Audrey Young reports:
Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples have revealed they are reconsidering retiring from politics next election - just as a new poll shows them potentially holding the balance of power.
Mrs Turia and Dr Sharples had indicated that the 2011 election would be their last.
But they are reconsidering after being asked repeatedly by supporters, a party official said.
This is the party’s only option. Te Ururoa Flavell’s majority in Waiariki is soft and will weaken in the face of a strong candidate and campaign. If Tauranga or Tuwharetoa fall towards Annette Sykes, or the Labour candidate evenly splits the area, then a win in Rotorua will not be enough to carry Flavell.
The same is roughly true of Pita Sharples. John Tamihere is considering a run at the 2014 election and Mana will stand a strong candidate, potentially Nga Puhi man Clinton Dearlove. Sharples came within a whisker of defeat in 2011 and that, quite worryingly for the Maori Party, was against a Shane Jones whose mind was on his personal life and a Mana candidate who entered late. Hypothetically Sharples will be up against the strongest candidate Labour can field, read Tamihere, and one of the strongest Mana can field, read Dearlove.
Tamihere, along with his likely campaign manager Willie Jackson, are probably the best Maori campaigners in Auckland. Labour also has access to the likes of Shane Phillips and Kelvin Davis. The Maori Party, on the other hand, don’t appear to have access to like campaigners.
Having said that, Pita Sharples unseated in Tamihere in 2005. However, the Sharples of today is nothing on the Sharples of seven years ago. Sharples is tired and not cutting it well, I think at least, as a Minister at the moment. He is slow and does not appear as intellectually capable as he once was. In contrast, Tamihere has, minus one or two minor controversies, rebuilt his reputation and continues his good work with the Waipereira Trust.
As for Tariana Turia, she’ll win no matter who runs against her. Turia knows, perhaps better than her colleagues, that without her and Sharples – the party’s anchors – the Maori Party will fall. The tide is going out on the Maori Party and rising on the Mana Party. For that reason, she knows that she needs to stay. Such a move, however, only seems to prolong the inevitable. Without an ideological shift and tangible wins for Maori, the Maori Party is paddling against the current.