The Herald reports:
Asked if they would rule out mounting a challenge at any point before next year’s election, Mr Cunliffe answered with an emphatic no. “Absolutely ruled out. Never been interested.”
Mr Jones initially said no comment before returning to say it was a “negative, divisive question”.
Rather different responses.
“Absolutely no interest whatsoever in applying for leadership or doing anything that breaks our unity.”
Which is far from a no.
Labour MP Shane Jones has begun the year vowing to drive the Maori Party out of Parliament, saying they had betrayed their own people and lured the Government into funding their policies of “buying favours by giving money to a favoured few”.
The criticism following Labour’s first caucus of the year yesterday was a clear sign that the gentle approach Labour has thus far taken to the smaller party is over.
Shane talks tough but I notice he doesn’t stand himself against Maori Party candidates in the Maori seats. He normally stands in Northland, losing to John Carter by 10,000 or so votes.
I’ve said it before but Labour are making a strategic blunder by attacking the Maori Party – for two reasons. The first is that they have no chance of winning back four of the five seats held by the Maori Party, and if anything are at risk of losing two further seats to them.
At the last election Labour won the party vote in the Maori seats with 50% to 29% for the Maori Party. The November 2009 Marae Digipoll had the Maori Party at 62% (up 33%) and Labour at 23% (down 27%).
On top of this, it is almost impossible for Labour to form a Government without support from the Maori Party. They have lost the Alliance and Winston First. Progressive and United Future probably won’t be there next time, and Labour and the Greens by themselves are incredibly unlikely to win 63 seats.