Queen Nanaia?

Vernon Small reports:

Is Hauraki-Waikato MP in line to be the next Maori Queen?

It’s a rumour that just won’t go away and one that the Kingitanga movement was keen to dispel during coronation commemorations last week, reportedly raising it with media and others in order to quash it 

And it’s understandable why.

King Tuheitia, who was elected to the role in 2006, is in poor health, but it is considered disrespectful to discuss the succession, including a potential abdication.

But …

While Mahuta is not in the bloodline – her father Sir Robert Mahuta was the adopted son of the former King Koroki and the elder brother of Queen Te Atairangikaahu – that is not considered an insurmountable obstacle. In principle it is not an inherited title, though in practice it has been.

The king’s spokesman, Tukoroirangi Morgan, is said to be opposed to the Mahuta option, though insiders say the talk still goes on behind closed doors. For every person that says it is odds-on she will be offered the title, there’s another who says she definitely will not.

If Tuku is against, then it may be a very good idea.

But there have also been questions about her commitment since her role in the four-way leadership race last year. As one senior MP put it, “she has not been the most prolific attendee” at caucus meetings and Parliament – a view widely held among MPs. Some are even saying that, given her senior role in the Maori caucus, her patchy attendance is a poor role model.

It will be no surprise if leader Andrew Little takes all that into account when he reviews his lineup later in the year.

It would be a poor look to keep her on the front bench, when she has been so invisible as an MP.

First it has to confirm a new deputy leader, unless Annette King surprises everyone and stays on. She has done a good job as a place holder, but the party has planned for a new face.

The logical choice has always been Jacinda Ardern. She gives the leadership team the balance it needs: a woman from a younger generation and, crucially, from Auckland.

She has made an impact on television and with Auckland business … no small feat for any Labour MP, let alone one that has on her CV the presidency of the International Union of Socialist Youth.  

Around the press gallery commentariat, her stocks are not as high, but she is clearly having an impact with voters, and that matters. As fourth-ranked preferred prime minister in a recent poll – albeit on just 3.5 per cent, but behind heavy hitters John Key, Little and Winston Peters – she is an asset for the party.

Other names in the frame include Phil Twyford and Carmel Sepuloni – who can add a Pasifika dimension to the young-woman-Auckland credentials of Ardern –though Ardern must still be ahead.

It needs to be someone from Auckland. I think it is a choice between Ardern and Sepuloni, even though a bold caucus might go for Kelvin Davis.

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