(This post was prepared very quickly – apologies in advance).
Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples have just issued a joint statement suspending Hone Harawira from the party caucus indefinitely. This is not entirely unexpected in view of Hone’s ill-considered behaviour over Waitangi weekend.
I do feel Hone made a deliberate effort to mildly embarrass the leadership, especially Pita, with his own state of the Maori nation speech. Although Hone was justified in delivering such a speech in doing so he should have taken into account the overall context in which his actions were taking place. I think it comes down to, in part, retaliation. Hone was neither aware nor invited to Pita’s speech which clearly signals a degree of animosity between the two.
Suspension is always the first step towards expulsion. It is curious that the leadership still appear fixed on expulsion despite the strong show of support for Hone over the weekend. The people of Te Tai Tokerau made it painfully clear that they support Hone first and foremost, any allegiance to the Maori Party is secondary.
But then again the pressure to expel Hone is coming on all fronts. The leadership need him gone, he is an impediment to their agenda, National want him gone because he is an impediment to future coalition arrangements with the Maori Party and lastly iwi leaders want him gone because he threatens their access and influence over government. In the coming days I expect to see iwi leaders swing behind the Maori Party leadership. Iwi leaders need the Maori Party to survive this controversy if they wish to preserve their access to the current government.
John Key has also reiterated his support for the leadership and Pita has responded in kind by praising the relationship between the two parties. I have said this before but I think it needs to be restated. Pita Sharples and John Key share a close working and personal relationship, Tariana Turia hates, and I use hate in its strongest sense, the Labour Party. For Pita and Tariana National is the only option. It is all about personal feeling for them.
The result of the coming disciplinary committee hui must now be a foregone conclusion. Pita has sent a strong signal, Hone should “cut himself loose”, this is a direct threat and the most public hint yet that the party hierarchy want him gone. I can only speculate as to the consequences of expelling Hone. I do expect a public display of anger from Te Tai Tokerau, I expect some key figures within the party such as Moana Jackson and Annette Sykes, as well as many flaxroot supporters, to leave. I think Te Ururoa and Rahui Katene will also struggle to retain their seats in light of the current controversy. The Maori Party are cultivating a significant amount of distrust among their supporters and it could be near fatal. Certainly this whole affair is turning off many non-aligned but sympathetic supporters.
What interests me at the moment is Hone’s next move should he be expelled. Bunji at The Standard has pointed out Hone is getting very cosy with the Greens. This means nothing. Hone has always held a certain amount of affection for the Greens, especially his former activist mate Sue Bradford, but it really amounts to nothing more than admiration of their values. Realistically, the Greens will never take him (unless they want to drop below the 5% threshold) and Hone would rather fly the tino rangatiratanga flag solo. As I said in a previous post I think the most pragmatic thing for Hone to do is run as an independent.
In this post I also want to address comments made by Pita Sharples. Firstly, this one;
"It's a very difficult thing to get across to many of our people who see an intimate relationship with the Government as a selling-out of their people, when in actual fact, in the field of Parliament and government, it is the only relationship which can yield power and opportunity for Maori by Maori,"
This is woefully inaccurate - Pita has completely misread Maori feeling. If we cast our minds back to the end of 2008, in the wake of the election, there was significant support among Maori for a Maori Party/National Party governing arrangement. An intimate relationship with government was not viewed as “selling out” rather it was viewed as the best way to advance Maori interests and aspirations. What Maori view as selling out is saying one thing while voting for another (Tax changes), dumping huge costs on already struggling Maori families (ETS and ACC changes), weakening work rights (90 right to sack) and supporting the pathetic MCA bill. If Pita can’t understand this his party is doomed.
Pita also insinuates that this is the last chance for a kaupapa Maori party to succeed. Again, Pita seems to be on another planet. The Maori Party is not the beginning and end of Maori political empowerment. Merely the first step towards tangible political gain for Maori. The Maori political movement, if you can call it that, is far bigger than Pita and his National Party mates. If the Maori Party were to implode it is not inconceivable that circumstances in the future would not give rise to another kaupapa Maori party. Pita’s suggestion shows utter disregard for my generation and politically active Maori everywhere.
Pita has also said he is confident the party will retain Te Tai Tokerau without Hone. Uhhhm what? Pita must be mentally unstable if he thinks The Maori Party can run someone against Hone and win. Te Tai Tokerau is Hone’s fortress, an absolutely unassailable fortress. Pita was always prone to saying silly things but lately he seems to be doing so with increasing frequency.
Having said all of this I do agree with one thing Pita said with regard to the 200 or so protestors calling for a Maori revolution. Pita said for many Maori protest is a way of the past. I agree. Progress does not lie in a “revolution” or large scale protest. Progress will involve engaging and manipulating government on their terms and consequently rebalancing the system. Rebalancing the system so we no longer need specialist organisations to advance our aspirations. Rebalancing the system so political institutions and structures work in our favour. Rebalancing the system so Maori and Pakeha meet on equal footing. This is the promise of the Treaty. Pity no government has seen fit to deliver that promise. Government will ultimately deliver the promise of the treaty, therefore Maori need to be in government.