Labour's Maori MPs opt to go 'electorate only' and not seek list places
In a surprise move Labour's Maori seat MPs have opted to stand as electorate MPs only, and not go on the party list.
Labour Leader Andrew Little said the party was backing a request from its Maori electorate MPs in a move that was "a direct challenge by the Maori MPs to the Maori Party".
"We're confident our outstanding Maori electorate MPs will win their seats."
The move is designed to increase Maori representation in the Labour caucus and could boost the chances of more Maori getting in on the list, such as broadcaster Willie Jackson and Northland candidate Willow-Jean Prime, if they get winnable list spots.
The party puts together the list and while Little doesn't "have the right to instruct the party to do anything" he has indicated previously that he wants people like Jackson in winnable positions on the list.
While he wouldn't confirm where the likes of Jackson and Prime would be on the list, he said he's "determined to see new Maori MPs coming in after 23rd September and that will be reflected in the list that comes out after April".
"We will have a list that will be adding to our voices and numbers. It will include Maori voices on the list, new Maori MPs on the list that will go out."
Under Labour's rules a waiver can be granted for MPs wanting to opt off the party list "in special circumstances".
"This is a statement of Labour's intent," said Labour Party President Nigel Haworth.
Maori Party co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox aren't fazed by the move and say their focus is on winning the six seats back off Labour.
"If they don't want the party vote in all the Maori seats then that's fine we'll take it. What are they going to say, give it to the Greens?," Fox said.
"It's a bit outstanding - I thought there could be no other depths to the way they treat their Maori MPs. Andrew Little doesn't quite get it," she said.
Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis is not only backing himself to beat Mana leader Hone Harawira but says there will be more Maori MPs in Labour post-election than any other party.
"There's seven Maori seats - we want to win all seven of those plus we expect to see more come off the list."
Labour disputes that the move is in response to any momentum the Maori Party has seen since joining forces with Mana and getting the endorsement of the Maori King in the Hauraki-Waikato electorate.
Davis said the Maori caucus had been discussing the issue for at least a month and it had nothing to do with what was going on in Maori politics - though he disagreed the Maori Party had any momentum.
"We approached the party and asked to stay off the list as a show of strength, unity and confidence in our ability to build on the success that we enjoyed at the last election," he said.
Labour holds six of the seven Maori electorate seats, but faces a unity front from the Maori Party and Mana with the Maori Party agreeing not to run a candidate against Mana's Hone Harawira in Te Tai Tokerau while Mana will not contest the remaining seats.
Prime Minister Bill English said the move was "another sign of instability in the Labour Party".
He said it was "a pretty negative political move" and Maori were making progress, doing well and were looking ahead.