Jenna Lynch analysis: Prime Minister's Office appears to be blindsided by Meka Whaitiri move

ANALYSIS: Newshub understands Labour Minister Meka Whaitiri is set to make an announcement at a marae in Hastings on Wednesday at 10am - the Māori Party is not officially confirming anything.

The Prime Minister's office appears to have been absolutely blindsided by this. The response from a spokesperson for the Acting Prime Minister's Office was that they are aware of the media reports but have nothing further to add at this point.

The minister - that's right the minister - herself has gone to ground. She isn't taking calls from us - and as Newshub understands - from her own party, the Labour Party cannot raise her.

Whaitiri has a checkered history with this Government - she was sacked as a minister by Jacinda Ardern after bullying allegations.

She's currently a minister outside Cabinet for Chris Hipkins, but apparently not for long.

This is hugely damaging for Labour. It's one thing to have an MP to go rogue - it's entirely another for a minister.

The Prime Minister possibly doesn't even know about this yet. All this is happening while Hipkins is literally in the air on his way to the other side of the world for the King's coronation.

He is going to land to one heck of a fright if he hasn't been given a heads up or there's no Wi-Fi on the flight.

Hipkins clearly had no idea this was coming - he'd expressed confidence in Whaitiri by making her the Hawke's Bay cyclone recovery ministerial lead.

Whaitiri's Labour colleagues out of the loop too, we spoke to a number as they were leaving Parliament on Tuesday evening - they all had no idea.

Labour MP, and former minister, Phil Twyford told Newshub he had seen media reports about Whaitiri potentially jumping ship.

"Seems like it is speculation right now so not much I can say," he said.

He said he didn't think she had raised any concerns about Labour's direction.

Aupito William Sio said, "we don't know what her decision is. Let's just wait and see until tomorrow".

This leads to questions about whether Hipkins is in control of his caucus - and whether members of his own party believe in the direction he is taking them.

It also makes for a thrilling contest in the Māori seats this election - Whaitiri won the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti seat with a 6045 majority over Māori Party candidate Heather Skipworth at the last election - Skipworth had already been announced as Te Pāti Māori's candidate for 2023. Awkward.

National MPs have said Whaitiri's reported move is a symptom of Labour under pressure.

National leader Christopher Luxon said, “"the Labour Party’s falling apart. It’s a total mess.

"The person I feel sorry for is Chris Hipkins. He’s arriving in London and turning on his phone and getting out of airplane mode and discovering he’s lost a minister."

Luxon said the Labour Government was "falling apart and it’s getting very messy".

Mark Mitchell said: "This is what happens as the cracks start to appear. And this is big crack without a doubt."

Judith Collins told Newshub it was "people actually escaping that sinking ship".

"Clearly Meka has seen the writing on the wall and there must be something really awful going on in that caucus," Collins said.

Jenna Lynch is Newshub's Political Editor.