Sep 12, 2013

Shane Jones: the wedge politics edition

I'm stuck in a half way house. Somewhere between the progressive left and the tino rangatiratanga movement. Shane Jones has put me there and I'm afraid to move.

Jones' bid for the Labour leadership has opened a divide between the left and the tino rangatiratanga movement. Maori politics exists apart from the left-right divide, apparently. But I don't think that's true. Maori politics exists beneath the left-right divide.

Maori political history isn't rich with choice. Asking or telling us to wait for a more "progressive" candidate is deeply offensive. Maori have waited - and with relative patience - for the opportunity to elect a Maori prime minister for more than a century. The Maori renaissance and (more recently) the emergence of the Maori Party and the Mana Movement signals that Maori political patience has built to its limits. Carrie was right when she wrote that "the insistent hating [of Jones] overshadows a potentially major historical moment in NZ".

The Maori approach to power is changing and Jones is the most recent personification of that approach. When the left denies Jones, its denying Maori political power. It's uncomfortable. In some respects it smacks of the politics of the 20th century. When Maori stepped outside of the political role that society had created for them - as mihi men, singing women and glorified lapdogs - they were shut out. See Matiu Rata and Tariana Turia about that.

I remain ambivalent about Jones - partly for, partly against. The self aggrandising attacks against feminism grate. The struggle for gender equality shouldn't and can't be divorced from the struggle for ethnic equality. Attacking feminism doesn't empower the tino rangatiratanga movement, but weakens it. Solidarity works best when it's solidarity with all marginalised groups - whether it's women, the disabled, the LGBT community or other Polynesians - and equality works best when it's equality for the whole and not the parts.

What I'm getting at is this: I tautoko Jones because of what he represents - Maori political empowerment. But his approach to empowerment, well, not so much.  

Tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu - a person who mistreats guests has a dusty Marae. The saying captures the idea of manaakitanga. It captures the approach the tino rangatiratanga movement - and by extension Jones - should take towards friends in the left. But that works in reverse too: the left should keep in mind why Jones' run is important to our movement.

Post script: According to the latest Te Karere poll Maori prefer Jones by a large margin. And again for transparency: I endorsed DC earlier in the race.  


  1. I'd love to see a gender analysis on that Te Karere poll. In general, there's a big gender split in support for Jones, and talking to a couple of activists told me recently that many Maori women are, well, shall we say, deeply amibivalent about Jones.

    1. Anecdotally, there is a gender split in Jones' support. But in my circles, Maori women have been supportive of him. One friend - who isn't a fan but is still backing Jones - says that "the kaupapa is more important".

      I have the detailed results of the Te Karere poll, but there isn't a breakdown along gender lines. I assume they have a breakdown, but didn't include them in the detailed analysis. That suggests (to me at least) that the gender split might not have been pronounced?

    2. That seems reasonable ie. that the split might not be pronounced, if there is one at all.

      What I'd really love to see is a Maori woman rising through the caucus ranks to become PM. Soon.

  2. Yes Morgan I agree it's his ability to connect with the every day Maori is the telling factor because when we look in the mirror we can see him in us flaws and all.The rough edges need to be massaged but to me if labour wants to get that 800 thousand non voters then Shane Jones needs to be in a leadership role.

  3. Kia ora Morgan, great post! It does seem that Maori men tend to be stereotyped as mysoginsitic, reinforced by (often superficial) perceptions of our culture. While this can unfortunately be true at times, and while we need to contuinually critique our culture to see if it is achieving its purpose, this issue seems to be rising to the surface in many of the statements about Shane Jones. Ironically enough it becomes a new form of paternalism, where Pakeha liberals want to save us from ourselves. Yep, Shane aint perfect, but the debate around him certainly is revealing...

  4. Hi Morgan,

    I'm interested in why you think Shane Jones as a candidate represents the Tino Rangatiratanga movement.

    I went to my local leadership meeting and Jones didn't talk about Maori or Maori issues - but for holding himself up as an example of a Maori boy from Northland made good. This was in Wellington, so you may well have attended the same meeting.

    He did actively decry the legacy of identity politics in Labour and advocated that the party seek votes from "mainstream New Zealand". He's formerly made a promise not to revisit the Seabed & Foreshore issue.

    These fundamental strategies seem to me at least, to be at odds with where I understand the Tino Rangatiratanga movement to be. "Mainstream New Zealanders" for instance was last used by Don Brash in his racist campaign against perceived Maori privilege and became short hand for white centre/right voters who are disturbed by Maori political activism.

    My feeling as an interested observer is that a Jones' led Labour party would relate to the Tino Rangatiratanga movement in the same way that Thatcher's legacy relates to feminism - not very.

    If we move beyond the premise of "John Key: bad for NZ, bad for Maori" how do Jones' public statements in his leadership campaign advocate for a political solution that empowers Maori?

    1. Hi,

      The tino rangatiratanga movement isn't homogeneous. Different politicians prescribe different solutions. Take Mana and the Maori Party: Mana advocates a grassroots approach, but the Maori Party acts on an "at the table" approach.

      Jones' approach is similar to the Maori Party approach, but it differs in a key respect: the Maori Party aims for and is on the periphery of power, Jones wants to move Maori to the centre of power. That requires popular support. The explicit and limited approach that the Maori Party takes means that Maori remain marginal political players. Jones needs to reach out to middle New Zealand and, in his words, the 800,000 New Zealanders who didn't vote at the last election. Jones' is normalising Maori political participation and kaupapa Maori politics.

      Don't underestimate the symbolic power that a (potential) Maori Prime Minister has. Maori politics has been confined for over a century to the margins (due in large measure to the monopoly Labour had over the Maori seats and the political neglect that that monopoly allowed). Jones' bid shatters the box that Labour has confined Maori politicians to. In my view, this is a huge win for the movement.

  5. Thanks for that useful reply Morgan. I'm in definite agreement with you in regards to the neglect Labour has shown its Maori constituency, and the resulting breakup of the Labour monopoly over the last couple of decades.

  6. Jone's economics are from the right, he is pro corporate and anti environment. Time and time again male commentators have discounted Jone's misogyny, so yet again the struggle/s of Maori women are made invisible.

    If Jones is meant to represent the pinnacle of Tino Ragatiratanga, then perhaps we need to revisit what that actually means for the vast majority of Maori, in recent times all Tinoragatiratanga has meant in real terms is the creation and perpetuation of an economic and political Maori elite, while social conditions for the vast majority of Maori goes backwards.

    1. Kia ora Ana - I partly agree. For me, Jones is important to the movement because he symbolises Maori political progress. There has never been a Maori leader of a major political party. We came close in James Carroll - who was Deputy Prime Minister in the Liberal government - but we have been prevented from taking the next step. More than 100 years have passed since Carroll sat as Deputy Prime Minister and Jones bid for the leadership of Labour. Jones isn't the be all and end all. But he's a start and a springboard for further Maori political progress.

    2. Jones' leadership might well have symbolic value, but as Ana points out, that symbolic value would have a massive practical price.

      And 'small symbolic gains at the expense of major practical losses' is basically the Maori Party strategy. Which isn't exactly working out too well, is it?

    3. Are you arguing that a Jones-led Labour Party would mean Maori are worse off than they currently are?

      I've written extensively here and in other places about the Maori Party approach. Put short, it's symbolism mixed with pragmatism. Like Jones', the Maori Party looks to normalise kauapapa Maori politics. Their practical approach is to insert Maori into positions of power (iwi leaders etc). Jones' approach is to move Maori to the centre of power - the Cabinet and the Prime Ministership. The Maori Party aim for and will always be on the periphery. Jones is going for the prize. (See my previous posts for a better explanation).

    4. Across the board, yes. Jones' policies would benefit those inside the Maori elite, but not the broader Maori population.

  7. All ideologies have room within them to move, some stricter than others. Still I wouldn't personally define Shane as tino rangatiratanga.

    To me he's pro Maori, but not pro green, not anti business, and not PC. To this end, I would categorise Jones as Centre - Centre...he is more in the mould of the Labour party reformers of the late 80s, when in fact he was a high level bureaucrat with Hekia.

    In a strange way, he is more in line with Key and co, who seem a mix of Muldoon interventionists and Bill English tight arses, but with a clear pro business bias.

    But Shane can actually say Kia Ora to the bros, becos they are actually his rellies and he knows them.

    Contrast him to those part Maori MPs, all across the house - you know who they are...only go to the marae for a photo op, but otherwise never set foot in the kauta, held a teatowel or spudpeeler.

    He has no show now. But has has certainly established him self as the next centrist Lab Leader...who just happens to be a fluent, proud Maori fulla.

  8. I would be incredibly upset if Mr Jones became prime minister, i believe he would be as much of an embarrassment to Aotearoa as John Key is. I would not place much hope in him being loyal to the voters, and he would certainly do no favors for Maori as a whole. He would continue to make outrageous sexist comments and probably spend even more of tax payer money on porn.
    He is not acceptable as a representative of our country, and he certainly not worthy of the support from Maori.

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  10. Chur Maui, interesting piece on your man Shane bro, but really, a Maori PM, this is NZ. Historical movement, is this the US bro? Or more like a test on the ‘is NZ a racist country’. There aint enough Maori out there who think that just cause he’s a maori they’re gonna vote for him, he sounds intelligent and he 1 of us, aint going to be enuf these days. Our peeps are still catching up with the power of politics, maybe your crew hv snapped onto it. Passionate emotions, wairua came out to play and getting crumbs from the supposedly equality 4 all Party was a thing of the past. E tū ana Te Paati Maori [Maori renaissance] the real Maori political empowerment movement and 4 me this includes all nz’ers who call New Zealand home, & share a respect for Aotearoa. Ka huri te Ao, ka huri ahau, we had replaced crumbs for peanuts, not a bad trade up when u consider the size [numbers] of the *movement* just that ego from the extreme left jumped in and the waka been getting beaten about in the Taku Tai Moana, can we calm the sea and create some real Tino Rangatiratanga in the house. I think we got a few karakia in the kete. Have we got the skills to educate and interest the people? I think we do. 2014 and beyond here we come, kia rite!!!.
    Jonesey’s run u reckon, more like Jonesey being used 4 the centre/right & those Maori who entertain the thought of a Maori PM. The ol making out that your normalizing Maori within politics may seem fair, and just like a good NZ'er thing to do, but only reaches a certain class of Maori. I think each camp is just being used [ano] to appeal to the many different factions that make up the Lab Party. Each camp spinning yarns so is to sound sweet on the ears of any of the potential 800k of ‘couldn’t be bothered’s’. His own party don’t even support him, he may seem like a rooster at the mo but when reality kicks in he'll be last out of the 3 and Lab show there aroha for Maori. There 80yr Lemmings, maybe a token gesture Deputy Jonesey. And in a month or so Labs exercise to reinvigorate there voters will be made clear to all, and I personally think David can’t beat the gorilla. The Labs will be fighting to remain the number 1 political opponent and Labour might end up sharing that mantle with the Greens.
    I don’t think you've eva been a fan of the Maori Party, in fact you totally wrote them off last election, giving them maybe one seat as u talked up the political prowess of the Mana Parties so called great political minds. So you virtually see them as lap dogs on petty handouts from their masters, no real tino rangatiratanga in that kaupapa, so hop on the normalize waka. What eva bro, I say we just keep on pushing our lil 1.4% we got a whole heap of whanau waiting to be educated we just have to put in the work on the ground reaching out to our peeps who don’t/ can’t afford to use modern technology or understand flash English. Hard mahi with Maori being so diverse it’s like a battle of the classes upper/middle/lower you just need the right spin 4 each group looking 4wrd to 2014 see if we get squashed like all the critics been saying we got 10yrs backing us up I hope it holds us up toi tu te mana o te Paati Maori.
    Big ups for the blogs bro, too mean Maori.
    R Livingstone



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