The longest political leadership battle is drawing to a close and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples has finally decided to step down as co-leader and resign as a member of parliament before being dumped at the Maori Party AGM. The PM John Key went quickly into damage control mode and quickly started the PR push to limit any fall out,
“Prime Minister John Key says his government's partnership with the Maori Party will not be affected by its co-leader Pita Sharples' resignation.
This from the media;
Sharples is poised to stand down today as party leader though he will remain an MP until the next election.
Sharples has been under pressure for months to stand down after co-leader Tariana Turia made it clear she considered it was time for a change.
He reportedly plans to remain an MP until the next election and to retain his ministerial portfolios.
John Key is really in a bind; his partners are falling apart at a rapid rate. ACT’s sole MP. John Banks still under investigation by the courts is meant to be the Minister of Small Business a position created solely to get him a minister’s salary after his and Key’s cup of tea episode. While Peter Dunne the dumped Minister of revenue is starting to show his anger at Keys misuse of the GCSB / SIS processes to intercept his emails without permission. I’ve no doubt we haven’t heard the last of this gross misuse of power. Key reportedly said:
Key this morning said he was "totally comfortable" with Sharples remaining a minister, though he was waiting to hear from the Maori Party about what decisions they had made.
He told TV3's Firstline it was difficult to say what direction the Maori Party would take after the appointment of new leaders but did not expect the party's relationship with National this term would be affected.
"They won't move away in terms of the coalition with National until the end of the Parliamentary term..." he said.
It also did not impact the current government with the Maori Party still holding its three seats, he said.
"The question is what happens beyond there" though that was the case with any of National's coalition partners, he said.
Waiariki MP. Te Ururoa Flavell, who challenged for the leadership of the Maori Party and is a likely successor, he has been acting like he already was the leader. In Parliament he takes the lead at supporting the National Party and is looking more and more like a National MP rather than a Maori Party MP. John Key has been grooming Flavell for a cabinet position, Key said this about Flavell:
Flavell has served a long period with the Maori Party and will be a strong leader "so there's no real need for concern there and I think the Maori Party obviously will want to regroup and rebuild with some young people so it's a natural evolution really for the party," Key said.
Sharples will remain co-leader until the election of a new one at the AGM in Whakatane in two weeks.
Rumours started circulating yesterday evening that Sharples was stepping down after the party's poor showing in the Ikaroa Rawhiti by-election. Division over the leadership was held partly to blame.
Sharples had previously vowed to "lead until I'm dead".
Flavell said last night he had not spoken to Sharples but had received a number of calls suggesting the leadership was up in the air. He did not know what was happening, however.
"Until I get any news I don't know what's happening. I haven't heard anything."
Throughout yesterday Sharples had denied he would be stepping down, and even fired shots at Flavell and the Maori Party's national board for not putting the issue to bed.
''I am the one challenged, and yet I have support from out in the rohe, in the different regions, from different Maori tribal leadership...as well as grassroots Maori.''
''We will not fly the white flag simply because others believe it is in their best interest for us to do so. Our motivation remains as it ever was.''
Key also played down the risk of the Maori Party becoming closer to Mana.
''In the end any political party needs to work out where they think its future rests and where it's going to earn the most number of votes going into election 2014.''
Left wing commentator Matt McCarten said senior Maori Party figures were pushing for an attempt to mend bridges between the two parties.
Without an agreement between the two he believed that Labour could win at least two more seats off the Maori Party, possibly all three.
Jones blamed the Maori Party's relationship with National for Sharples' downfall saying it was against the wishes of Maori.