|Mana Party President and tino rangatiratanga advocate Annette Sykes|
Claire Trevett reports:
The Maori Party and the Mana Party have reached a truce of sorts after a meeting between the parties' hierarchy last night.
Mana President Annette Sykes met the Maori Party's co-vice president Ken Mair last night and the two parties agreed to work framework setting out areas of policy on which they would work together. That is due to be launched in early 2014 and it likely to include areas such as Maori unemployment, poor housing, and child poverty.
Yesterday I ran through the archives of this blog. I was disappointed with the tone (and some of the substance). It was angry. But it was a reflection of Maori politics at the time.
The seeds of tension emerged in 2008. The Maori Party had traveled the country to secure the membership's consent to a supply and confidence arrangement with National. By most accounts, the party leadership won an overwhelming mandate and there was optimism in most circles. But time eroded the consensus. Difficult policy choices started to build. The party misstepped when it supported the ETS and pressure was applied on its MPs to pull their support for Budget 2010 and the GST rise.
Come 2011 the tensions had swelled and the understanding between the Maori Party's radicals and the conservatives – meaning the idea that a Maori political movement is strongest when its united - came crashing down. The rest is history. Hone Harawira broke away with half of the Maori Party and Mana was born. Political parties reap what they sow.
But a relationship accord between Mana and the Maori Party (hopefully) signals that the tide is going out on that conflict. There’s an increasing acceptance that Maori are better off because of the Maori Party’s relationship with National. It hasn't been progress, but the Maori Party has acted as a buffer against decline.
Yet one impediment remains - and it's not necessarily National. The conflict is between Mana and the Maori Party’s conception of politics. Mana is ideological, but the Maori Party acts as post-ideological.
Working "at the table" is the Maori Party's ideology. Party policy is dictated by what can be achieved at the table and what is necessary to remain at the table. There's a pragmatic logic in that, sure, but the consequence is that Maori politics is confined to what's palatable to the ninth floor. There's also an element of circular reasoning when being at the table is both the means and the end.
So if being at the table is the Maori Party's raison d'être then there's little room for Mana - a party that values external change and leftwing ideologies. After all, Hone Harawira threatened the Maori Party's place at the table and he was removed.
Yet maybe the Maori Party is on the right side of history. The trajectory of Maori politics hasn’t been towards revolution or wholesale structural change. Leaders of the later stages of the Maori renaissance and now the Maori Party, Iwi Leaders and many others prefer integration into New Zealand power structures. The attraction among battle-weary activists and heroes of the movement is clear. But it’s not an approach that attracts Mana. And that’s the real impediment to a merger – not National.