Conflicting Priorities: Has Poto Williams just cost Labour the 2017 Election?


POTO WILLIAMS’ very public criticism of Willie Jackson’s return to Labour has done huge damage to her party’s re-election chances. At a stroke, her ill-disciplined and (presumably) unsanctioned outburst has undermined the positive perceptions created by the joint Labour/Green state-of-the-nation event of 29 January. All of those “good vibrations” (to quote TV3’s Patrick Gower) have been drowned out by the high-pitched screeching of identity politics. Too wrapped up in their quest for a gender-balanced caucus to recognise the strategic importance of Andrew Little’s eleventh-hour recruitment of Jackson, Williams and her supporters have cost Labour tens-of-thousands of urban Maori (and Pakeha!) votes.

Little’s own quest: to reconstitute Labour’s “broad church”; is clearly considered secondary to the Labour Women’s Council’s determination to achieve a gender-balanced caucus in 2017 – as mandated by the Party’s recently revised constitution.

The recent recruitment of Greg O’Connor to contest the critically important Ohariu electorate has ruffled more than a few progressive feathers. (The Left deems the former policeman to be a rock-ribbed social conservative.) With the surprise return of Jackson to Labour (on the promise of a favourable position on the Party List) these already fragile feathers have started flying in all directions.

Predictably, it is Jackson’s on-air grilling of “Amy” during the so-called “Roast Busters” scandal of 2013 that is being used to discredit his candidacy. That Jackson, along with his co-host John Tamihere, were merely giving voice to the doubts and reservations of a great many of their listeners (as talkback hosts are wont to do) has never been accepted by their critics. In the binary world of Identity Politics there is only space for rape-culture Devils and victimised Angels. “Devil’s Advocates” need not apply.

That there were many people living in South and West Auckland (and across New Zealand) who considered “Willie & JT” to also be victims of the Roast Busters scandal does not appear to have crossed the minds of their detractors. That these same people may have interpreted the fate of their talkback champions as proof of how little the Left has to offer voters like themselves either did not occur to the avenging angels of Identity Politics, or, if it did, was considered a price worth paying.

For Identity Politicians the psephological consequences of such moral crusading are matters of supreme unimportance. According to one recent analysis: “The correlation between voting National in 2014 and being male was 0.35, which was significant. This was mirrored on the centre-left: the correlation between voting Labour in 2014 and being female was 0.31.” Never mind. That National is well on the way to becoming the blokes’ party matters much less than ensuring a fifty/fifty split between men and women in Labour’s caucus. The question of whether or not guaranteeing gender parity should be accorded a higher priority than winning the election itself is studiously avoided.

As Labour’s leader, Little does not have the luxury of remaining indifferent to the demographic composition of his party’s voter base. In the simplest terms, his mission is to move voters from National’s column to Labour’s. Or, failing that, to lure out of the Non-Vote a large enough body of voters to nudge the election in Labour’s favour. Attracting votes to Labour is, however, unlikely if the party is perceived as subscribing to ideas and values radically at odds with the ideas and values of the voters to whom it is appealing.

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Hence Greg O’Connor and Willie Jackson. For the working-class people who are, overwhelmingly, the principal victims of criminal offending, the idea of having the former boss of the Police Association in Parliament is likely to sound pretty good. To urban Maori, having the head of the Manukau Urban Maori Authority, Willie Jackson, representing them in Parliament may be similarly appealing – especially since so many voters already feel they know him from his afternoon talkback show on Radio Live.

Little’s announcement of O’Connor and Jackson was another important step in his carefully calibrated plan to reposition Labour in the minds of the voters. The intention is to change people’s perceptions of the party. From being seen as the political vehicle for highly-educated, politically-correct professionals living in metropolitan New Zealand, Labour’s election strategists are hoping to reclaim its original identity as the party for ordinary working people and their families.

Yes, O’Connor and Jackson may jar the sensibilities of inner-city Wellington and Grey Lynn, but they may also reassure less well-heeled Labour supporters that they represent something more than dull-witted but reliable voting-fodder. By providing such reassurance, Little hopes to avoid the fate of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Party, which came to be seen by too many working-class Americans as a machine with only one function. To turn out enough people like themselves to elect candidates not even remotely like themselves to Congress and the White House.

Poto Williams’ reckless intervention has done enormous damage to Little’s plan. Memories of the “Man Ban” and of David Cunliffe’s tragic “I’m sorry I’m a man” comment have been revived. Even worse, socially conservative New Zealanders have been reminded of the remorseless pillorying of two working-class Maori men by a swarm of (mostly) Pakeha liberals.

Poto Williams’ unsanctioned attack on Willie Jackson has conveyed to conservative working-class New Zealanders the following, fatal, message. In neon-lit letters ten metres high she has proclaimed: “Labour’s priorities are not your priorities.”


  1. Well she is yet to prove herself to be a reasonable polly? Parachuted into a safe seat is hardly a mark of earning her stripes?

    • Poto increased her majority. Don’t agree with what she’s done here but I’ll still vote for her & I don’t think Willie should be given a shoe in on list.

    • Jesus Wept! Who the hell is Chris Trotter these days anyway? I haven’t seen him anywhere for ages. Admittedly I don’t go looking.

      Poto Williams deserves a medal for standing up to the Roast Buster victim inquisitor. How ever many sweet sounding apologies he makes his misogyny is genetic. And he has no part in the Labour Party. Or any other party for that matter.

      Go Poto Williams!!


  2. I write as a longtime Labour voter. I am concerned at the current suggestion, highlighted in the media, that Willie Jackson, recently returned to the Labour Party fold, is to be gifted a high place on the list for the 2017 election.

    This man has demonstrated over the last twenty years that he is motivated by self interest and dubious judgement. The popular term is “waka jumper”. As other members in this correspondence trail have attested, he is motivated by self interest as well as financial concerns. The idea that he suddenly wants to return to the Labour fold is laughable.

    My immediate concern is from the point of view of all the Labour electorate members, supporters, and volunteers. We are working very hard at the moment to get through the processes of candidate selection. We want to be able to consider the best possible range of people. We are faced with the task every month of raising money to support our electorate committees with market stalls, garage sales, raffles, personal donations – and it’s a struggle. However, we will select the best possible candidate and I personally will be deeply upset if this man is able to leapfrog the list over the hard work of grassroots members.

    It is absolutely imperative that you listen to the views of members, stand up unequivocally for what is right, and communicate clearly that Labour has values and principles.

    Yours Sincerely
    Ann Roberts

    [Edited, on request. – ScarletMod]

    • Short reply: It’s about the kids.


    • Willie own the charter school as well as in the board. He is a business man not politician. He’s opposite to the Labour Paty policies

    • Strikes me this is Little’s ballsup. Why didn’t he communicate with his Party over this decision to plonk Jackson high on the list ? I think Poto Williams has every right to question this high handed decision.

      • Precisely, it was Little that made it public by publicly promising Jackson a safe list spot. It’s not just caucus but the membership and the governing council that he’s circumventing.

      • Poto Williams has not got every right.

        For Christ sake, an election is only a few months away and we need to ask, is she a part of the team, if not, she needs to be given the heave ho quick smart.

        Seems to me she has gotten far to big for her boots in a very short time in parliament.

        There is a strong tendency within the Labour movement to shoot its self in the foot at every opportunity and this needs to come to an end.
        There are enough other right of centre fools doing the same thing , so lay of the criticism.

      • Good point, actually, who is in charge of selecting candidates, and is Willie already a signed up member, and once he is, will be follow the rules that Labour members set themselves for the party and its way of nominating candidates???

  3. Should all of the fault be laid at Poto Williams feet, or does Andrew Little need to ensure that processes are worked through to the satisfaction of his team before making these announcements?
    My first reaction in reading of Poto Williams voicing her concerns was that she probably hadn’t felt that she was being listened to. Obviously there are other women, including Louise Nicholas, who share her concerns. If Willie Jackson has done good work in combating sexual violence then Kelvin Davis could have spoken to this and this should have been a part of the story of his joining the fold. His manner, and his mate JT’s, has stood out for being particularly disparaging towards women.

    We deserve to hear that he will champion urban maori, including women, and that women won’t be expected to meekly support the boys club in order to get in. There can be a both/and solution here.

  4. Little now has his chance. Poto Wiliams should made an example of – fire her, demote her, and deselect her.

    Doing so would

    1/ Decisively signal to the voting public the smashing of the identity politics in Labour. They’d all go off in a huff and join the Greens, no great loss.

    2/ Make Little in the eyes of the public a strong andundoubted leader of Labour.

    3/ Win back tens of thousands of alienated Labour voters.

    If Little strikes decisively, he will win the election. If he fails, then Labour is doomed to being run by screeching factions who will squabble for a declining number of seats until they finally preside over the party vanishing.

      • absolutely agree. ‘broad church’ politics wins elections and allows a diversity of voices in ‘representative’ government. The point’s been made by others, there are tens of thousands of want-to-be-labour voters. their identities are more in line with Greg O’Connor and Willie Jackson. Great, welcome aboard. Let’s build a better New Zealand.

    • Firing Poto will not win back tens of thousands of alienated voters.

      Understanding that the “kiwidream’ is never ever going to be a $500 thousand dollar house for an increasing percentage of the population might.

      Coming up with a housing policy that directly and positively addresses the concerns of life time renters, and those entering retirement in rentals(not just the homeless and future homeowners), that’s a big bunch of votes right there, votes that currently aren’t being used.

  5. The chattering classes need to realise that yes, Greg O’Connor is authoritarian as he can get, but he would be able to relate the experiences of his members who had had to deal with the ongoing fallout from Ruth Richardson’s austerity package (History tends to cast 1984 as some sort of ‘Year Zero’, the reality is more simple — the welfare state was more or less intact throughout most of Lab4’s term, and it was 1991 that did the most damage).

  6. I have already posted about this. Williams probably thinks her way of dealing with the introduction of Jackson is watering the plant and showing genuine principles. She could not come up with any other way of expressing her feelings.
    In reality she has poured a bit of poison on the plant.

  7. It’s becoming more amd more obvious that Little is installing a women ban, by selecting outsiders (men only please) and installing them above loyal, competent long term women members.

  8. What complete nonsense this article is, good on Poto. I wonder how many people remember Helen Clark sitting on her hands in the eighties whilst Labour screwed the country over, shame on Clark frankly.

  9. “Identity politics” or no such politics, the obvious challenge for Labour seems to be, to gather enough capable, articulate and more or less “progressive” candidates around the table, to stand for the next election. How can you bring O’Connor and Jackson under one hat, I wonder, how can you bring the remaining neoliberals in the caucus together with the more left leaning ones? Labour seems to be hell bent on achieving the impossible to trim the corners of a square to make it appear a bit like a happy circle (“broad church”).

    With all this going on, and with criticism being expressed via Facebook, rather than discuss concerns internally, Bill English will be carried into the Prime Minister Elect role without too much difficulty.

    The MSM is also back at digging dirt, and creating scenarios or impressions, as if there is only division among the opposition parties, and even within them. Watch that Gower face, how he has started the year, it is stuff to worry.

    Poto Williams may have justified concerns, to a degree, but should indeed have sought discussion within. And Willie Jackson did apologise before, did he not, hence he was allowed to carry on with his radio talk back role, while Mr Tamihere was shifted out, also trying to claim damages or compensation from Mediaworks.

    It is certainly not a good look, and the trouble is, we do not get much positive news from the Greens either, who seemed to be operating very carefully at present, they are hardly mentioned on the news.

    Tomorrow Parliament is back in session, so the curtain will lift, and the show for 2017 will start in earnest. All have to shape up by tomorrow and for the coming months, and then we will see, how it will all pan out.

    So far, I would say, do not panic yet, do not make a drama out of some bit of internal bickering. Andrew should pick up the phone and use his diplomatic skills and a bit of firm leadership to iron this out.

  10. “That there were many people living in South and West Auckland (and across New Zealand) who considered “Willie & JT” to also be victims of the Roast Busters scandal does not appear to have crossed the minds of their detractors.”

    Really, do a lot of people think those two loud mouth blokes were some of the victims there … really?

    You guys have made me reconsider my ban on ever giving labour one of my votes again…. Maybe Poto can have my electorate vote after all.

  11. what a lot of left leaning activists and head in the sand party devotees seem to not realise that the university excreted labour MPs basic PC doctrine is greatly at odds with the base labour voter who is verging on extreme conservatism, not to be confused with conservative party politics, the average conservative voter of the left will have little truck with anything outside wages health and education being vastly improved

    • It seems pretty sensible for Labour MPs to allow what they learned in higher education to influence their policy positions. But Lloyd is saying that because the average left-leaning voter is basically a thick shit, such educated positions are pearls cast before swine. Therefore, Labour should instead turn themselves into a Nat/ ACT/ NZ First clone, mouth whatever conservative nonsense they think the thickshits want to hear, and then do whatever is good for their own bottom line? Does that about sum it up Lloyd?

      Obviously, this insults the intelligence of left-leaning voters. Worse, it renders the whole election process a meaningless farce. If we are doomed to elect governments who tell us what we want to hear and then do whatever they want, why bother with the expense of elections? Surely it would be much cheaper to have a dictator-for-life who could lie to thick shits and do whatever he and his mates want?

      • Wow Strypey. You’ve been drinking a fair few kool aids. I reckon LLoyde is right. NZ roads have been starved of funds. Strypey, if you would give an honest assessment of NZ infrastructure and maintenance spending over time there is a lot of underfunding.

        Also a lot of people over at the standard have been calling for tougher sentencing on stuff to do with roast busters and Willie Jackson that I know you know something about. On offer is a silver plater with tougher sentencing. I truely believe that to get tougher in sexual violence that rape will be renamed inhanced seduction techniques, much in the same way torture was renamed inhanced interrogation techniques, so US generals could hand down tougher sentences to suspected terrorists.

        In the US, George Bush Jr. Was advised from a wide group of people much in the same way large groups on different social media platforms or calling for tougher sentences for Willie Jackson but strangley the actual culprits have not been mentioned except in passing.

        It’s all come across as weak so LLoyde is right to point that out

  12. The appreciation of the fair sex depicted in the interview under discussion seems to work ok for American politicians; Perhaps Willie should stand for NZ president. Many people though think that our appreciation of the fair sex should be somewhat more complex.

    If Poto Williams had not brought this up now, perhaps in time to remedy it, then labour’s opposition would have and will remind everyone fully once there is no longer time to remedy it.
    If it’s no problem because he has apologised, then she can have done no harm . If it is a problem Poto hasn’t created it, she has just brought everyone’s attention to it in time to do something about it.
    D J S

  13. Nobody cares…Labour have proved they are competent at being incompetent. For them to win they need to do something DIFFERENT, simple really…

  14. Bit of a storm in a teacup really. The casual voter, while certainly unimpressed with the roastbusters, didn’t necessarily blame Willie for them – the cops who covered it up maybe. Likewise the casual voter may not be hanging on Poto William’s every word. When you find yourself agreeing with Gower, unless you’re receiving those nice brown envelopes, you may need to cut back a bit – your judgment is clearly impaired.

  15. I don’t particularly agree with her stand. But atleast I can appreciate that Maybe she has basic principles.
    Maybe some principles are not to be so easily cast aside just so Labour can get into power.
    Though if you think Labour might lose because of this one thing you are straying into DNC, New Labour, type denial of the wave of change that will hit even these staid shores sometime soon….

    It’s pretty clear that Labour are, among other things, keeping to the Stuart Nash mantra…

    “Let’s be clear about one thing: politics is about winning. There is no such thing as a ‘glorious defeat’, leaders who lose are not, as some may believe, ‘martyrs to the cause’, and ‘coming second but maintaining our principles’ is a ludicrous proposition.”

  16. Exactly. I think the leader has misjudged how the female part if the party feel about the undemocratic decision of putting Willie in a high position on the list.

  17. Exactly. I think the leader has misjudged how the female part if the party feel about the undemocratic decision of putting Willie in a high position on the list.

  18. It’s akshully very simple innit?

    You wanna be a gummint? Shut the fuck up and tow the party line.

    You doan wanna be a gummint? You’re off to a good start.

    Thanks for givin’ us another three years of National’s toad-in-the-hole gummint.


  19. It doesn’t matter. The Creeps are going to get back in, no matter what skin the wear. Labour. National.ACT.Green.Gareth Morgan’s Moustache Fanciers Party…etc.
    They get ‘in’. We get fucked. Same-same, but at least it’s getting worse.

  20. Labour has to be bigger than all the bullshit being thrown about. It can only be successful as a broad church. The vulnerable and struggling New Zealanders need a Labour -led administration. All Labour MP’s need to support and acknowledge the present leader, Andrew Little. You can all run around with your little knives if labour loses. Then you can all have your pathetic little Et Tu Caesar assassination. Andrew is human and makes human errors, but by and large he is doing an excellent job.

  21. I find it absolutely amazing that Labour would welcome in to it’s ranks two perceived (whether rightly or wrongly is unimportant) politicians that represent yet another concession to the right for Labour, yet make no meaningful concessions to the progressive Left.
    Reminds me of another party that just did this exact same thing, and then got itself destroyed for that obvious blunder….Hillary Clinton and the DNC, but that’s another story.

    It seems that in NZ as in the US/UK the ‘centre left’ neo Liberals are so blinded by their own ideology that they can’t see that the once successful strategy of co-opting the institutions/parties of the traditional western Left for their nefarious Laissez-faire free market project is over.
    Clearly the time has come for this Centrist Third Way lot, to grow up, find a political back bone and start their own political movement,which would be good for them, and leave the Left to it’s traditional job of fighting for a fair and equal country for all citizens, which is desperately needed for the country as a whole, win or lose.
    Doing both things, as we all come to understand, is of course impossible to do while operating under a neo liberal economic ideology as labour now does.
    You are either Left or Neo Liberal, there is no centre, sorry folks, but sitting on the fence on this one is just not an option.
    The past 12 months of DNC and UK Labour politics have made that absolute clear.

  22. If Little wants to win the election he must reconstitute the party. The craziness of gender balancing within the party is just stupid. Can we look at finding people who can contribute to supporting and carrying out policies that will help us improve our lives regardless of race religion or gender.

    Fire Poto.

  23. Why in God’s name Poto Williams wants to open a new front in the battle of the sexes on the eve of a critically important election beats me.

    But it’s guaranteed to cost Labour the government benches. Sigh!

    Be interesting to see who is in charge of the Labour Party…

  24. Has Poto Williams just cost Labour the 2017 Election?

    answer – NOPE.

    I’m not a fan of Jackson and her reservations are quite valid.

  25. Whoemever we don’t like as representatives of NZers is something we can only decide upon when we tick the box of the MP who is to represent us for the next 3 years.
    When I heard Willie Jackson defending the Roast Busters back in 2013 I had a feeling his actions would catch up on him.
    All in all and my apologies for sounding crude but there are obviously far too many penis’s in government and Willie Jackson may well be wanting to hop onto the bandwagon of having most of his bills paid for by the NZ taxpayers.
    It’s all fine and dandy that both Jackson and Tamihere were being supportive of the Roast Busters. It wasn’t their daughters who were subjected to rape even though Jackson inferred the sexual act was ‘consensual”.
    He(Jackson)has apologised but if that thought was his in 2013 and here we are into 2017 then it’s obvious he still thinks it’s okay for such behaviour.
    He has to live with his actions and no amount of apology will alter what he said.

  26. Willie isn’t a saint (I know, I was his campaign manager one election), but Chris is exactly right in his comments about the broad church needed to defeat the right.

    The comments from the ‘pure’ liberals, and those that seemingly hate ex-Alliance members, show me Labour will have great difficulty winning this election. You can have the best policies in the world, and be the most PC party around, but it won’t count for a hill of beans if you can’t capture the public’s attention for the right reasons – and internal bickering is the biggest turnoff possible for voters.

  27. The lack of demonstrable party cohesion, discipline; multi-faction infighting publicly and dominance of old Labour ‘entitled’ functionaries means their centre right and left are going to go to NZ First, the Natz and the Greens.

    Bill English has to start now looking at a creative, innovative growth economy.

    LP will rebuild itself but not before September. National can offer a more or less stable New Zealand to investment capital getting out of the US, Middle East and SE Asia.

  28. By staring, if not standing, Poto Williams down, Andrew Little has maintained control of the Party’s strategy. I am not convinced that the law and order, Waitakere (Maori) Man strategy is taking Labour down a road that leads to the unshakling or at least the loosening of the chains of wage slavery but it will be seen as a masterstroke if Labour picks up the Keysters in the working class and wins big (or even just wins) in September. Williams ill-discipline is a hundred miles away from thw class solidarity needed to weld together a force to smash back the right and defeat National (the government of the rich and powerful).

  29. i was first a Labour voter in the early 1960’s, always a low income worker and never developed a taste for white wine or middle class correctness.
    However I have always regarded Willie and his mate Matt McCarten as very effective working class activists but bloody disastrous parliamentary electoral troublemakers.
    Back in the day when they managed to tip out the Alliance Party’s most talented parliamentarian , Sandra Lee, from the Auckland Central candidacy, I suspected they were good blokes but seriously flawed parliamentarians.
    Like many another shock jock radio populist, Willie has a rather nasty record in bias and bigotry, especially ongender issues
    Mot only do I refer to his nasty questioning of a teen age rape complainant, some third of his age, but I also recall his very unfortuante and probably illegal and very intemperate slurs , in defence of his relative in the Waikato police group rape cases.
    When I hear so many calls for unity in election year, I remeber biting the bullet and supporting a Labour Party dominated by Roger Douglas which completely deconstructed the most successful welfare system in the world.
    I believe some of the current Labour supporters are so desperate for power they wouldsupport the candidacy of any and allradio’s talkback hosts

  30. I agree Chris and was equally disturbed.It’s now almost a week since this fiasco and despite its potentially catastrophic effects, Andrew Little’s moderating and skillful leadership has prevailed.

    It is however a litmus test for Labour as the “Identity screechers” whose mirror on the wall and precocity are still vocal and simmering.To them ruling the roost in the Labour Party and Caucus eclipses Labour being a government and the viciousness of the men haters pe rse amongst them, is troubling. An Auckland lawyer’s article in the NZ Herald denouncing Jackson vividly portrayed this.

    In contrast fortunately the two main protagonists are in reconciliation mode.Let’s hope the screechers don’t get inside Poto’s head again.

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