8 Dec 2009

Labour MPs rally round leader over nationhood speech

5:41 pm on 8 December 2009

Labour Party MPs have rallied around their leader Phil Goff and are presenting a united front after a caucus discussion on his controversial speech about nationhood.

The speech, delivered to Grey Power members about two weeks ago, criticised the Government's dealings on the Emissions Trading Scheme and foreshore and seabed, and was called racially divisive by the Maori Party.

Mr Goff opened the speech by saying New Zealand was at a crossroads and that the National Government faced choices that could turn one New Zealander against another, and Maori against Pakeha.

The Labour leader talked of "shabby" and "short-term deals" between the Government and the Maori Party.

His comments sparked some concern from party members and the issue was discussed at a Labour council meeting before the caucus meeting.

Mr Goff emerged from caucus on Tuesday saying he had full backing from Labour MPs on the content and tone of his speech.

MPs spoken to by Radio New Zealand say the discussion was frank and open.

Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson says they explored all the issues and came away believing they were important topics that need to be debated.

Labour's senior Maori MP Parekura Horomia says there were differing views and a broad discussion on the foreshore and seabed.

Mr Horomia says the consensus was that the Government must be held to account on issues raised in Mr Goff's speech.