Willie Jackson's role in the Labour Party is still a bone of contention video

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Campaign role for Willie Jackson.

As Labour MPs headed to their weekly caucus meeting on Tuesday there was a whiff of dissent lingering in the corridor and high-profile broadcaster Willie Jackson was at the centre of it.

Labour MP Poto Williams, who was very public about her criticisms of Jackson when he announced his candidacy in February, still couldn't bring herself to say she supported him in the party.

And Tamaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare revealed he felt "sideswiped" when he heard Jackson had been given the role of Maori Campaign Director on the back of his ability to "connect" with young urban Maori.

Labour MP Poto Williams says she backs the party moderating committee's list rankings but avoided answering whether she ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Labour MP Poto Williams says she backs the party moderating committee's list rankings but avoided answering whether she backed Willie Jackson.

Henare holds the most urban Maori seat for Labour and Jackson was long tipped to challenge him for it with the Maori Party - but a last minute deal with Labour leader Andrew Little saw him join the party list.

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It was a chaotic almost 24 hours from when Labour planned to release their party list to when it was actually made public on Tuesday morning.

Tamaki-Makaurau MP Peeni Henare was "taken aback" by the party's line that new Maori Campaign Director Willie Jackson ...

Tamaki-Makaurau MP Peeni Henare was "taken aback" by the party's line that new Maori Campaign Director Willie Jackson was chosen for his ability to connect with urban Maori.

Jackson acknowledged at a press conference on Tuesday morning that he was disappointed with the 21st spot he got given on the list. His protests had done nothing to convince the party to change it - he flew from Auckland to Wellington on Monday to vent his frustrations to the party face-to-face.

When asked to comment on the way the list disputes had played out so publicly, long-serving Labour MP Trevor Mallard said he'd never seen "anything like it" but he didn't want to comment on "what, if any, damage it has done" to the party's reputation. 

The party announced on Tuesday morning that Jackson would be taking up the role of Maori campaign director for the election, which left Henare somewhat bruised.

Announcing Jackson's new role, Maori Senior Vice President Tane Phillips, said "Willie was asked to take on the role due to his ability to connect with a demographic of Maori voters who live in urban areas, are typically younger and part of a new generation".

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Henare said "two points of connection is a good thing, better than one" but when he first heard why Jackson had been given the role he was "a little bit taken aback".

"Not disappointed, I was just sideswiped a little bit by that comment but we're happy with the work we do in Tamaki Makaurau with the urban authorities, as well as the urban population."

Willie Jackson and Labour leader Andrew Little made a joint announcement at Waitangi earlier this year confirming the ...
JASON DORDAY/FAIRFAX NZ

Willie Jackson and Labour leader Andrew Little made a joint announcement at Waitangi earlier this year confirming the former Alliance MP was running on the Labour list.

In February Williams objected to Jackson joining the party until he apologised for comments he made during a radio interview with a victim during the so-called Roastbusters controversy. 

Williams wouldn't say on Tuesday whether she backed Jackson or not, instead saying, "I fully support what the moderating committee has put up as our list and it's a great list of candidates".

At a press conference on Tuesday Jackson said he hadn't said "anything negative about the list" and if there was concerns from other MPs about him then that was "for Andrew (Little) to address with them".

When asked if he was worried he was causing division in the party, Phillips jumped in and responded, "Willie has support from his Maori caucus colleagues and the caucus as a whole..."

Mallard said Labour was a "broad-base party and some people will be more supportive of the shape of the list than others".

He said he wasn't one of the MPs that was unhappy with their list place - Mallard was given the 32nd spot, which means he needs more than 30 per cent to safely get in.

"Opposition is absolutely debilitating and I've had enough of it."

"I've made it very clear to people I have no interest in being an Opposition member of Parliament. I had nine years in a row of that. I'd love to be Speaker and the position means that if we were in a position to be in Government I can be the Speaker," Mallard said.

 - Stuff

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