No evidence more Labour MPs could defect Te Pāti Māori, Chris Hipkins says as John Tamihere remains coy

Te Pāti Māori was dramatically kicked out of Parliament on Tuesday after failing to follow the rules in their powhiri welcoming waka-jumping MP Meka Whaitiri. 

Labour's now making every effort to ensure no MPs follow her across the floor.

Te Pāti Māori made way for Whaitiri in the House. Moving into the House, a new woman, taking a new seat in her new political home. 

But the problem is, the powhiri was all against the rules. The Speaker cut the audio feed to House proceedings. 

He silently tried to bring the House to order and when he could speak, he ordered Te Pāti Māori out.

"We've been punished for doing our jobs and ensuring Meka had a safe transition in the House," said co-leader Rawiri Waititi.

Whaitiri remained to deliver an explanation of her decision to waka jump.

"The calling that comes deep from within my puku," she said. 

She was cut off too, but eventually told the House she wanted her voice to be heard. 

That's what Whaitiri said her move is all about.

"I'm joining a party that doesn't censor the voice of wahine Māori."

Whaitiri was asked if there were any specific policies in Labour that she felt she couldn't talk about.

"There's a lot of challenges as Māori MPs about compromise in this place. I've made a decision that I want to close that chapter and I want to enter a waka that's based on liberation and to speak our truth."

Her former Labour colleagues are still perplexed - she hasn't been in touch.

"There was a lot of sadness and disappointment. People weren't sure why Meka left," said MP Nanaia Mahuta. 

Mahuta offered a karakia, a healing process with the Labour Māori caucus, but Whaitiri declined. 

Shanan Halbert called it "disappointing".

Tamati Coffey said: "Part of it is actually dealing with the party that is feeling aggrieved and, I for one… feel aggrieved by it."

Whaitiri said: "I respectfully declined that because the healing of my wairua and restoring of my wairua was done on my marae.

"They're welcome to come to my marae if they would like to do that."

It's not the only invitation Te Pāti Māori's extending it seems.

President John Tamihere was coy on whether any more Labour MPs would be jumping ship.

"That's something they're going to have to talk to you about very shortly," he told Newshub.

But Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said: "I've spoken to a number of our Māori members and I've not seen any evidence to back up that speculation."

Labour's Māori caucus even held a meeting about MPs locking in for Labour.

Mahuta said her nomination for Labour has been confirmed. Willie Jackson said there's "full commitment in terms of the Labour Party going forward", while Kelvin Davis said, "everyone's committed to winning the election".

"I think probably we've landed where we're going to land with regard to the election, it's just too close," said Tamihere.

But here's a candidate ripe for the picking, former Green MP Dr Elizabeth Kerekere made a grand return as an independent MP.

She resigned on Friday after being investigated for sending that crybaby text to the wrong group chat.

Asked if the door was open for Dr Kerekere to join Te Pāti Māori, Waititi said it would have those conversations with her if she wanted to.

But for now, they're celebrating their new colleague.

"Freedom, liberation," Whaitiri said. 

Liberation from Labour's supposed shackles and censorship.

Jenna Lynch Analysis

So will any more MPs jump the waka?

While John Tamihere is perfecting his impression of a shark circling Labour's Māori caucus, he's perhaps stirring rather than circling.

Dangling this Meka coup as an ongoing threat is a thrilling little political game to play but in reality, it's unlikely Te Pāti Māori can pull off another.

The bigger political threat for Labour is in what they have already lost, what Whaitiri knows about the backroom discussions, and the compromises the Māori caucus has made to toe the party line. 

If Whaitiri starts holding the Government's feet to the fire about those things, that's dangerous.

Whaitiri is the latest in a long line of chaotic Government distractions. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins needs to regain control of his bread and butter story. The Budget is the perfect opportunity for a reset.