Suspended Sharma sparks more suspense – will he quit as an MP and pave the path for National to reclaim Hamilton West?

The signals were clear enough before the on-line Labour caucus meeting this week and – sure enough – Hamilton West Dr Guarav Sharma was suspended.

No surprises, then – except did it also mark the formal burial of the Prime Minister’s “be kind” policy?

Sharma had been labelled a “rogue” MP by some political journalists, although how he qualified for that disparaging epithet was far from clear.

It is true, of course, he had levelled accusations of bullying against government whips, the Parliamentary Service and the PM’s Office without any substantive evidence being put forward.

Yet, for the general public, it might have appeared straightforward enough for the caucus to give him the chance to discuss whatever problems were troubling him.

Instead, the party had its own preliminary session on Monday night, ahead of the hastily summoned Tuesday caucus meeting.

Sharma, who learned of the Monday-night gathering, clearly saw it as Kangaroo Court, gathered for the jury to deliver a guilty verdict.

Many parliamentary observers perceived Sharma to be a gifted and well educated if quirky MP. He won his electorate from an experienced National MP in 2020.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that Sharma had issues with staff. That resulted in a hiring freeze.

Sharma refused to accept a “mentor” or to make any undertakings on his part to improve and hire new staff members, she said.

Sharma’s future as a Labour MP now hangs in the balance. He was unanimously suspended.

How he responds will determine his future. He has said he is waiting for the “right time” to respond.

What Labour will worry about is that Sharma decides he no  longer wants to be a member of Parliament, regardless of what his constituents in Hamilton West think of him.  A byelection at this point could be a disaster for the government.

That may not be a matter of great moment for Sharma, who declared the caucus meeting a “stitch up.”

But it will be of great moment for the Nats, if he gives them the opportunity to win back the West Hamilton seat which he won from Tim MacIndoe in 2020 with a 6,267-vote majority.

He has done National a huge favour, anyway, by triggering a political sideshow which has blunted any advantage accruing to Labour from the bullying blow-up that has bruised Tauranga MP Sam Uffindell’s brief political career.

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