Aug 27, 2013

Power: the Shane Jones edition

Labour leadership candidate Shane Jones

If you’re interested in Maori history, one of the most accessible books is Struggle Without End. But if you’re interested in the tool shed account...

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.  


  1. No way Shane Jones is a pro mining neoliberal and an apologist for slavery at sea, if a right wing pro business Maori is meant to encapsulate Tino Rangatiratanga, then any sort of social justice and equity for the vast majority of Maori struggling to survive will continue to elude us.

  2. So Shane Jones is attracted to power? Of course he is. He wouldn't be in politics otherwise.

    But in post-modern democracies like ours, the character of a wannabe political leader takes on greater meaning (whether we like it or not). NZ's brand of Western culture is as individualist and self-centred as any other - and it's rubbing off on Te Ao Maori too. Couple that with Maori voters love affair with politicians perceived to be 'strong' then it starts to come down to how you define what 'strong' actually is.

    So what does Shane Jones' behaviour in public reveal about his character? A porn infatuation and flippant comments aside, the one most consistent, revealing thing about him is the way he treats media. A few years back there were two Shane Jones' you saw on TV. On Maori news (both Te Kaea and Te Karere) it was more likely you would see him slouched over, shirt collar unbuttoned, smirk on his face airily dismissing reporters' questions. On mainstream media out would come the suit and tie, back straight, answering questions with a sense of authority.

    Nowadays he seems to have decided both media are deserving of the same treatment - dare I say even an ounce of respect. Maybe being caught out in a compromising masturbatory position by the media had a humbling effect on his character. I guess that's what Labour's broad church have to decide.

    Manaia C (sorry not registered)

  3. That is really rude saying all that above. But what is to be made of this. I know it wasnt introducing the side of the story in the language of ‘people before profits’ via Shane Jones. That would be a great injustice to Maori leadership who know the rangitahi means as much overseas as it does in the real world business of livelihood in New Zealand. E tangi atu nei. Great people aren’t lead to the steps of other self-interest to replace bi-cultural democracy; what would be the difference then; coming from the outside track in schools, health and the basic focus of families.
    All tangata whenua ‘hard yards’ are unique from other invitation to divisive experiment exactly because of what is tapu in their physical security. Not ordering life around after-after policy fact - virtual TedX occupying gospel of how to live globally in rebound without being subject to the kind of radical separatist descent European political leadership find themselves rowing back as fast they can from; human rights commission-style with them.
    Leaders can know all their history and still fall short with the externals because they never eye the writing in blood. It would be good if all the burning coals on the mouth of some eg. ‘how to get women to the top etc [without iwi leadership and toto electorate process] had details to support factuals for the place both Maori and Pacific are at exactly this time.

  4. PPVO - the reason commenters like Ana and Manaia (and myself) are so critical of Shane Jones is because Shane has promised so much and delivered so little. Actually, nothing.

    Shane is the most right wing MP in Labour; he follows Roger Douglas' policies still. How does that benefit Maori? But all Shane cares about is getting his snout in the trough, in my view.

    Mad Marxist.

  5. I really can't see what Shane Jones can bring to Labour's leadership other than to exacerbate already existing tensions amongst the party's broad church of factions. He's hardly a unifying kind of guy and I can't see too many Labourites wanting to rally around his flag. It's got nothing to do with him being Maori either. It has everything to do with his arrogance, perceived or otherwise.

    Interestingly, that's what many commentators are saying about Cunliffe. That he's arrogant. But I think he has a greater ability to unite and lead effectively. It's what's scaring the bejesus out of John Key and the Nats should Cunliffe win the Labour leadership.

    Manaia C.



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