12 Apr 2011

O'Connor apologises to Goff over list comments

7:09 pm on 12 April 2011

Labour Party leader Phil Goff says he has accepted MP Damien O'Connor's apology for inappropriate comments about the Labour list.

Labour issued its list on Sunday. The party vote determines a political party's total number of seats and those on the list make up the numbers after electorate seats.

Mr O'Connor opted out of the rankings, as he was unhappy with his likely placing and described the list as being drawn up by a gaggle of gays and self-serving unionists.

Mr Goff says Mr O'Connor was wrong to claim that unions and gays had too much influence on the list and has told the MP that his comments were inappropriate.

He says Mr O'Connor will be asked to explain himself at Labour's caucus meeting on Tuesday and expects him to repeat the apology.

Mr Goff says Mr O'Connor is a bit rough around the edges - but that is no excuse. He's a hot-head - I don't know about a redneck, I don't think so.

Mr Goff also dismissed a suggestion by Mr O'Connor that wannabe leaders are positioning themselves for leadership in the future.

Selection process needs changing - O'Connor

Damien O'Connor withdrew from the party list, saying there is a risk the Labour Party will be perceived as representing only a narrow group of New Zealanders.

The MP plans to stand in West Coast Tasman in the election on 26 November, a seat he lost in the last election.

Mr O'Connor is critical of the power of the unions within Labour and told Morning Report that some really good people from the regions got overlooked for the party list because they were not central to the action in Wellington.

He says Labour is moving toward list MPs driving the party direction, with representation from wider New Zealand not being taken into account, and the selection process needs to change.

However, Labour Party president Moira Coatsworth says Mr O'Connor's comments are unfair and incorrect and she will talk to him.

Ms Coatsworth told Nine to Noon Labour is a broad-based party and the list includes people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Some MPs not happy with list - Goff

Phil Goff acknowledges some MPs will be unhappy about their placing on the party list for this year's election, but is satisfied with the general line-up.

On current polling, Labour would return with about 44 seats, but some sitting MPs could become vulnerable if its vote drops much below its current polling of around 35%. They include Phil Twyford and Steve Chadwick.

Former Labour Party president Andrew Little has leap-frogged several sitting MPs to be No 15 on the list.

Mr Little is now Labour's candidate for New Plymouth and says he does not believe that will cause tension within the caucus.

He defended the party's list selection process and says the moderating committee which makes the decisions about the list is made up of 36 people, with the unions having only two of their own votes.

Mr Little said the rest of the committee is made up of regional representatives and sector groups.