in public and the for words he used, but he pointedly refused to say whether the claim that Labour had been hijacked by its union and gay wings was wrong.

Asked specifically whether it was incorrect to say that a ''gaggle of gays'' and ''self-serving unionists'' - the terms he used on Sunday to attack the list - were in control, O'Connor replied: ''I was wrong to say it in the way I did and I was wrong to say it in public. The Labour Party has a very healthy democratic process, we debate many issues and I should have done it within the party process.''

He said he would raise concerns about the process with the party - but would not say what he thought was wrong or what needed to change.

He also would not say whether he apologised for the sentiments he raised in Sunday's criticism, only that he was wrong to have used the words he did and to have made the comments in public.

''I've raised issues with the process. I have said that I'm sorry the way I raised that, the offence that I caused to my colleagues and the fact that I should have raised it with them ... I continue to take up issues around the selection process with the party.''

He would not say what reaction he got from the caucus - which presently includes three openly-gay MPs and several with strong union backgrounds - though he said people could draw their own conclusions about the likely tone in the meeting.

O'Connor has pinned his hopes on winning back the previously safe Labour bastion of West Coast-Tasman, which he lost to National's Chris Auchinvole in 2008.

Ironically, his present place in Parliament is due to him taking the list spot left vacant when former Labour deputy Michael Cullen left Parliament in early 2009.

GAY CAMP

Grant Robertson

Charles Chauvel

Maryan Street

Louisa Wall

Jordan Carter

UNION CAMP

Many MPs and candidates in Labour came into Parliament from union backgrounds. Those most strongly associated with the union bloc are:

Andrew Little

Lianne Dalziel

Darien Fenton

Carol Beaumont

Michael Wood

Jerome Mika

- By VERNON SMALL and MARTIN KAY/Stuff

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