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Labour leader again defends Willie Jackson

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/02/2017 Karen Sweeney

Labour leader Andrew Little is continuing to back his party's new high-profile list candidate, broadcaster Willie Jackson, despite apparent growing opposition to his selection.

A letter purporting to be from Young Labour has urged the party's councillors to reject Mr Jackson's membership and vote against his nomination as a list candidate.

It accused Mr Jackson of homophobia over his comments that he is "a little uncomfortable with gay men" and a newspaper column outlining that he didn't believe New Zealand was ready for a gay prime minister when Labour MP Grant Robertson sought to challenge the party's leadership.

"Labour should not want a person to be elected as a member of parliament that lacks the courage to fight homophobia, let alone exhibiting comfortability with prejudice against LGBTI New Zealanders," the letter says.

Signatories also questioned Mr Jackson's public advocacy of charter schools.

Labour last year failed in an attempt to abolish charter schools while Mr Jackson, who backed two charter schools as chairman of the National Urban Maori Authority, previously accused Labour of putting unions above children's education.

Mr Little said the pair had discussed the opposing views on charter schools before Mr Jackson's selection.

"Every person who comes in signs up to be a Labour party candidate, signs up to Labour policy and Labour values and everyone is expected to follow that and they will," he said.

Mr Jackson himself has also been forced to defend comments he made on talkback radio during the Roast Buster scandal after sitting MP Poto Williams took to Facebook concerned that his attitude toward sexual abuse victims didn't match her expectations of a Labour Party member.

He had described the actions of a group of Auckland men bragging online about sexual encounters with drunk underage girls as "mischief".

Mr Little said he knew there were risks about Mr Jackson's conduct but said an important Labour value was allowing redemption and giving him a chance will help Labour reach young urban Maori, a part of the constituency not currently reached well by Labour.

He said he would speak to the caucus at Tuesday's meeting about the appropriate way to address concerns, but would not say whether he would reprimand Ms Williams for her public comments.

Prime Minister Bill English said Mr Jackson's stance on charter schools was the right one.

"The charter schools are working for a lot of kids many whom couldn't make progress in the mainstream system," he said.

"But look, I think it's just one more problem that recruiting this high profile candidate's gong to create for Labour."

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