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Labor reshuffle as pressure goes on police minister

Labor’s long-awaited reshuffle is happening today as the Opposition increasingly puts pressure on Jacinda Ardern’s struggling police minister

The Prime Minister has been clear a ministerial reshuffle will take place ahead of next year’s election, and her office has confirmed it is happening today.

The Labor caucus, which needs to meet and vote if there are to be any new members added to the Executive, met this morning from 8 am – even though it’s a recess week at Parliament.

The Prime Minister’s office confirmed, in response to Newsroom’s story earlier today, that a “minor reshuffle” is happening and will be announced by Jacinda Ardern at her post-Cabinet press conference at 3pm.

Political pressure has been mounting on Police Minister Poto Williams for months, as she has battled to respond to increasing gang violence and firearm shootings in Auckland.

Last week National leader Christopher Luxon called for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to remove her from the role.

Newsroom understands Williams could lose the police job but may stay on as a minister in a less high-profile role.

It was a gamble when Ardern put her in the job in the first place and demoting her completely from the Executive could highlight poor judgment made in promoting her into such a difficult portfolio following the 2020 election.

If Williams was to go, it’s possible former police minister Stuart Nash could take the job back, it’s more likely a senior, safe pair of hands like Housing Minister Megan Woods could step up.

There’s also a chance, but more risk, that someone new could be given the role.

Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan could be trusted to take it on, or it could be an opportunity for chief whip, Kieran McAnulty, to step up.

Justice, Immigration and Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi is also increasingly under the spotlight for his unwillingness to front over issues in his portfolio.

Newsroom broke the news in August that Faafoi had not wanted to stay on at the last election but was asked to by the senior leadership.

In return, the party let him move onto the list and let go of his Mana electorate so he could move with his family to Greytown in the Wairarapa.

There are questions about how committed he is to the job and he’s expected to announce his retirement from politics ahead of the election next year.

Another minister who has had questions swirling about her workload is Foreign Affairs and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

With the Three Waters legislation now making its way through Parliament, Mahuta could be relieved of the local government job to focus her attentions on the foreign role.

There are currently so many issues swirling internationally and Mahuta has been criticized both publicly and by the opposition for not focusing on the Pacific and the growing influence China is having in the region.

There will be MPs who announce they aren’t standing again ahead of next year’s election, but those decisions aren’t traditionally made until closer to the time.

Labor Party President Claire Szab√≥ has already been hitting the phones in recent months getting a gauge of people’s intentions.

There’s also a by-election set to take place in Rongotai, with Labor backbench MP Paul Eagle due to announce in coming weeks he is running for the Wellington mayoralty.

Ardern may have been waiting until closer to the election for a reshuffle, to be able to deal with any departing MPs as part of her decision-making.

But that opportunity has been trumped by the need to act on certain portfolios now, rather than later.

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