There are so many things going on in Maori politics at the moment and I don’t really know where to start. John Ansell and his mates are attacking Maori (and Pakeha too), Tariana Turia has ruled out supporting a capital gains tax, Pem Bird has confirmed there will be no deal between the Maori Party and the Mana Party and the latest Horizon poll puts the Mana Party ahead of the Maori Party while the TV3 poll puts Mana one point behind the Maori Party. In this post I’ll deal with Act and over the next few days I will cover the other issues.
I’ll start with John Ansell and Act. Over the past few days the Party, but mainly Ansell and Brash, have drunkenly stumbled from one disaster to the next. For the complete run down see this post from Danyl at the Dim-Post. The brief picture is this: on Friday Act placed an ad in the NZ Herald admonishing the apparent pandering to Maori radicals. Brash later released an emotive press release defending the content of the ad. John Ansell then took to the Kiwiblog comments section and let rip against Maori, the Maori Party and the National Party among others. The Act party finally responded asking Ansell to step down as “creative director”.
This whole saga has revealed, or perhaps reinforced, the idea that the Act party is merely a collection of fringe lunatics. The party’s slow descent from libertarianism to populist paranoia is now complete. The Act Party are so singular in their worldview, so confident in their assumptions and so nasty in their beliefs that they are now political poison - a sinking ship. I, along with Irishbill and a plethora of other commentators, am now predicting the Act Party funeral will occur on November 26. A significant number of New Zealanders respond to the silly idea that Maori enjoy more rights than non-Maori, but most New Zealanders do not respond to the dirty extremism and fantasies that the Act Party espouses. Few New Zealanders will complain about the “Maorification of everything”. I have yet to come across a non-Maori who does not enjoy and support Maori language week. Maori language week enjoys near universal support in fact. I have yet to come across a non-Maori that ridicules the use of Maori culture on the sports field, in schools and, indeed, across society. Most New Zealanders see such complaints for what they are – rabid hate.
Act has adopted the ‘them and us’ mindset. The same mindset that so often sinks aspirations for tino rangatiratanga. Act has become so warped, so engrossed in their own bullshit that they are beginning to believe racism has appeal. Racism is a dirty word and when you find yourself, like Don Brash, having to claim that you are, in fact, not racist then something has gone wrong.
The response from Maori has been pleasing. Most Maori realise that Brash and Act are irrelevant and no threat to tino rangatiratanga. When people ask me what I think I respond with meh. What Brash, Ansell and Act do is of no consequence to Maori. They wield no power. Pita Sharple's open letter to Brash was, in my opinion, good. He refrained from playing Don’s filthy game and kept the tone civil, the language fairly neutral and focus positive. Some have said Sharples did not go far enough, but I tend to think that an attack would have resulted in more harm than good. The Maori Party need to be seen as the reasonable side in this debate. Let Brash and Act shoot themselves in the foot. Hone has also kept his response fairly civil saying that Brash has no place in politics. And this is, undoubtedly, true. Brash and his cohort of nutters belong nowhere near government.
It does bring into question whether the Maori Party can, as a matter of principle, remain a part of government with a pack of racists. From what I can gauge most Maori would say no, but I would disagree. Pita Sharples rationalises the Maori Party’s commitment to the coalition by stating that he would rather be at the table opposing the lunacy Act pushes than outside blubbering away without influence. This is, I think, a sensible position to take. The Maori Party play an important role as a sort of counter-weight.
One thing I find amusing is just how sloppy Act have been. The ad the party placed in the Herald was rubbish. As an aside full credit to the Dom Post for refusing to publish the ad. Again, Danyl at the Dim-Post provides the authorative comments on why the ad is rubbish and I will not repeat his points. However, I will offer some points of my own. Firstly, the ad is visual chaos – almost gimmicky. The language used is also awful. Overly emotive in my opinion. The reader is bombarded with images, feelings and information and as a result no clear message prevails. The reader is lost in a sea of hyperbole and competing influences. Hyperbolic abuse is never effective. The reader begins to see past the alarming language and message and instead will begin to see the ad for what it really is – naked race baiting.
Another sloppy play was allowing John Ansell, and disgraced former MP David Garret when he was in Parliament, to run wild on Kiwiblog. Any political party with even a pinch of good sense does not let its senior staffers, and MP’s, post fantasy on political blogs. Such behaviour invites controversy.
The Act Party are dead. And this is good for Maori. One less barrier to positive progress. Act are making Hone Harawira look moderate as well. This can only be a good thing. I will take great pleasure in watching Act sink even further. I do not think any party could recover from the sort of scandals that have, and continue, to rock Act. Goodbye, Act.
For excellent commentary see this post from Lew at Kiwipolitico.