Jan 18, 2013

Sharples vs Flavell: the leadership edition

Some comments on Pita Sharples confirming that he will contest the 2014 election - as co-leader.

  • This is a missed opportunity to implement generational change. The Maori electorate remains young (the media age for the Maori population is 23 compared with 37 for the NZ population as a whole) and the Maori Party should move to reflect this. 
  • Sharples is a product of the Maori renaissance of the 70s, 80s and 90s. He embodies the ideas and ideals of that (fading) political period. Flavell, on the other hand, is a clean break from the period and a better representation of Maori post-foreshore and seabed.
  • Having said that, as far as reaching across the racial and political divide goes, Sharples is the most effective Maori Party MP. But at some point Te Ururoa will have to become the party leader. With that in mind Sharples should step aside to give Te Ururoa time to bed in before the election. 
  • From an operational point of view it makes sense to have Te Ururoa deal with party issues while Turia and Sharples deal with ministerial issues. Flavell needs sustained political coverage if he is to hold his seat against Annette Sykes.
  • Given his service to the party and Maori, Sharples deserves to stand down on his own terms. However, that doesn't mean he should have an indefinite lease on the leadership. 
  • This episode speaks to deep dysfunction in the party. One co-leaders calls for the other to step down, that co-leader refuses while the leader of preference refuses to, or is forbidden from, fronting on the issue. 
  • Thoughts?
Post-Script: it's also worth remembering Flavell and Pem Bird's failed attempt to mount a leadership coup last year. The plan was leaked to One News and Flavell and Bird had to abort. 


  1. Q: Who are the two most important people in the Maori Party?

    A: Pita Sharples and the last National Party cabinet minister he spoke to.

  2. I don't agree about your analysis of Te Ururoa re: being a fresh face from the Maori renassiance. His work in decolonisation (that he should be reminded of after they jumped into bed with the Nats) and the foreshore and seabed hikoi, doesn't scream "fresh face".
    I do think however that Te Maori Paati is gone after the next election. Let's assume that they strike a deal and Te Ururoa becomes leader. Airing dirty laundry is never a good look and their obvious in-fighting is a turn off to voters.
    One has to laugh and now think that Te Ururoa's strategy to become leader by firstly getting rid of Hone, secondly failing with a leadership coup and now this, is one of the worst political blunders in NZ history. In pursuing his leadership ambitions he has split the party in two and given rise to, perhaps what will now become a more popular and longer lasting party in Mana, lost the party one, possibly two seats at the last election, pitted one co-leader against another, and now their party faces oblivion. And again assuming he gets the leadership, who would vote for the Maori Party with Te Ururoa as leader? His interviews on television put me to sleep!

    1. I don't think he is as tightly associated to the 70s, 80s and 90s as Pita is. You're right though, about Te Ururoa's terrible leadership strategy. Historians will probably trace part of the Party's downfall to him. The thing is though - Te Ururoa appeals to the Maori Party base. Competent on the Marae, good with the old people and dedicated to kaupapa Maori politics. Sure, he doesn't have the street cred and rhetorical gifts that Hone has, but Te Ururoa does have enough to at least hold his own seat.

  3. You allude to but don't explicitly discuss the age of the candidates, which underlies these considerations. If Sharples is re-elected he is committing to staying in Parliament until 2017, when he will turn 76 years old. This may not be unusual for American politics, but in NZ this is far, far older than most MPs, who by and large are in their 40s and 50s.

    And while Flavell certainly represents a younger generation of Maori leaders, we shouldn't forget that he is hardly a spring chicken himself. Currently 57, in 2017 Flavell will turn 62.

  4. The demise of the Māori Party will sadly be apportioned to Te Ururoa, in-fighting over Leadership issues & future proofing succession :( Ka aroha but am I worried mmmmm???

  5. With Tariana moving on the leadership takes on a new dynamic. After being treated they way she was by Clark and Labour around FSSB, it was always unlikely the Maori Party would form a relationship with Labour any time soon. With Pita, I think things will change, he can build relationship with Shearer just as much as he has built relationship with Key. And if anyone can reach out to Hone and Mana, it is Pita too. Te Ururoa can't. He's a good policy wonk and manager, but leader, no.



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