Maori Party candidate Solomon Tipene sent an apology to a Te Tai Tokerau byelection debate last night because he was in hospital.
This prompted Mana candidate Hone Harawira to accuse his former Maori Party colleagues of "bulls*** tactics".
In response, Labour candidate Kelvin Davis said Mr Harawira was throwing a "tantrum" that did a disservice to the hui, organised by primary teachers' union NZEI Te Rui Roa.
Mr Harawira was late arriving at the West Auckland venue. Then he let rip to the audience that he was up against two former teachers - his former Maori Party colleague, Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell, and Mr Davis.
Mr Flavell filled in because Mr Tipene was in Whangarei Hospital on antibiotics for a stomach ailment, party co-president Ken Mair said.
To a stunned crowd, Mr Harawira said Mr Flavell and co-president Pem Bird could have called him to let him know the change of plans.
"I don't like these sort of bulls*** tactics ... It's supposed to be a debate for the candidates ... but now I am up against a teacher and a teacher.
"I'm driving [from Kaitaia] because I don't have any money to do it any other way.
If I'd known this was the deal I would have brought my missus. Why? Because she's a tumuaki [principal].
Oh dear; there goes the teacher vote! NZEI organises a hui for the Te Tai Tokerau candidates and Harawira is both late and insulting towards the profession. He won't have won any friends.
As for the moaning about not having any money, perhaps Harawira should have taken that into account before resigning as an MP to force a needless by-election. After all, he has enjoyed almost six years of an MP's salary and expenses. And he will have been only too aware of the cost of travel because he has been one of the highest-spending MP's in that regard, an accolade which he defended because of the size of his electorate, and the amount of travel required. If he has failed to budget, he has no-one to blame but himself.
Hone Harawira is a loose cannon. We will be delighted if he finishes second in the Te Tai Tokerau by-election on Saturday. Vote Kelvin Davis for TTT!