Thursday, 26 May 2022

Outgoing Labour MP Louisa Wall says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did not want her in Cabinet or caucus

Outgoing Labour MP Louisa Wall says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told her directly that she would never be a Cabinet minister – and she also believed Ardern had made it clear she did not want her in caucus.

In her second interview since announcing her resignation from Parliament, Wall told Q+A she had accepted Ardern’s decision, but the way she was treated in some instances had “hurt.”

“I’m not a minister because the Prime Minister told me I would never be in her Cabinet. And that was her decision, obviously, and I accepted that decision and then just got on with the job.

“There were messages, probably not so subtle, that it wasn’t just she didn’t want me in her Cabinet – she was also very clear that she didn’t want me in her caucus. Again, you’re going to have ask her about why she thought there was no place for someone like me in the Labour Party caucus.”

Ardern is yet to comment on Wall’s claims – on Sunday, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said she had nothing more to add to the comments Ardern had made at the time of Wall’s announcement, which acknowledged Wall’s contribution to Parliament.

It follows an interview in the Weekend Herald in which Wall said she believed she was on the outer with the Labour leadership because she backed former leader David Cunliffe ahead of Grant Robertson in the 2014 leadership election. She had never felt she was included by Ardern and Robertson since then.

Asked on Q+A about reports she was not a team player, Walls conceded there were occasions she had bucked the leadership.

“I can understand how people in leadership would have thought that I haven’t been as responsive to their requests as I could have been. But my rationale always had been to ensure the legislation I was working on was going to proceed to the point it was going to be successful.”

She pointed to the marriage equality bill, saying she needed to deal with that the way she did because she needed cross-party support to ensure it went through and stood. “I will fight for the right to do that in a way that takes the majority of people with us. So in some instances I didn’t take the leadership of my party because I disagreed with how they wanted to play the game.”

She said most people came into Parliament wanting to be a minister “and the way you do that is to be part of the team and work diligently. I’m not saying you work under instruction, but … you’re very much part of a process that will hopefully produce an outcome. I didn’t come in with an aspiration for a role, I just wanted to use the role I had to make the lives of New Zealanders better.

“So if that aspect of my attitude is slightly maverick, I’ll take that. But I haven’t wanted to be a maverick, all I’ve wanted to do is to be a good representative.”

In July last year, Wall was not granted a speaking slot by Labour in a debate on a report on suicide, despite being a founding member of the cross-party mental health group which had published the report. National had given her one of its slots instead.

Wall said that had hurt: “That particular lack of recognition for the work that I’d done on behalf of Labour, yeah, that hurt because it was so public.”

Wall said only the PM would be able to say why she had not wanted her in Cabinet. “You have to accept decisions like that, I have no control over that.”

“In spite of her not wanting me in her Cabinet, that didn’t mean there were not other ways I could contribute.”

In the Weekend Herald, Wall also pointed to the party’s attempts to force her out of the selection race for the Manurewa electorate in 2020 to make way for Arena Williams, saying the way that was handled had been “unforgivable”.

Wall said on Q+A she believed that had undermined the Labour Party principles.

Wall will deliver her valedictory speech on Thursday, before Parliament breaks for Easter and a recess period. Her resignation takes effect on May 1 – she will take a new role with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as a Pacific ambassador for gender equality, as well as a wider role promoting LGBTQI rights.

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