David Farrar makes an interesting point;
What is interesting is that Labour may have relatively few Maori MPs after the next election, unless they do some recruitment into high list placings. It is rumoured that Horomia may retire also, and Mahuta is staying on but concentrating mainly on family for the next few years.
On top of Mahuta, you’ve got Shane Jones, Kelvin Davis and Moana Mackey. Only four Maori MPs would be historically quite low for Labour. Labour may give high list rankings to some of their Maori seat candidates – but then of course that may help the Maori Party keep those seats.
I do not like this. In my opinion Labour has always taken the Maori vote for granted. The party establishment treats Maori support as a given, almost a right. If Labour continues to treat Maori support with casual disregard then the electoral consequences will be severe.
Traditionally, Maori voted Labour because Labour was the best of a bad bunch. However, in 2010, Maori have genuine political alternatives. National has shown that, under the right circumstances, they can accept some aspects of tino rangatiratanga and advance Maori aspirations. The Greens worldview is in most respects comparable with Te Ao Maori and NZ First offers a creed of nationalism that appeals to many Maori. And of course there is The Maori Party. Unlike in the past Maori can easily shift their vote to other Parliamentary parties.
In such a crowded political market place Labour needs to do more. Labour appears to be operating under a mindset stuck in 1984 where the Maori vote only determined the outcome in four safe Maori seats. As such Labour could easily disregard the Maori vote without suffering electoral consequences. However, this is 2010, the political landscape is wildly different. Maori are a growing demographic and consequently a growing electoral power. One would think, in the interests of longevity, that Labour would be making a concerted effort to solidify the Maori vote. In 2008 women and to a lesser extent the working class ditched Labour. If Labour continues to disrespect Maori support then Maori may follow suit.
Labour needs to rebuild trust among Maori. Following the foreshore and seabed controversy and more recently Phil Goff’s Nationhood speech Maori trust in Labour has dwindled. Having only four Maori MP’s feeds the perception that Labour just does not care about the Maori vote. National has really stolen the initiative in terms of the Maori vote. By entering into an agreement with the Maori Party the Nats have created the perception that they are willing to enter into a good faith relationship with, at first glance, ideological foes for the good of the country. Over the past two years the Nats have continuously offered the Maori Party small concessions thus reinforcing the perception that the party is no longer hostile towards Maori aspirations.
Labour needs to get it together. The party is incompetent in every respect. Without the Maori vote Labour cannot hope to ever occupy the Treasury benches. Women love John Key, urban liberals are few and far between and the working class by and large no longer identify with Labour. If Labour does not change tact add they can surely add Maori to the list of disaffected supporters.