Hone Harawira is back in parliament, but his rebirth looks to spell the end for the Maori Party's dream of a united Maori voice. For all the talk of conciliation, the more likely outcome is a battle to the death

So, Hone Harawira is back in parliament and John Key says it was all a waste of serious money because we're merely back where we started. Well, it was an unnecessary waste of money so close to an election, but we're certainly not back where we started. The past few weeks in Te Tai Tokerau have changed the political scene in several ways.

A more disciplined Harawira has emerged from the process, surrounded by better political advisers than the Maori Party seems to have these days. Matt McCarten, Willie Jackson and John Tamihere may be an acquired taste for sum, but their political nous is immense and they've started to mould Harawira into something of a politician.

My gut feeling is, however, that they will eventually hit a brick wall. Harawira has charm, intelligence and the ability to speak in a way that people want to hear, even if only to argue with him. He has pulling power. But he's a gun without a sight, a car without a steering wheel. Or, at least, with a steering wheel that can't resist veering off down side tracks, rather than sticking to the highways.

Some on the left see Harawira as the great brown hope; I think they'll wind up with little more than frustration and disillusion.

Frankly, he's likely bitten off more than he can chew with a new party; the glimpses I've seen behind the scenes of his campaign have shown chaos and poor decision-making. Past experience suggests he'll struggle to pull it all together inside five months, in order to win over the 30-40,000 voters he needs if he wants two or three Mana MPs beside in the House after this year's election, as he's consistently predicted.

Mana will target the party vote, as everyone knows. You can never say never with the right candidate, but I can't imagine anyone who could win a seat for Mana. Even Willie Jackson knows it, rejecting the invitation to stand in Tamaki Makaurau.

So there's talk that the Maori Party could go fishing for the seats, while Mana trawls up the list votes. Strategically it makes some sense. Harawira has talked about eight Maori MPs working together as 'Mana Maori'. But I can't see it. Harawira said on Q+A today that Dr Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia had "sold out". That's insulting language, and it's hardly the first time.

As Sandra Lee said on the panel, it's hard to envisage any "peace, love and brotherhood". Even the discreet Mark Solomon of Ngau Tahu sighed and predicted "more fighting". Already the Maori Party have indicated they won't stand aside in Te Tai Tokerau come November, guaranteeing more stoushes with Harawira.

Behind the scenes there have been demands that so-and-so won't sit with someone else, that Mr X would never be interviewed with Mr Y etc. This is personal and historic and tribal and not easily forgotten.

Turia, ultimately, would have to humbly hold out the olive branch to Harawira, and when have we ever seen anything in her character to suggest that she'd be inclined to such a path?

The Maori Party, with its [flawed] conviction that it can represent a single Maori voice, will be hoping for Mana's implosion and will do all it can to aid and abet that.

However this campaign has damaged the Maori Party severely. Te Tai Tokerau is unique, so I'm wary of the assumptions that it is an indicator for the other Maori electorates. From Hone Heke to Matiu Rata, the north has always had a soft spot for rebels.

Pita Sharples is still expected to retain Tamaki Makaurau despite a strong challenge from Shane Jones. Turia will remain in e Tai Hauarau. And Te Ururoa Flavell is still favoured in Waiariki by all accounts (thought I haven't looked myself).

But this win, I suspect, was the final nail for Rahui Katene in Te Tai Tonga. Such a massive swing against the Maori Party must give Labour a scent of blood, another significant change regardless of Key's claim. Labour was slow to start in Tai Tokerau because Phil Goff was nervous of the pakeha backlash at the cost of the by-election, and that cost Kelvin Davis valuable time. But Labour must have a sense now that the Maori seats are recoverable and it's worth spending some money on them, if indeed they have any money to spend.

This is rare good news for Labour and its leaders will be hoping to build some momentum, at least within the party, off the back of this result.

At best, the Maori Party is likely to be reduced to a three seat part after November, with two of its three MPs on the verge of retirement. Yes, this has been a terrible year for that party.

The sad truth is that ethnicity is not enough to hold a party together – the political divide is too wide. But ethnicity is enough to tie the fate of these two parties together in a kind of death clinch.

And so Mana begins, with celebration and song, conviction and a seat in parliament for a few weeks, at least. But birth and death go hand in hand. In the sweep of history my guess is that Mana's story will be less that of a new movement that changed this country, and more a chapter in the story of the failed experiment that was the Maori Party.

I write this with not a little sorrow, not least for Maori voters, but for me the most likely outcome is that Mana and Maori drag each other down.

Comments (16)

by Graeme Edgeler on June 27, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

he'll struggle to pull it all together inside five months, in order to win over the 30-40,000 voters he needs if he wants two or three Mana MPs beside [him?] in the House after this year's election, as he's consistently predicted.

Those numbers aren't high enough, and won't be easy. Let's not forget that in terms of the party vote the Māori Party has only ever had enough support for three MPs. You can't rule out Mana getting four MPs, but it's a big ask, and needs many more than 40,000 votes. Indeed, even to get three MPs will need more than 40,000 votes.

At the 2008 general election, the numbers needed for a single-electorate minor party were as follows:

9160 to avoid causing overhang.

27,815 to get one list MP in addition to the electorate MP.

46,611 to get two list MPs; 65,626 to get three; 85,411 for four and 104,496 to get five.

(in 2005, because of the lower wasted vote, the numbers were even higher)

by Che Nua on June 27, 2011
Che Nua

Alas I feel your last sentence may be the future as Maori cannibalise their remaining political capital

Hone the waka-jumper, Hone the false prophet & lone voice in the wilderness?

Bit rich Matt, Willie & JT after amping up the spin power for Hone's successful election campaign now saying it is important to bring the 2 waka alongside each other.  As they say be careful what you wish for

 

by Chris Webster on June 27, 2011
Chris Webster

Tim: Interesting analysis.  Not sure where to start.  At the beginning I am told.

Te Tai Tonga: Punters there will be cautious to engage and vote Rino Tirikatene-Sullivan as its MP.  Why?  He is ambitous yes and young - yes; naive - oh yes.  He will get swallowed by the stagnant Labour Party noise and disappear - he is cannon fodder for Labour. A bragging stone.  His political ambitions are naive and he is a 'nice guy as was his aunty'.  But a politican - nyet. nada. zip. zero. He is a name that is all. He would be riding off the back of previous relations (who did very well) and yes while he might attract  a small propoertion of the residual conservative and Labour vote it will not be enough.

Rahui Katene is a worthy MP to retain Te Tai Tonga. She has improved her discipline of debate and argument. (She is a lawyer after all) and her thinking and analysis is robust when she prepares for debates.  Rino simply does not have that knowledge or preparation or wherewithall to compete and when one witnesses them together on issues central to their constitutents - Rino is simply invisible.

Tim and Graeme: you both do Maori and their ability to politically organise within a short time frame - a disservice.

Hone and the Maori Party had less time when it organised and drew in excess of 30,000 (I know the numbers differ widely) to Wellington to protest Labour's appalling and racist Foreshore and Seabed Act.

As did Whina Cooper and Eva Rickard and other wahine toa who organised the land march to Wellington.  All the New Zealanders (Maori and non- Maori people) who marched did so because the reasons - land, resources, political voice, rangatiratanga - were of and continue to be of principal importance to them.

'failed experiment of the Maori Party:'

Mmm.  unnecessarily harsh. Hell probably all political parties would envy the Maori Party's record of achievements in terms of policy and budget capture and application.  Those achievements are no mere slip of accidents or hand-outs - these achievements will remain remarkable for the way they were battled for negotiated for and delivered on. And in a short timeframe.  I take my hat off to the Maori Party and to Hone and the successes each have bought from the table for 'their people'.  Compare other political victories by Maori politicians for Maori people - many moons have passed since the impact of an independent political Maori voice achieved so much in such little time.   Therefore I reject your analysis.

Mana's future candidates: I could name at least 8 but will not -   they can do it themselves.  I believe it unlikely Willie Jackson would attract much support hence his non-availability.  Besides he likes to be 'free' of the restriction of policy and caucus rules.

Overall turnout of punters:

Less than 16,000 people voted.  From an electorate which numbers around 33,000.  This is an issue that any political party must confront and none moreso than the candidates for all Maori electorates.  The high rate of Maori citizens not enrolled and the high rate of Maori citizens who (even if enrolled) actually vote.  Something in the system is not working. Apathy abounds. Or is it whanaungatanga - a misplaced loyalty not to vote - torn between cousin and or sister or brother?

The / a formal coalition of the/a 'proposed' Mana Maori party may well be the vehicle to overcome the existing and long-apparent apathy to provide encouragement to vote.

It could also be a defining strategy - that is for the proposed 'Mana Maori Party' to embrace the natural whanaungatanga that does exist in the Maori electorates which would then provide even stronger reasons for whanau and hapu to tactically vote their 'cousin / whanau 'wahine' / 'tane' candidate to create a combined and powerful political voice in a Mana Maori Party in Te Whare o Paremata.

To achieve that would require everyone to stop slagging off in the media - forget the posturing and the egotistical drama queen nonsense and create/cement/ a political alliance that will indeed shut the Labour Party out of the Maori electorates.

Which I believe is the ultimate true desire and objective of both the Maori Party and the Mana Party

by Deborah Coddington on June 27, 2011
Deborah Coddington

I find it all very sad and depressing, actually, because, just like Act, when parties tear themselves apart, just nobody benefits. There is no gain at all. 

A beautifully written piece, Tim.

by Graeme Edgeler on June 27, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

"Tim and Graeme: you both do Maori and their ability to politically organise within a short time frame - a disservice.

Hone and the Maori Party had less time when it organised and drew in excess of 30,000 (I know the numbers differ widely) to Wellington to protest Labour's appalling and racist Foreshore and Seabed Act."

To get Hone and three extra MPs, Mana needs to take every single party vote that the Maori Party received, and get 10,000 more on top of that. The Maori Party hasn't done that in the six years its been around, and while I don't rule out Mana doing it,  it's highly optimistic not to conclude that it's a big ask.

by Richard Aston on June 27, 2011
Richard Aston

"To get Hone and three extra MPs, Mana needs to take every single party vote that the Maori Party received, and get 10,000 more on top of that. The Maori Party hasn't done that in the six years its been around, and while I don't rule out Mana doing it,  it's highly optimistic not to conclude that it's a big ask."

Graeme the wild card may be the dissafected hard left vote - I notice many of Sue Bradfords supporters are now born again Mana supporters - perhaps they catched a glimpse of "true workers left" in Mana - others in the Red green area think the Greens have turned right -they are looking for alternatives -  there may be an unpredicted pakeha vote moving Mana's way.

Hell why would they vote labour right now?

 

 

by Tim Watkin on June 27, 2011
Tim Watkin

Chris, whew. Te Tai Tonga – Tirikatene might be just a name, I don't know enough about him. But you know how powerful whakapapa is in Maori politics, Katene's win was by little over 1000 in 2008 and the swing is definitely away from the Maori Party.

As for doing Maori a diservice, it's got nothing to do with ethnicity. I'm just observing Harawira/Mana's organisation and so far, not good and I'm not sure where, as Graeme says, the 50,000 votes come from. Maybe Mana can get non-voters into the system, and that would be a noble achievement that everyone should embrace. Still...

I may be harsh on the Maori Party... but I'm not judging their record. I'm predicting its future, based on what I'm seeing now in terms of the politics and public mood.

I think your hope for Mana Maori is a pipe dream. Two reasons. First, personalities. Even if Sharples and Turia retire, that assume Harawira and Flavell getting on. And they don't. Harawira has burnt too many bridges. And perhaps vice versa.

Second, the point I've made several times on this site now is that I don't think ethnicity can paper over the cracks of idelogy. Harawira and those in the Maoru Party have different world views, regardless of similiar kaupapa. Class, character and politics matters as much as the colour of your skin.

by Tim Watkin on June 27, 2011
Tim Watkin

Thanks Deborah. Exactly. Richard, they may not vote for Labour at the moment, but they're already politically active. Maybe they didn't vote in 2008. But they're not the missing voters, the disengaged, that Mana would need.

by william blake on June 27, 2011
william blake

I quite agree Tim, that it is unrealistic to expect Maori to vote en block along lines of race, or even tribe but I don't think it is the beginning of the end. The loss at the ballot box is made up for in an increase in just what Hone is on about, Mana. It is more like the end of the beginning.

I think what Sharples and Turia have done to Maori voters is similar to simplistic right wingers wanting FPP back again.

by Chris Webster on June 27, 2011
Chris Webster

Tim:

As I've expressed previously I dont belong to any political party.  Therefore Mana Maori is not my pipe dream.  But it is a dream - vision - hope that has been around in Maori communities for some years.

Sharpes and Turia will resign and or retire but for this election they are here as are Flavell and Katene. Whilst no apparent evidence of sucession planning is in place who knows who will rise to the challenge? I don't.

Whakapapa in Te Tai Tonga is as powerful in Te Tai Tokerau and the other Maori electorates.  In my view Rahui Katene has extended her position - she is a reliable and hard-working MP and has remained in touch widely communicating throughout Te Tai Tonga. A huge physical place to represent. The geography is as diverse as the opinion.

I am not sure about  'swing away from Maori Party - who says that - what proof exists?  . Labour Party rhetoric viz a viz Shane Jones - but of course he would say that.

Be the optimist you appear to be. Flavell & Harawira may just get it together - sillier things have happened.

I am trying to engage in some horizon thinking here and that means putting comments forward that may stretch or cause other people to shift their views. If they don't that is fine.

History has shown how the character, class and politics of an individual was defined by the color of one's skin  - and not necessarily by that individual - but by others who skin color was different.

In my opinion  Hone et al want to define what, who and how they are because they dont like the alternative or the history.

 

 

by Brendon Mills on June 28, 2011
Brendon Mills

Hi Timothy,

"Some on the left see Harawira as the great brown hope; I think they'll wind up with little more than frustration and disillusion."

Quite right there. Make no mistake, Hone is Maori first, and left a distant second. Too many of those on the left, including some who should really know better, are signing up to Hone's rickety bandwagon, which eventually will lead them to a dead end.

Hone is an outspoken advocate for Maori rights, but not really for the left, and it is unrealistic (and even unfair on him) to expect him to be,

by Tim Watkin on June 28, 2011
Tim Watkin

Chris, Rahui has done a great job. But you make my point for me – the power of whakapapa is as powerful in Tai Tonga as in Tai Tokerau. And the power of the Harawira whakapapa this past weekend shows how it wins elections.

The evidence of a swing away from the Maori Party is the Maori anger after the F&S decision (the polls show a trending down) and this past weekend's vote. But the dip in the polls is small, so maybe we don't know for sure yet.

by Bruce Thorpe on June 28, 2011
Bruce Thorpe

" From Hone Heke to Matiu Rata, the north has always had a soft spot for rebels."

Not correct historically. Both these talented and effective political figures bothhad their careers finished early because of lack of Tai Tokerau support.

And Rata in particular was a dedicated and unifying politician, but could never get the numerical support to return to parliament.

Harawira is much more of a spoiler by nature and training, without the mental discipline or capacity to maintain a non racist political position. Any serious opponent or commentator will have no trouble rattling his bars and getting him spitting.

It is amusing to hear the far left rhetoric about a Labour  history of exploiting Maori support as they clamber on Hone's populist bandwagon.

by Tim Watkin on June 28, 2011
Tim Watkin

True Bruce, but both of them had plenty of support when they embarked on some radical change.

 

by Bruce Carruthers on June 28, 2011
Bruce Carruthers

Mana has a better chance of winning the other electorates by not contesting them and leaving Labour to pick up one this time and the others when the leaders retire.

Time is on their side, they will gain one and possibly two more seats off the list and later be in position to contest the electorates as the remaining "Maori" party, when the Maori Party is finally broken and defeated by Labour for its alliance with National. This allows them to claim that it was not their internal conflict that ended the Maori Party but their support for National and being defeated by Labour.

Till then it can offer its 2 or 3 votes in confidence and supply to a Labour led government (hopefully 2011 but more likely 2014).

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