Apr 21, 2011

The Mana Party... Coming soon

Hone Harawira appears set to announce the formation of a new party at the end of the month. The Mana Party should be announced following a final hui on April 30. Readers will know I have been predicting and advocating a broad left wing party as opposed to an alternative Maori party. However, it appears Hone will deliver the latter.

As you can probably imagine, I think this is a strategic mistake. I will qualify that statement by saying good on Hone. Maori want a new kaupapa Maori party and he is delivering one. In this post I want to quote, at length, my thoughts on the issue from March 12:

Hone has announced that any new party he forms will be Maori focussed. I do not think this necessarily precludes the possibility that the party will be broadly left wing. Certainly tino rangatiratanga finds a natural ally in the left - the recognition of indigenous rights is almost the exclusive domain of the left in fact. Hone appreciates this. In this post I want to discuss why Hone Harawira must launch a broad left wing party rather than a single issue alternative Maori party.

If Hone were to form an alternative Maori party he must, in the interest of electoral success, destroy the current Maori Party. The numbers required to sustain both a left wing Maori party and a right wing Maori party do not exist. The Party vote for the current Maori Party is already exceedingly low and it is fair to assume that there is little potential to tap new and existing, yet inactive, voters. The Green Maori vote is also exceedingly low. The Labour Maori vote remains significant yet there are dangers in attempting to bite a piece off of the Labour Party. For the moment, Hone needs the Labour Party in terms of support in the House and around Parliament. Any new party Hone forms will also be ideologically tied to Labour. Now if Hone were to pursue the Labour Maori vote Labour could respond in kind and attempt to stymie Hone. Erect barriers in an attempt to protect their voter base. For example Labour, if threatened, could silence Hone in the House by refusing to offer him anymore speaking slots. Cut off his oxygen supply essentially. Hones best options is to target the politically inactive. The constituency exists and I firmly believe Hone, in cohort with Matt McCarten, is, or are, the people to finally reach out to that untapped market often called the underclass.  

Most people can list three or four political values and issues that mean a lot to them. The reality is that most people will not list flags on bridges, international treaties and customary rights near the top. The cost of living, wages and welfare will come out near the top of most lists, therefore it is crucial that Hone take a broader view. The current Maori Party continues to collect a considerable amount of criticism for the party’s perceived focus on symbolic wins as opposed to substantive wins. This should signal to Hone that a focus on Maori values such as the recognition of some rights is not enough to placate Maori. At the end of the day Maori, like everyone else, want to enjoy a higher standard of living, job security etc. And of course the underclass, I loathe the connotations of that word but it is the common designation we all understand, is not exclusively Maori. The underclass consists of the working poor, Pakeha beneficiaries and in many cases Pakeha pensioners. With this in mind it becomes clear that the pitch must be much wider. Although any new party Hone launches will not rely on the party vote, for the time being that is, if Hone wants to drag any new MP’s in with him he must ensure his messages, policies etc resonate with a wide audience.  

The political marketplace is already crammed and, as one commentator put it, an alternative Maori party will occupy a niche within a niche.

Most of this, in my mind at least, still holds true. I want to add a few more comments though.

Firstly, the Maori vote is volatile in one respect and solidified in another respect. What I mean by this is that on a candidate level the Maori vote tends to jump around while on a party level the vote is largely fixed with Labour. In terms of the party vote I think this comes down to habit – it’s a generational thing. Hone will struggle to change that. The Maori Party failed to convert a majority of Maori. Mana Motuhake also failed and so did the Greens.  

Secondly, Hone needs a moderating force. In my opinion he does whatever the last person told him to do. People like Annette Sykes will hardly exercise control over Hone’s more extreme tendencies. They will only reinforce what he believes.

I wish Hone success. I agree with much of what he says and does. But not enough people share my outlook on life. Not enough to make him a significant force.


  1. I agree that the biggest gap on the political spectrum is a proper left-wing party - something along the lines of the Alliance. However Hone is the wrong person to be forming it, since - notwithstanding a few random statements when he was thinking about forming such a party - it's pretty clear he doesn't really care about non-Maori. This is not to say he's racist, exactly, just that his first, second, and every other priority is improving things for Maori, and he doesn't seem to see anyone else as being any of his concern. This would actually work okay in a large party - Labour, for example - which had enough MPs that some of them could essentially be single issue politicians. But a minor party inevitably has few enough MPs that they all have to have a broad range of interests, which would mean Hone convincing people he cares about NZers generally, or at least disadvantaged NZers.

    re Maori habitually giving their party votes to Labour, I always assumed that this was a sensible strategic thing. If the Maori Party or an equivalent dominate the Maori seats, giving your party vote to them is essentially a waste, since they won't gain any more seats. But if you party vote Labour then you have a better chance of a left wing government, which is generally better for Maori, plus Labour should feel some kind of debt to Maori. I suppose the last part hasn't always worked out so well, but overall it's still a good strategy.

  2. Labour is good for Maori? Except when they're labeling them haters and wreckers.

  3. Kia ora Helenalex,

    Bang on.

    In terms of the Maori vote, yes it is a strategic thing, but I do not think that working MMP is the prime motivator when it comes to voting Labour. I think it is just coincedental that a party vote for Labour and an electorate vote for some other party works to Maori advantage.

  4. Will Willie Jackson and Sue Bradford be involved in the formation of this party, do you think, Morgan?

    Both would lend critical organisational and reputational support to the party.

  5. Hi anon,

    I don't think Sue Bradford will be involved. I think she has moved on. Willie won't confirm or deny whether he is involved. Apparently he is advising Hone, I'm not sure if he is involved beyond that. There are rumours he will stand in Tamaki Makaurau, key word rumours.

  6. I tend to agree re Sue. What about Matt McCarten? Again, a good adviser and au-fait with left-wing parties.

  7. I think Hone's point of view is that it'd be nice if somebody did something to help out poor pakeha but that's not his job and not his focus. He's not racist so much as a single issue politician. Usually I'm not very keen on single issue politicians but there are a few issues so pressing that it's excusable to focus on them to the exclusion of everything else, and Maori poverty is definitely one of them. (When you start expecting everybody else to also be a single issue politician, that's a problem)

  8. Kia ora Morgan,

    I can't see how Hone has put a foot wrong recently, in fact he has made some strong strategic decisions that leads me to believe he is getting good advice and following it - but it is the real Hone doing it not some fake. He is displaying qualities of leadership IMO. And against the odds it does seem like his new Left Maori Party will begin. i hope it is called the Mana Party - i voted for that and it says everything that needs to be said for me.

    This is a very interesting year with winston arising and labour freefalling. I think there is a definate gap in the political choices that Hone's new party will fill and i hope they create a kaupapa around support for equality, the disadvantaged, kaitiakitanga and tino rangatiratanga. That would resonate with many, of every ethnicity and background.

  9. I think Hone is at the stage Malcolm X and Martin Luther King got too, when Malcolm X was starting to move towards socialism. Hone knows class is an issue, and he is most comfortable dealing with maori issues. He will slowly shift more and more into talking about environmental and class issues I suspect.

    Again and again I see real leadership on display, and sense a new movement is growing and we will be seeing new movement leaders emerge. Very exciting times for Aotearoa.

  10. Also I suspect initially wahine are going to have a really big role, and in time rangatahi will step up. Perhaps pacific people will be attracted to the party in time as well.

  11. I too would like to see a broad left party, but I think for Hone a new, left wing Maori-focused party is the way to go. There is a real support base for this.

    There is not currently a mass support base for a broad left party, and it would be a mistake to try and form one on the basis of the support of a few individuals, but without the backing of a mass movement.

    However, there is every reason for the new party to be left wing and take up issues like low wages, high prices, oil drilling and so on, that will be of concern to many grassroots people who are not Maori.

    In large part the split between Hone and the Maori Party is a split between the pro-neoliberal elite that Annette Sykes described and criticized in her Jesson lecture and Maori activists more in touch with flaxroots, working class concerns.

    To say that the Mana party should be “ideologically tied to Labour” is, I think wrong. Labour is fully committed to neo-liberal capitalism and the sanctity of the state. This is why we need a new broad left party, which isn’t tied to Labour.



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