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The BulletinMay 9, 2023

Has Chris Hipkins flown back into a gathering storm?


In the UK, he’s been attracting media attention for his love for sausage rolls. Back home, the headlines aren’t quite as fun, writes Catherine McGregor in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Whaitiri affair leaves Labour ‘fraying at the edges’

Know the feeling of arriving back from holiday and absolutely dreading going back to work? Prime minister Chris Hipkins probably felt a bit of that before stepping off the plane in Wellington yesterday. The Meka Whaitiri affair has caused Labour to begin “fraying at the edges”, writes Luke Malpass in Stuff, and the “sheen provided by the Hipkins ascendancy is quickly wearing off”. The fact that Whaitiri waited until Hipkins was out of the country before resigning is hardly a ringing endorsement for his leadership, Malpass argues. “Clearly the new PM didn’t command enough respect (from Whaitiri at least) to be given any sort of warning.” On the NZ Herald, Claire Trevett writes about a new National ad that paints the government as increasingly chaotic and Hipkins as hapless and distracted. “If they do take seed, those perceptions can be very dangerous, so Hipkins does not have long to steady things up,” she says. As for Whaitiri’s defection to Te Pāti Māori, Richard Harman on Politik says there may be an upside for Labour: “Longer term, her presence in the Māori Party might be a bonus for them because she is a natural conservative and someone they might find relatively easy to work with in government.”

‘They never fail to drag out the pain’

As Labour braces for Whaitiri return to parliament today as an independent MP, the Greens are dealing with their own turmoil following the resignation of Elizabeth Kerekere on Friday night. The Greens are far from alone in dealing with problematic MPs, writes Marc Daalder in Newsroom, pointing to Labour’s Whaitiri and Gaurav Sharma and the ham-fisted way in which Simon Bridges was ousted from National leadership. “What could be unique to the Greens is how they never fail to drag out the pain for as long as possible,” Daalder writes, before quoting a “long-time Green Party figure” who recently quit in frustration, blaming “the dogged persistence” of the Greens in revealing their internal strife to the world. “It’s just really embarrassing and… so distracting,” the anonymous former Green tells Daalder. On Scoop, Gordon Campbell argues that the Greens may come to regret pushing Kerekere out over a “single email [and] anonymous allegations about her attitude”. “Unless evidence emerges of some worse sins committed by Kerekere – kicking puppies, bringing Big Macs to caucus lunches – the Greens have only themselves to blame for this loss of talent,” Campbell writes.

PM doles out Whaitiri’s old jobs

With Whaitiri gone, one of Hipkins’ first jobs on his return was divvying up her portfolios. At a media conference where he revealed that he still hadn’t heard from his former minister despite leaving her several messages, the PM announced that Kieran McAnulty would become cyclone recovery minister for Hawke’s Bay, adding the role to his current one of cyclone recovery minister for Wairarapa. Rachel Brooking is to be food safety minister, Peeni Henare will be minister for veterans, and Rangitata MP Jo Luxton will become a minister outside cabinet, with the portfolios of customs, associate minister of agriculture, and associate minister of education.

Bringing sausage roll diplomacy to the world

His return to New Zealand may have been bumpy, but at least Hipkins can console himself that his London visit was a success. While, as Toby Manhire reported in yesterday’s Bulletin, Hipkins kept a “low profile” at the coronation, his love for sausage rolls brought him some unexpected media attention. Both King Charles and British prime minister Rishi Sunak had sausage rolls prepared for their Kiwi visitor, a gift “so unusual (and a bit silly) [that] the story was picked up by the British press, despite it likely being one the busiest weeks in the UK this year”, writes RNZ’s Katie Scotcher from London. Hipkins also sat for a wide-ranging 10 minute interview on a BBC weekend politics show which closed with host Laura Kuenssberg telling the audience: “And we thought our politics were sometimes a big strange, there we go – Chris Hipkins, the new prime minister of New Zealand and sausage roll fan”.

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