Mar 1, 2011

Matt McCarten on Hone Harawira

Matt McCarten, in an excellent piece in The Herald on Sunday, has suggested that the Hone Harawira expulsion could determine the election. Matt, who is a close advisor to Hone, thinks Hone will form a new party and target the party vote. I guess this almost confirms that Hone will form a new party. However, I am unsure that Hone has the time, skills and support to form a new party. In a previous column Matt made it pretty clear that he is not involved in the formation of a new party. Sue Bradford appears to be in favour one minute and then downplays her enthusiasm the next. Without Matt’s involvement Hone will not be able to delegate the groundwork to a capable pair of hands. Parliamentary and electorate work is all consuming. Hone simply does not have the time to form and launch a new party without experienced operators like Matt and Sue Bradford. Another problem is Hone will find it hard to attract the administrative and political talent needed to form, launch and sustain a party. Let’s be honest, Hone will need the services of youngish, Pakeha, urban middle class administrators and political operatives, however attracting said talent will be difficult. This demographic is hardly responsive to some of Hone strongly held opinions.

But for arguments sake let’s say Hone does form a new party. Matt tells us Hone will run a campaign against the MCA bill, low wages, welfare reform, GST and mining. Matt thinks these issues will mobilise support among Maori and non-Maori working class folk. I am not so sure. Matt’s showed us in Mana that mobilising the poor, not so much the working poor rather beneficiaries, is near impossible. Of the above campaign issues only the MCA bill and mining have proved widely contentious. However, mining was a middle class issue in that it mobilised the middle class, the poor were, well visibly at least, indifferent. Furthermore, the MCA bill has proven more of a Maori concern. Pakeha concern is comparatively light – with the exception of a few rednecks. With the above in mind it becomes obvious that the MCA bill and mining, the two big issues if you like, play to contrasting groups. Low wages, welfare reform and GST have failed to elicit a whisper from those most affected. Without doubt the working poor and beneficiaries are feeling or will feel the bite but there is simply no response. How will Hone ignite and organise a response to these changes? The poor are politically apathetic and apathy has no straightforward cure. Having said that if there is anyone who can speak to the poor and disaffected it is Hone Harawira. I should not write him off so easily.

Matt also suggests that Pita Sharples and Rahui Katene will find it difficult to retain their seats without Hone’s endorsement. Again, I think this is goes a bit far. Pita is damaged but no more than Shane Jones. Shane is hardly an endearing figure and Maori will not return to Labour so easily. Maori are excellent strategic voters and there is really no benefit in returning Shane Jones as the member for Tamaki Makaurau. Hone’s supporters are not going to vote for a man who labels their man a “hoodlum”. Ultimately the voters of Tamaki Makaurau have a shit choice – Shane’s vision is a corporate vision with working class overtones. Pita’s vision is a Maori vision hijacked by a corporate agenda. So it’s basically a contest between which corporate you like best. Arrogant and abrasive Jones or affable and approachable Sharples? The choice is clear. (I will address Rahui Katene and Te Tai Tonga in my next post).

The constituency for a new left party exists. The challenge is to mobilise that constituency. I would love to see a new left party with Hone and Sue Bradford, the two most effective backbenchers in recent memory, and Matt McCarten, the most skilled operator in NZ politics. However, I worry that the practical challenges a new party would face are too great. I hope I’m wrong.


  1. Mining is an only not middle class issue. There is opposition to coal and lignite mining in Ta Tai Tonga and oppositon to mining in Ta Tai Tokerau. There was an anti mining and forshore and seabed bill hikoi at Waitangi this year. There is iwi opposition to mining and deep sea oil drilling of the East Coast.

    The CTU of unions opposed mining in National Parks, so I hope you see that mining if an issue dear to heaps that care for Papatuanuku and don't want their mountians mined or rivers polluted.

    Matt and Hone is they do the hard work, no doubt could have a strong party in 2 election cycles time. A lot of Nga Puhi are young and live in West Auckland and Manakau. If the new party recruits pacific island and maori working class people and youth, and does as well as Matt does at union recruiting and puts Hone's organising skills to use...

    ..a strong aotearoa party could be up and running. The rangatahi want a voice the greens and a new left party could be a voice for those who Hone is seen as a leader, and voice.

    People want envirommental protection, an end to low wages and job shortages, an end to the constant rise in the cost of living and ever increasing inequality. A maori party in coalition with national cannot raise wages and end inequality or protect papatuanuku when National's policies ensure the opposite. 60% oppose privatisation and asset sales.

    People are ready for something new, something for the rangatahu to believe in, people are ready for real leadership and a vision.

    Kia kaha, let the mahi begin.

  2. Perhaps Matt McCarten should stand as a candidate in Tamaki Makaurau as a non corporate option, and to raise profile among urban maori. It would gain a lot of attention to the policies of GST and low wages, in a way that a small campaign in Mana never could.

  3. Kia ora anon @ 6:21

    Yes, mining, as a political issue, is not solely a middle class concern. However, in respect of the schedule 4 mining controversy, the primary opposition came from the middle class.

    In theory the constituency for a new left party exists. However, mobilising that constituency may prove near impossible. Call me a pessimist but I genuinely do not believe that a new party will be enough to increase political awareness among rangatahi, Pasifika peoples etc.

    Kia ora anon @ 6:59,

    That would be a good idea. Tamaki Makaurau is now marginal. Pita, Shane and Matt are big players in NZ politics so naturally the media would focus on the electorate, therefore, Matt would have a chance to raise the issues that matter.

  4. I think if the universities were used to get skilled candidates, members and staff for a new party and a strong team with skilled organisers was behind the party, hard work would pay off.

    I don't things would be easy, but if people with the skills that so many maori have - put some mahi in, a party that represents the hopes and aspirations of the next generation could be born.

    A lot of maori and pacific people are already politically aware - but parliament does not often represent their interests, hence a low voter turnout. If there were more maori and pacific leaders in parliament, more of the rangatahi would show an interest. A possible alternative is a maori parliament.

    A new party on its own is not enough to raise interest and involvement, but a strong movement is. Matt and Hone are the types to make room for rangatahi to become more politically involved and active. It is up to people on the street whether they are happy with privatisation and low wages etc or weather they want to do something about it.

  5. Kia ora anon,

    The unis could be used as a talent pool but I remain unconvinced that there is enough talent to go round. Competent Maori political operatives are scarce, those Maori who are competent often work under existing parties.

    Demographically speaking, Parliament is representative, ideologically speaking, less so. I think it is too simplistic to say that a Parliament that represents Maori and Pasifika interests will ignite political awareness. Wider factors come into play such as the inaccessibility of relevant political commentary.

    I think you are right about a 'strong movement'. A strong movement must underpin any party. For example the union movement underpins The Labour Party. Perhaps a tino rangatiratanga movement could underpin a new left party.

  6. I think your last comment hit things on the nail.



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