Andrew Little has been credited with unifying the Labour caucus for a common cause, but his actions and reactions over the recruitment of Willie Jackson seems to be exposing the fragility of that absence of dissent.
Andrea Vance at 1 News: Opinion: Wait. What? How is Poto Williams the one apologising?
The handling of this little skirmish was cloddish. Firstly, Little misled journalists on Thursday by claiming Jackson hadn’t made up his mind and this was all a rumour started by the Maori party.
Behind the scenes, Labour MPs and members were seething with rage – both over the unfair leap-frogging and the casual abandonment of the party’s gender quota. The obfuscation further enraged them.
Right from the beginning, Andrew Little should have brushed off the Williams-Jackson spat. Labour is a broad church, after all. And outside of the Beltway, no one was paying that much attention.
The over-sensitive reaction has blown the story out of all proportion – and into the news bulletins for another day.
But worst of all, Labour is now the party that gagged one of its promising female MPs to spare the pride of a man who victim-shamed a teenager, live on air.
Bryce Edwards has a look at the blow up in detail in Political Roundup: The liberal vs left divide over Willie Jackson. At the core of the problem:
At the heart of the liberal campaign against Jackson are very real concerns about achieving Labour’s constitutionally mandated gender-balanced caucus. The problem is that generally Labour men have safer and more electable seats than women do, hence the party list needs to be heavily weighted with women at the top of the list. This is, according to Vernon Small, “why Little’s recruitment of Jackson with a promise of a winnable slot… has created an unpleasant undercurrent inside the party that goes beyond any personal issues some MPs have with Jackson” – see: Labour’s gender-balanced caucus target is listing distinctly out of kilter.
There could be a substantial cost.
According to the NBR’s Rob Hosking the Labour leadership was naïve in thinking that Jackson could be brought in, given the likely hostility from the more liberal elements:
“To put it another way, he is intensely disliked by Labour women, Rainbow Labour, and the teacher unions. If you take those three groups out, you haven’t got much of a Labour Party left, these days. In what world, exactly, is that a political coup for any Labour leader? It absolutely beggars belief Mr Little did not foresee the intense opposition from these groups within his own party, and/or do something to prepare the ground for Mr Jackson’s proposed elevation above many aspiring candidates – and, let’s be straightforward here – some of those candidates coming from those three groups within Labour”
Little has a lot of damage to try and repair, and there may be no easy options. It may be all for nothing, Jackson may struggle to get a high enough list placing to get into Parliament anyway, especially after this debacle.