Labour's Nanaia Mahuta has hit back at John Tamihere, after the former MP criticised her selection as running mate for David Cunliffe's leadership bid.
Tamihere said Cunliffe picked Mahuta only because she is female and Maori.
''The only thing she's lacking is she doesn't have a limp. Then he would have got the disabled [vote] too. That's the truth of it and that's the way it smacked as soon as I saw it.''
Mahuta told the NZ Herald Tamihere was a failed politician.
"John's comments show male parochialism is alive and well in Maoridom. If John Tamihere thinks that Maori women should be in the home cooking kai, then he's wrong," Mahuta said.
She said he was likely trying to destabilise Cunliffe's leadership campaign.
Cunliffe said he had little to say on the matter and believed Mahuta could stand up for herself.
Mahuta had a successful election campaign in Hauraki Waikato.
She is well liked in the electorate, has family links to the kingitanga movement and experience in minor ministerial portfolios.
After giving birth to her son she chose to move to the backbench in a caucus reshuffle early last year.
Tamihere said Cunliffe's choice of deputy was ''smarmy'' and typical of him.
''I'm the type of Maori that doesn't back dumb Maori, so I'm not saying she's a dumb Maori. I'm just saying if she was awfully meritorious, I'd back her 100 per cent, that has not been my experience.''
Former minister Shane Jones has also been touted as a possible deputy leader candidate.
Jones was a better choice despite not having run a strong campaign in Tamaki Makaurau, Tamihere said.
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples retained the Auckland-based Maori electorate but his winning margin reduced by more than 6000 votes.
''Out of the two of them you'd have to rate, on Labour Party values and on the street bringing the men's vote back and a whole bunch of other things, Shane all day long; if he can get over in his own mind the self mutilation that he conducted in that hotel room,'' Tamihere said.
Jones was dubbed the 'Minister of Porn' when it was revealed he watched adult movies in hotel rooms during the previous Labour government.
He paid for the movies on his ministerial credit card but had repaid them before the scandal broke.
Victoria University Maori academic Maria Bargh said what the Labour Party really needed to win back Maori votes was better policy.
''At the moment that's the main thing that they're lacking.
''I think that's more needed than putting someone up as a face for Maori.''
Mahuta was popular in her electorate but it was unclear whether she could carry that onto a national stage.
Jones' recent comments about not wanting the leadership may work against him, Bargh said.
- Fairfax NZ
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