Nov 1, 2011

Native Affairs Kowhiri 11: Te Tai Tonga

New Zealand politics is devoid of genuine charisma. Kiwi politicians have that matey sort of charm or a very casual allure, but nothing in the way of real magnetism, read charisma. Enter Clinton Dearlove. “Hurricane Dearlove” (as he is known now) came storming out of left field in last nights Te Tai Tonga election debate. This from the NZ Herald:

Maori Party MP Rahui Katene started strong but was soon paddling against the tide, and finished the Te Tai Tonga debate looking frazzled and beaten.

Meanwhile Mana candidate Clinton Dearlove was full of beginner nerves, but soon found his feet to deliver a message with emphatic authority, along with an Obama-esque smile.

There is now a palpable sense among Mana supporters that Dearlove can steal the seat. On the basis of his performance last night this is a reasonable expectation, but I doubt it. Instead, I think Dearlove has done enough to snatch a significant number of votes from Rahui Katene and push the seat towards Rino Tirikatene. Rino was, in my opinion, going to win whether Clinton did well or not. I always thought there were enough tribal Labour voters coupled with a large enough reflex backlash against the Maori Party (for supporting, among other things, the MCA Act and the tax switch) to hand the seat to Rino. And, perhaps, Rino is best placed to represent Te Tai Tonga. Rino made the point that Labour, as one of the major parties, is best placed to achieve change for Maori. This is, for the most part, true. Labour will always sanction or lead change for Maori. The minor parties, Mana, Maori and the Greens, will always be subordinate to either National or Labour. Having said that, this doesn’t mean minor parties are irrelevant. The minor parties play a fundamental role in introducing Maori issues onto the agenda and pushing change. However, going back to the main point, Labour, or sometimes National, will always sanction or lead change.

As I said last night every candidate communicated their message well. I think Rino and Rahui were quite nervous, but this is to be expected, after all, all the pressure was on those two. Dora Langsbury and Clinton Dearlove were not weighed down under the pressure of expectation. They had nothing to lose and nothing to prove whereas last night was probably in Rahui and Rinos minds make or break.

Rahui performed well choosing to follow her leaders lines and focus on what the Maori Party has achieved – even though some of her claims were erroneous. Rino was weighed down by expectation, but outperformed everyone on the economy. He had his soundbites at the ready and delivered them with finesse. I was impressed with the pace of his delivery. He adjusted his tone in response to the audience mood as well. Dora Langsbury did well on policy. The Greens are always strong on policy so it is no surprise Dora performed well here. Clinton did well on all fronts. He delivered his message powerfully. He was animated, he concentrated on the message and was not too mindful of the medium (i.e. the cameras), the tone was conversational and the pitch was perfect.

I’m hesitant to name a winner. I think they all performed well in certain areas. In my opinion the debate is going to break Rahui and reward Clinton and, as a result, Rino. Clinton will seep enough votes from Rahui in Wellington, where Mana is strongest in Te Tai Tonga, to award the seat to Rino.


  1. Morgan, we must of been at a different debate than yourself last night.

    How is labour going to win?
    Where is the green candidate vote going?
    where is the new zealand first vote going?
    where is the union vote going?
    why does the labour candidate get less votes than the party?
    remember the MEAN labour party machine in the Te Tai Tokerau By Election
    remember all kelvins polling told him he was going to win, what hapened?
    He lost by just under 10%, Kelvin and Labour got SMASHED.

    Finally, are you working or advising for Labour or Rino?

  2. Valid points. For my answers see this post:

    There is no longer a "union vote" and if there is it is not significant.

    Maori give their party vote to Labour because it is the strategic thing to do. Labour is best placed to effect change. Maori give their candidate vote to other parties because it will increase Maori representation/influence in the House.

    I remember the Tai Tokerau byelection. If you were reading my writing at the time you would know I was one of the only commentators calling it for Hone. I even called the result, percentage wise, fairly accurately. I knew the limitations of Labour's organisation and Kelvin's limitations. I also knew the advantages Hone had. You should read these posts:

    Finally, my political activities outside of this blog are my business. But to clarify, I do not advise Rino. I should mention now though that I am a former Parliamentary staffer for, you guessed it, Labour.

  3. Morgan,

    I think it is disingenuous to think that your political activities outside of this blog are your own business. You appear in the media and on TV, and have been represented as an independent Maori voice. If this is not the case, you owe it to your audience to let us know. Especially if you are advising political candidates.

    PS - reading the blog its not hard to tell you've fallen head over heels for Mana and Hone. But if you're at the point you are directly advising them, you've moved from being an analyst to a shill.

  4. Name recognition - Rino.
    Experience - Rahui
    Wisdom - Dora
    On the night - Clinton. He was by far the sharpest.



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