Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples has come out of his corner fighting in the leadership contest with MP Te Ururoa Flavell, saying that although he knows the standoff could damage the party he will not stand aside or give a future date for his retirement, because he believed staying on was critical for the party to survive.
I think Sharples motives are good, and he is right that if he retired as an MP it would be bad for the Maori Party. He will be 73 at the election, and probably wouldn’t mind a quieter life.
But the issue is whether he has to remain as co-leader to still help the Maori Party retain support. I would have thought there is some sort of elegant solution where he becomes the “Kaumata”, is pledged to remain a Minister but you make Flavell co-leader to clearly signal there is a succession plan.
“I believe I’m the best person to lead us into the next election. We’ve had so much disruption with Hone going, and people saying there should only be one Maori party, and now Tariana is leaving.
“So it is important someone who has the connections, who is known throughout the country and has given all my heart and integrity is there to try to rally them back to the party.” He said he was not angry at Mr Flavell for challenging, but wished he had waited a while longer.
However, Dr Sharples is also refusing to commit to standing down at a future date after 2014 even if that would convince Mr Flavell to stay his challenge, saying that might weaken his leadership impact.
If there had been some clear indication of dates, then I imagine Flavell would not have been so public with his desires.
Dr Sharples also said he regretted saying he hoped to lead the party until the day he died – a comment he said was intended to be light-hearted but which drew criticisms, including from NZ First leader Winston Peters, by people comparing it with a dictatorship. He hoped Mr Flavell would stay on if the party elected to stay with Dr Sharples.
“I would love him to stay with me, so we could work together. He’s an awesome worker. But the leadership is a particular kind of thing at this stage, and I think I can reach out to a whole lot of sources that need to come back.
It will be interesting to see if they manage to find a solution to this.