Labour Party leader David Shearer has opened the door to discussions with Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.
Mr Shearer's predecessor, Phil Goff, explicitly ruled out any kind of relationship with Mr Harawira.
The new leader says he will respect ideas wherever they come from, including from the Mana Party.
He says he does not have any baggage with the Mana Party.
"I'll take them as I find them and if they turn out to be somebody I can't work with, I'll make that determination then."
This approach fits well with Shearer’s image as a man with no political baggage. Taking situations as they come and people as they appear. However, it doesn’t fit well with Shearer’s predicted play for the centre vote, read middle New Zealand. Harawira is, generally speaking, poison to most New Zealanders and any association, perceived or otherwise, Shearer builds with Harawira will be lower him (Shearer) in the eyes of his target market.
However, it’s in Shearer’s longer term interests to build a broad coalition of the left. Chances are Labour will not gain enough votes to govern without the Greens plus one or, if the party is unlucky, plus two.
The Harawira issue certainly isn’t going to become relevant until the polls indicate Labour is in a position to form a government. Voters will then ask whether or not they’re comfortable with the idea of a government propped up by Hone Harawira. At the moment, I imagine most New Zealanders would answer in the negative. However, voters have three years to get used to the idea and, quiet importantly, Hone has three years to soften people.
I’m glad Shearer has the foresight to engage with Hone Harawira. After all, there is more that unites Mana and Labour than there is that divides.