Feb 6, 2011

On Hone Harawira forming a new party

Some left wing commentators, namely Martyn Bradbury, are pushing the idea that Hone Harawira should, whether he is expelled or not, form a new left wing party. I see a number of problems with this idea.

Every party has a recognised identity. The question is will Hone, as a Maori nationalist, fit within the identity of a far left party comprised of rejected social democrats? Will he fit within a party that’s stands for certain political values above and beyond tino rangatiratanga? With this in mind it is conceivable that stern tensions will exist, and at some point erupt, over the policy priorities and direction of the party. Willie Jackson makes the point that Maori interests “might not always fall within a left wing paradigm”. The left is not always automatically analogous with Maori interests. Essentially, I do not think Hone is flexible enough in his ideology to accept working within the framework of a far left party nor sufficiently interested in responding to the needs of the constituents of the far left.   

It is probably also worth considering the personalities involved. Matt McCarten and Hone Harawira are the two strongest personalities in politics, no doubt about that. Although Matt is incredibly principled he is a pragmatist first. He knows the importance of electoral success. On the other hand Hone is principled first and pragmatic second. What happens when Matt’s pragmatism clashes with Hone’s principles? A party meltdown in my opinion. Hone will no longer compromise his principles for short term electoral or governmental success whereas Matt knows the importance of winning at any cost. Matt is a realist and values power. Hone is an idealist who values tino rangatiratanga. Such a clash of values will hardly breed stability.

Marty Mars and Willie Jackson have floated the idea of Hone forming an alternative Maori Party. An alternative Maori party will have to convince Maori that they, unlike the original Maori Party, will not sacrifice Maori interests for short term gain in government (i.e. they will not swallow National’s poison), therefore they are ultimately better representatives of Maori interests.

The problem with an alternative Maori party is that it will have no resources. Let’s be honest, Hone’s supporters hardly have deep pockets. It is also unknown how many rank and file members would jump waka. Enough to constitute a registered party (I think 500 members are required)? Without competent and experienced managers the formation of a new party is a logistical nightmare. Under a new left party the ground work can be left to Matt McCarten but under a new Maori party who would Hone delegate too? Furthermore, where will advisors and administrators come from and who would be willing to stand for such a party?

I think I would prefer to see Hone Harawira stand as an independent for now. It is too late in the piece to go pulling political parties out of your arse. As an independent Hone could create a strong narrative. Portraying himself as a man of integrity, alienated for speaking truth to power, denouncing, as Gordon Campbell put it, the brown sell outs in Cabinet. Against this the MP have no effective counter narrative. However, if Hone were to form a new left party or new Maori party the current Maori Party could taint him as a prostitute to politicians of yesteryear or a trouble maker with only conflict on his mind.

So there are problems with Hone hitching it with a new left party or pitching into a new Maori party. Either way Hone does not have many favourable options on the table. Perhaps his best choice is to stand as an independent. To be honest I wouldn’t know. This is all speculation. I'm just hoping for resolution and hopefully that resolution will not involve expulsion. 


  1. Late to be adding this, but I tend to agree, even after the formation of the Mana party. Don't the principles of tribal leadership and land ownership sit uncomfortably with principles of socialism?



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