Pem Bird, the Maori Party President, has announced that the party is investigating whether or not Hone Harawira has breached the non-aggression pact. Admittedly Hone has not held back when dealing with the Maori Party. However, Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia have, at times, responded in kind.
Apparently the party will appoint an official to investigate the matter. What a waste of time and resources. All the ‘official’ will be doing is examining semantics and then issuing a predetermined conclusion. The party should be expending energy on parliamentary business, electorate business and the upcoming campaign. You do not need an ‘official’ to determine whether or not Hone has said nasty things. The answer to that is self evident.
If it is found that Hone has breached the agreement Te Tai Tokerau becomes fair game. While for Hone the other Maori electorates become fair game. This would play right into Hone’s hands. No one will come within arms reach of Hone in the north. However, if Hone were to stand candidates in the other Maori electorates he would either win them or push them into Labour’s hands.
On current polling a Harawira candidate in Tamaki Makaurau would do enough to push the seat towards Shane Jones. Take Willie Jackson for instance. Jackson would play to soft and hard left voters, as well as women, the same pool of voters Pita Shraples plays to. Whereas Shane plays to the centre and to the right. The centre right, in terms of Maori, is overshadowed by the left. However, with the left vote split Shane will charge up the middle and secure the seat.
In Hauraki-Waikato a Harawira candidate would, again, cannibalise the Maori Party vote. Angeline Greensill is, by my reckoning, a fairly staunch tino rangatiratanga advocate. Any Harawira candidate will, in all likelihood, share a similar outlook. Again, the Maori Party candidate and the Harawira candidate would be playing to the same base. Therefore, the vote opens up and the Labour candidate runs up the middle and, in the case of Hauraki-Waikato, with an increased majority.
Waiariki is perhaps the most interesting. It would be a three way battle between Te Ururoa Flavell, Annette Sykes and Louis Te Kani. As I have said, I tend to think Annette would secure the seat in this scenario. Annette’s rhetoric is hard and uncompromising and she works within a different ideological framework. Louis Te Kani is very much focussed on economic gowth for Maori and getting out of the so called grievance mode. It is hard to say where Te Ururoa stands anymore, but I think it is most accurate to say he stands in the centre right camp. Whereas Annette Sykes is hard left and an aggressive tino rangatiratanga advocate. Te Kani and Flavell are fighting for the centre right vote and Annette will monopolise the left vote and the tino rangatiratanga vote (of which there is no shortage). The seat would fall her way.
Ikaroa-Rawhiti would go Labour’s way. Parekura Horomia enjoys a strong personal, as opposed to ideological, following. This is not the sort of following that can be easily broken. Neither the Maori Party candidate nor a Harawira candidate can break that following without a gigantic slip up on Parekura’s part. Parekura is the epitome of a grassroots campaigner. He attends every rugby and netball match, every significant birthday, every Marae event, you name and he’s there. This sort of personal connection with the voters is not easily broken with talk of policy, aspirations and political speak.
In my opinion the same is true of Tariana Turia in Te Tai Hauauru. She benefits from an enormous amount of respect among the people. Notwithstanding events of recent times, she has worked hard as an electorate MP and her stance over the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 was commendable. In the end her personal following will be enough to see her through. I am unsure how strong the Labour candidate Soraya Peke-Mason is. I do not know if Harawira has anyone willing to stand in Te Hauauru either.
Te Tai Tonga is the most marginal Maori seat and would go Labour’s way. Southern Maori are not, as far as I know, that keen of the harsh tino rangatiratanga that Hone and some of his supporters espouse. I have always considered southern Maori more conservative than Maori in the north. Not in a traditional left right sense, rather when it comes to Maori nationalist matters. Given this it seems plausible that Hone would struggle to find a candidate willing to stand. I cannot think of any likely contenders from the top of my head. Even in the event of a three way race I think Rino Tirikatene is poised to lock in the seat. Merely as a reflex against Rahui Katene’s support for the MCA act, the GST rise, the ETS and so on.
If my theories were to play out the Maori Party would be left with one seat (Te Tai Hauauru), Hone Harawira would gain two (Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki) and Labour would snatch three (Hauraki-Waikato, Ikaroa-Rawhiti and Te Tai Tonga). This would be a death sentence for the Maori Party and a lifeline for Hone Harawira and his new party (assuming he forms a new party). I do not want to see the Maori Party destroyed, but that is the price paid for thinking you are bigger than your constituents. The Maori Party has lost touch. It is also the way of minor parties tainted by government. If the Maori Party is to go the way of history, the question is who fills the vacuum? Hone Harawira or Labour…