A determined PM Jacinda Ardern leaves yesterday's media conference announcing Gaurav Sharma's suspension from the Labour Caucus

Renegade Hamilton West MP Gaurav Sharma would appear to be on a track that could culminate in expulsion from the Labour Party.

That would end his political career.

Without endorsement by Labour, he would be highly unlikely to win the marginal seat of Hamilton West.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the Caucus in December will review its decision yesterday to suspend him, in reality, the bar would be set very high for him to return.

The fact that all MPs currently in New Zealand except Speaker Trevor Mallard and Sharma himself participated in yesterday afternoon’s virtual Caucus and that the vote was unanimous is a measure of the anger and sense of betrayal that exists across Labour’s Caucus over Sharma’s actions.

His release of what he claimed were private messages from colleagues; his persistent complaints against Kieran McAnulty and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Raj Nahna along with long accounts of what were ultimately staff employment matters, has clearly and understandably tested the patience of the Caucus.

His refusal to take calls, or answer texts and emails from the Prime Minister only exacerbated the situation.

Ardern made it clear that patience had run out with a warning that Caucus could review his continued membership earlier than December if he persisted in breaching its rules.

“There were grounds for expulsion because caucus rules are very clear on what constitutes serious misconduct,” she said.

“But the team wanted to send a message that whilst they consider this to be very egregious and very serious and that their trust has been lost, they are a team who wants to give second chances.


“So this is a message to Gaurav that he is still a Labor member of the team, but we have expectations that he follows the same rules as everyone else, and if he does that, there’s a pathway back.

“If he doesn’t, he will be expelled.”

That expulsion would be initially from the Caucus only.

“We have separate processes,” said Ardern.

“The caucus room is determined that Caucus is able to make a decision on serious misconduct.

“And there are two areas of concern the breach and confidentiality of caucus meetings.

“And the second is whether you bring the party into disrepute.

“Caucus on that basis can make those determinations and to chairman expulsion or any other remedy.

“And, of course, we can refer to matters to the party. We haven’t done it at this stage, but that doesn’t stop the party being able to make their own decisions as well.

“But these are for the future.”

The Labour Party’s Rules allow that any member bringing the party into disrepute may be censured; prohibited from seeking or holding any office; prohibited from seeking or holding a candidacy; have their membership suspended or expelled from the party.

Given that the Caucus has already found that he has brought the party into disrepute, Sharma must expect one of those penalties if he cannot convince the Caucus in December that he is a changed man.

The last MP to be expelled from the party was Taito Philip Field in 2007 after he was suspended from Caucus because of a police investigation and then said he would run against a Labour candidate.

Most famous was the expulsion of left-wing faction leader and Minister of Housing, John A Lee, in 1939 after he wrote an article claiming that Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage, who was dying of cancer, was mentally sick.

The party’s annual conference voted to expel him by 546 to 344, and he went on to form the Democratic Labour Party, but he, along with all of its candidates, failed to return to Parliament in the 1943 election.

Ardern had made sure of her numbers before yesterday’s full Caucus by holding what she maintained was not a Caucus meeting the night before but to which it seems all Labour MPs except Sharma were invited though not all participated.

Ardern took some other steps to ensure it could not be regarded as a formal Caucus meeting and did not invite any of the usual party officials who attend Caucus to it.

“A formal caucus meeting must always be open to all caucus members,” she said.

“That meeting was not a formal meeting, and I was also clear we would not have any predetermined outcome.

“Natural justice is very important.”

Ardern said she held the meeting without Sharma to give MPs a chance to have a safe environment within which to discuss the issues he had raised without that discussion being made public by him.

“One of the concerns raised by my team members was that, of course, caucus relies on the ability of people to speak freely and openly,” she said.

“One of the issues of misconduct was that, unfortunately, Gaurav had been airing the contents of meetings publicly, and that meant people didn’t feel they were able to raise questions and discuss the issues with colleagues.”

Sharma was invited to Monday’s yesterday’s formal Caucus meeting, but after what seems to have been a convoluted process with him failing to reply to phone calls, emails and texts, and he having earlier said “nearer to three would suit”, the virtual meeting began at 2.30 yesterday.

“I haven’t been able to speak to him,” said Ardern.

“I am the leader of the Labor Caucus. I expect reasonable engagement from our caucus members, particularly on an issue of this gravity.

“It is of note to me that there was only essentially one individual who was unable to make the meeting today.

“We had everyone else rearrange their diaries to make themselves available for what they considered to be a very important discussion.

“It is disappointing the member in question did not.”

Sharma’s failure to attend the Caucus, which was to decide his fate is reminiscent of National MP Jami Lee Ross, who, instead of attending the Caucus, which was to vote to suspend him in October 2018, held a press conference to announce he was resigning from National.

The political damage to Labour from yesterday’s events is likely to be contained, in part because National has its own problem MP, Sam Uffindell, currently suspended from Caucus.

Experienced MPs know that trying to take advantage of another party’s rogue MP is likely to simply uncork the “what goes around comes around” truism.

Labour might be concerned about the impact the Sharma affair might have on the ethnic vote, but there has been no evidence so far of any substantial wave of Indian-New Zealander support for Sharma.

The “Indian Weekender” newspaper has been cautious in its response.

A columnist, Sandeep Singh, who has been writing on the Sharma affair, said: “Never before a backbencher MP had been so audacious and ambitious in catapulting to the centre stage of politics, rather forcefully, than the more acceptable form of climbing political ladders of cajoling, networking and rubbing shoulders with the more influential political operators.

“It remains to be seen if Sharma succeeds in that bold and seemingly outrageous endeavour or just goes down with a whimper.

“Till then, one can sit back and take some satisfaction from the fact of an ethnic MP being at the centre stage of NZ politics, boisterously, rather than timidly.”

But the immediate question is whether Sharma will undergo a full repentance and earn his way back into the Labour caucus.

His track record so far would suggest that was unlikely, which means his ultimate fate will be an ending to his political career.