|Labour leadership candidate Shane Jones|
Reducing it to its bones, our post-Treaty political history can be divided into four stages: the mid to late 19th century and the imitation of British political institutions, the late 19th century to the early 20th century and the flock to religion and its leaders, the mid to late 20th century characterised by urbanisation and unionism and the Treaty settlement phase with the adoption of a Maori model of Anglo-American capitalism.
The Treaty settlement phase hasn’t ended. But Shane Jones and his bid for the Labour leadership signals that that phase might be closing. The Treaty settlement era is characterised by the adoption of the neotribal model. Accumulating economic power was and is seen as the most effective way to achieve tino rangatiratanga. That might well be right, but Shane’s run for the leadership signals a new approach.
“Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value”.
That sums up Shane’s approach to achieving tino rangatiratanga: you have to get to the source of power. In this case, the Prime Ministership or a position close to it. The Cabinet controls the executive and (in our Westminster system) the Parliament.
The Maori Party has adopted the approach as well (in watered down form). Two of their MPs might hold ministerial warrants, but they’re not members of Cabinet. They’re on the periphery of power and their value is low as a result. In the government, the heavy lifting and influence is held in the top, say, five members of Cabinet. In the current government power seems concentrated in the Key/English/Joyce tripartite. Shane is aiming to form or be a part of an equivalent power group.
Shane’s run can’t be understood without the help of history. A supporter of Shane’s bid made an outstanding point this morning - Shane is the successor to Sir Apirana Ngata’s legacy:
E tipu e rea, mo nga ra o te ao,
Grow up o tender child in the days of your world,
Ko to ringa ki nga rākau a te Pākehā,
In your hands the tools of the Pākehā,
Hei oranga mo to tinana.
As means to support and sustain you.
Ko to ngakau ki nga taonga a o tipuna,
In your heart the treasures of your ancestors,
Hei tikitiki mo to mahunga.
As a plume for your head.
Ko to wairua ki te Atua,
Your spirit given to God,
Nana nei nga mea katoa.
The source of all things.
Shane lives that. For that reason alone – casting aside the strategic significance of the bid – Shane might be worth supporting.
Post script: although I tautoko Shane’s run, I’ve already declared for Cunliffe. I’ve set out my reasons at The Daily Blog and I don’t retract them. This post is an attempt to put Shane's run in its proper context. Shane is polarising. My politics aren’t closely aligned with his (except on Maori issues) and I'm unsure how he will change the left. "Geldings", too. Enough said.