Hone stares down panicking opposition | Dr Rawiri Taonui

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Te Tai Tokerau Byelection Result

Recently anointed prophet, Hone Harawira, faced down an unprecedented level of opposition to win Te Tai Tokerau, including Labour and the Maori Party; doyenne MP Dover Samuels, Prime Minister John Key and Winston Peters endorsing Kelvin Davis; Sensible Sentencing Trusts Garth McVicar nonsensically claiming Harawira has the mana of a terrorist; Ngapuhi tribal leader Sonny Tau endorsing Solomon Tipene who got just 8.7% of the vote; and multiple mainstream anti-Harawira editorials and opinion columns.

Harawira is a threat at several levels. The National and Maori parties are concerned Mana will win seats from the latter jeopardising their return to power in November. Prime Minister John Key does not want to ride alone with Don Brash.

Labour worries Mana will bite into their traditional constituency.

For many Pakeha, Harawira is everything they hate, the uppity native who talks back; the big brown man they dont want their daughters to bring home.

For the Maori middle class, he is the field worker who ventured into the big house and broke the masters crockery upsetting the comfortable politics of cross-cultural compromise which is their daily bread.

Labour has made much of the reducing Harawiras majority from 6,300 to 870, but is over-reading the numbers.

A low byelection turnout about 40% with special votes compared to 63% in 2008 – always favoured their machinery, the best at getting voters into polling booths.

Percentages are what count in byelections. The most important figure is that the Maori Party fell from 63% to 8.7% with 49% going to Harawira. Davis gained 12% in a conjoint anti-Maori Party anti-Harawira vote, the latter probably negligible.

With a higher 60% turnout come November and more time for his fledging party to prepare, Harawira can be confident of a significant majority.

This was a vote against the National Act Maori Party partnership, the Takutai Moana foreshore repeal and ejection of Harawira from the Maori Party, surely one of the all-time Maori political blunders.

The Maori Partys strength was to work with whichever mainstream party formed government with an agree to disagree clause whenever policy was disjunctive. By dumping Harawira, they lost a crucial balance in that equation and look too compliant; perception is everything in politics.

Labour and Maori made much of the need to be in government to affect change. This is not strictly true. Change rests on good governance and effective opposition. Maoridoms most significant gains over the last 30 years the Waitangi Tribunal, settlement of historical grievances, te reo revitalisation, the genesis of the Maori Party have come from opposition within and outside parliament working in tandem. Harawira is a master of that trade.

The Maori Party needs to do some deep soul searching. The campaign was a shambles. They failed to support Tipene.

Bigger than that, the gains secured with National have not filtered down past the Maori elite to the poor.

The mantra they were elected to repeal the foreshore legislation and have done so is falling on deaf ears. The party fell into the same trap as Labours Maori MPs in 2004 best deal they could get but not good enough. No one accepts it has substance.

The hang ups with Harawiras personality are having an opposite effect with Maori who see it as pernicious undermining by pandering to Pakeha prejudice.

Phil Goffs proclamation not to work with Harawira is silly. Helen Clarke said the Maori Party would be the last cab off the rank in 2005. Labour is now willing to pay the fare. Based on the polls, Goffs only hope of becoming Prime Minister is a Labour, Greens, Maori and Mana coalition. As a leader Goff could be long gone well before Harawira.

Maori in Labour, National and the Maori Party represent an aging educated Maori middle class three decades into the renaissance who are comfortable working within or alongside mainstream systems.

They reflect the new rich black middle class that grew out of the 1960s African American Civil Rights Movement leaving the majority of their people in poverty.

Mana is re-energising a 1970s-1980s political consciousness in a new generation. They represent the poorest of poor, the young who suffer the worst unemployment (67% in the north), and those who feel left out of government and Maori bureaucracies in one Horizon Research poll 70% of Maori said they felt estranged from iwi processes. They like Harawiras straight talking.

The offer to work with the Maori Party is gracious but unnecessary. Maori needs Mana more than Mana needs Maori. The concern Labour will profit from a split vote is over-stated. There is a swing to Mana and Labour, but that will not be uniform across the country. No party will take all seven Maori seats; too much water has passed under the bridge for that.

The seats will be shared three ways. A strong urban Maori populous will see Mana take Auckland – Harawira won the booth at Pita Sharples Hoani Waititi Marae. Te Tai Tonga will go to Labour. Tariana Turia will hold her seat as will Nanaia Mahuta and Parekura Horomia.

Mana faces several challenges to live up to its name. Prudence and the Maori Party debacle in the north suggest they pick their fights. They must secure credible candidates, motivate a constituency that doesnt usually vote, and secure money Maoridom cannot afford two independent political parties.

2 COMMENTS

  1. As usual your comments are bang on! They need to reach a larger audience. Im sick of reading articles and letters to the editor that are based on fear and ignorance. They often lack analysis and are full of emotional comments.

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