Renegade Labour MP Gaurav Sharma last night did exactly what he was required not to do – he went public on Newshub with more complaints about the Prime Minister and the party leadership.
So now Caucus will meet on Tuesday to consider a motion to expel him, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said. The result of that meeting will be a foregone conclusion given that Caucus voted unanimously on Wednesday to suspend him.
“Gaurav has repeatedly breached his colleagues trust, and caucus was clear that should there be further breaches such as this then further steps would be taken.” the spokesperson said.
On Newshub last night Sharma described Labour’s Caucus as “a kangaroo court in a banana republic” and said the decision last Wednesday to suspend him from Caucus had already been made the night before.
At her Press Conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that was not the case.
“You have my assurance,” she said.
Newshub: “Do you think she misled the public when she said that?”
He accused Labour’s “leadership” of being bullying and said they were trying to cover their actions up.
And he added: “I’m saying this isn’t just about bullying. There’s a lot more here.”
That sounded like he doesn’t intend to stay silent.
He is booked this morning for an interview with Tova O’Brien on Today FM.
After he is expelled (and there will be no doubts about how the vote will go) there will then be questions about whether the New Zealand Labour Party Council would also expel him from the party.
Ideally, it would want to so that there is as much distance between him and the party as possible.
But that is a more complex process and would almost certainly involve legal counsel with the possibility of judicial reviews..
There is also a problem with the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill – the so-called Waka Jumping legislation.
Sharma could invoke this and write to the Speaker saying he was no longer a member of the Labour Party, and the Speaker would declare the seat vacant, and a by-election would proceed.
Whether Sharma would want to resign from Parliament altogether is unknown but would seem unlikely.
The party leader (Jacinda Ardern) could herself write to the Speaker to have the seat declared vacant, and a by-election ensue.
It is a marginal seat which, on present polling Labour would be likely to lose. So that would be an unattractive option.
However, Parliamentary sources told POLITIK last night that there is a loophole in the legislation which says that in a letter to the Speaker, a party leader “must state that the parliamentary leader reasonably believes that the member of Parliament concerned has acted in a way that has distorted, and is likely to continue to distort, the proportionality of political party representation in Parliament as determined at the last general election.”
Because Labour has 65 seats and a majority in its own right, it can happily afford to lose one seat without distorting the proportionality of Parliament.
So the Prime Minister could simply not write to the Speaker at all and Sharma would sit in Parliament as an independent.
There are other questions about Sharma.
The media are constantly referring to him as a GP which is not strictly correct.
He is a registered medical practitioner, but he is properly described as a “GP in training” in that he has not completed the qualification to become a member of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, the GPs professional body.
Membership requires a three-year training programme.
His Wikipedia page says he is registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand under a general scope requiring he practise under supervision in the GPEP training program, “meaning he is a GP in training but is not yet qualified.”