Tamihere back in Labour but path unknown

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 07:54 03/12/2012
John Tamihere
VANITA PRASAD/Fairfax NZ
JOHN TAMIHERE: Asked if he was ruling out seeking Labour's nomination for a seat, he said: "No, but I don't rule it in either".

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Outspoken former MP John Tamihere says he is not ruling out - or in - seeking a return to Parliament after being readmitted to Labour.

The former Cabinet minister said he was taking "one obstacle at a time" after the party's ruling council voted at the weekend to allow him to rejoin the party.

Asked if he was ruling out seeking Labour's nomination for a seat, he said: "No, but I don't rule it in either".

It may be possible he could "do enough by way of influence", he said.

He was told he had been approved for membership by one of the party's executives - he would not say who - before the media were told.

In a statement the council "noted that by becoming a member he is obliged, as is every member, to subscribe to the constitution and policy of the party".

Asked if he was pleased at the outcome, Tamihere joked: "I can't say I am feeling nauseous, I mean for goodness' sake. I put my membership application in. In the normal course of events it would just go through. This went a different route, and that's OK."

He had left Labour by not renewing his membership, but had never been a member of any other political party, "unlike half of them at the [Labour annual] conference".

In the mid-2000s Tamihere was seen as a rising star, and even a potential prime minister, but he angered many in the party when in an interview - which he said he believed was off the record - he referred to female colleagues as "front-bums" and was critical of senior party figures.

He lost the Tamaki Makaurau seat to Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples in 2005, but has since indicated that if he makes a comeback it would probably be in a general seat, such as Waitakere, not in a Maori electorate.

He yesterday described the sitting MP for Waitakere, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, as "fat". He is currently a broadcaster and head of the Waipareira Trust.

Meanwhile, Labour general secretary Tim Barnett said two complaints lodged with the party's ruling council had been passed on to the caucus for comment.

Both came from demoted MP David Cunliffe's New Lynn electorate.

One was about whip Chris Hipkins' public criticisms of Cunliffe and the other was a "more generic" complaint about leaks to the media.

"Because they concerned caucus matters . . . then it was a case of receive and pass on," Barnett said.

The council would consider them, in light of MPs' comments, when it met again in early February.

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