Labour's Kelvin Davis is ready for the spotlight video

Te Kāea

After years of trying to buy a house, we speak to a family who is excited after Labour Party MP Kelvin Davis' announcement. Taroi Black caught up with a mother of four living in his electorate.

Kelvin Davis says he had no idea that he'd have a new job just 24 hours ago, but you get the feeling he's been getting ready for a while.

The new deputy opposition leader is the first Maori Labour deputy, something he acknowledges is "long overdue."

Davis, 50, was thrust into the leadership just an hour after leader Andrew Little resigned as leader on Tuesday morning.

Newly appointed Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and deputy Kelvin Davis speak to media earlier today.
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Newly appointed Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and deputy Kelvin Davis speak to media earlier today.

He was nominated by finance spokesman and former deputy Grant Robertson, and was elected unopposed.

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But while texts were swirling discussing the possible pairing of Davis and Ardern on Monday night, he is adamant he had no idea he would be in this role until the morning.

NZN VIDEO

Kelvin Davis - Labour's new deputy leader

"24 hours ago I was in a totally different frame of mind, and not expecting to be the sitting where I am now - but that's the nature of politics," Davis said.

Davis was in Northland and planning to stay on, but his assistant booked him flights down to Wellington late last night. 

He woke up at 4am, had "the quickest shower of my life" and drove to Kerikeri airport to fly down.

Kelvin Davis says that "24 hours ago I was in a totally different frame of mind" around the party leadership.
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Kelvin Davis says that "24 hours ago I was in a totally different frame of mind" around the party leadership.

Davis said he managed to talk to his wife about the decision to be deputy leader before making the call - and she said "go ahead".

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His daughters were not so lucky and found out when the news broke.

"I got a joking text from one of them to me saying 'thanks for keeping me in the loop Dad'."

Te Kāea

The swift change in Labour leadership has political commentator Ella Henry comparing this year's election to Game of Thrones. Te Kāea hit the streets to gauge the reaction of constituents about the Ardern-Davis leadership.

WHO IS DAVIS?

The Bay of Islands-born politician first entered Parliament in 2008 as a list MP for Labour. 

He affiliates with Ngapuhi and has strong roots in Te Tai Tokerau, which he eventually won off Hone Harawira in 2014, after leaving Parliament in the 2011 election.

"Some people say that I have to work on my people skills, but sometimes you have to give hard messages that people don't ...
DAVID WHITE/STUFF

"Some people say that I have to work on my people skills, but sometimes you have to give hard messages that people don't like."

He was a teacher and principal of a "troubled school" before entering politics, which he said would be useful experience to bring to the deputy leadership - particularly on the administrative side.

"I was a principal of a school that had issues with people when I got in there, and through building a team around you and through focusing on what was really important we were able to get it working as well as any other school," Davis said.

The idea was that Ardern could get out and about doing the flashy leadership stuff while he kept the party humming along.

Asked what he has that Ardern doesn't, Davis said "good looks, charm, and a taste of Ngapuhi".
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Asked what he has that Ardern doesn't, Davis said "good looks, charm, and a taste of Ngapuhi".

"Some people say that I have to work on my people skills, but sometimes you have to give hard messages that people don't like."

He said Parliament - especially the House - was a lot like a school.

"The behaviour is the same, the miscreants are just a bit older."

Davis is naturally quite a joker - even on a day as dramatic as Tuesday.

Asked what he brought to the table that Ardern didn't, Davis replied "besides good looks and charm and a taste of Ngapuhi?"

He followed on to say that the time would come for a Maori PM after Ardern had led the country for "15 to 18 years". 

This mischievous attitude has endeared him to others across the House - he's known to be mates with NZ First's Shane Jones and Winston Peters, who also happen to be related to him.

"I've got a lot of time for both of them. We'll see how that relationship pans out," Davis said.

Asked if his relationship with NZ First could see Labour moving closer to them over the Greens, Davis simply said "time would tell" - despite the fact the Greens and Labour have a memorandum of understanding.

Davis entered politics after strongly disagreeing with Labour's move to nationalise the foreshore and seabed. 

"To make sure things like the foreshore and seabed don't happen you have to be inside," he said.

He was quite chuffed about answering questions from Maori TV in Te Reo at his press conference on Tuesday - something no other major party leader or deputy leader has ever managed.

Since entering Parliament he's been focused on the rights of prisoners and sexual violence victims.

"Sixty per cent of people enter prison with a mental health or addiction problem. What we are actually doing is punishing people for being unwell," Davis said.

Under parliamentary privilege, Davis said in July 2015 that an inmate at privately-run Mt Eden prison died as a result of a practice called dropping - where inmates were initiated by being thrown over a balcony onto the concrete below.

Davis also alleged the Government and Corrections had failed to act over allegations that there had been talk of prisoner fight clubs at Mt Eden dating back to 2012. In July 2015, Corrections seized back day-to-day running of Mt Eden, and eventually Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-liga was forced to resign.

Having brought much of the controversy at Mt Eden to light and claiming the scalp of a cabinet minister, Davis was rewarded with a boost up Labour's rankings and additional responsibilities.

Davis was also highly visible in criticising the attitude being taken by the Australian government to New Zealanders. A report in 2015 showed New Zealanders made up the largest single group in Australian detention centres.

He was happy that he could answer journalist's questions in Te Reo - something the Maori Party leaders usually had a monopoly on.

Like the rest of the Maori Labour caucus, Davis has taken himself of the Labour Party list, but that could soon change, as a constitutional Labour Party rule says the leader and deputy leader must be number one and two.

Davis is comfortable with this, and seemingly comfortable with the vastly different job he has just stepped into - one that involves far greater scrutiny than he might be used to.

"24 hours is a long time in politics," Davis said. "This is just how it's ended up."

 - Stuff

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