May 9, 2013

Shane Jones key to Labour's future

Hon. Shane Jones MP
Now Parekura Horomia has been safely buried next to his mother at Kohimarama in Uawa, the political world looks to Ikaroa-Rāwhiti to see who the various political parties will select as their candidate for the by-election to fill the vacant seat. I'm of the view that it will be a fairly straightforward election for Labour if they aren't complacent and don't take Parekura's large margin for granted. I don't think they will. They know better than anyone the dynamic nature of Māori politics in recent decades. 

In 1993 Tau Henare won Northern Māori and in doing so broke Labour's more than 50 year hold on the seats. This was the catalyst that saw New Zealand First sweep the five Māori seats in '96. Since then the Māori seats have been hotly contested and have seen some fairly significant swings of support between parties. But due to the unfortunate circumstances the nature of this election is unique. If Labour select a candidate who is believed to be able to carry on Parekura's local work and commitments then they should be pretty confident.

So assuming Labour do win comfortably they will be well placed in the Māori seats for the 2014 general election. But it's not just Parekura's position as Māngai for Te Tai Rāwhiti that will need to be filled. His role as the Labour Party's 'Chief' will now probably be taken up by Shane Jones.  As Annette King said in the Parliamentary poroporoaki on Tuesday, Parekura passed his 'baton' of political position within Labour to Shane Jones. There will now be huge expectations on Jones, whose career has had its controversies, but I think he is perfectly placed to respond to the challenges of the current Māori political climate. As he showed in his Parliamentary tribute, which was by far the best of the day, Maori statesmanship has not perished with Parekura Horomia. Jones composed a mōteatea for his "closest friend in the political world". It was a beautiful and moving waiata that confirmed that Jones himself is "a link with the old world", as he described Parekura on the day he passed away. Jones was intensely trained and educated during his youth by the kaumatua of the North. He has oratorical brilliance, an exceptional intelligence and a sharp political mind, all of which will be necessary for Labour to try and fend off Green and Mana advances in the Māori seats. The Māori Party will probably continue to decline further with the departure of Tariana Turia.

So it's almost certain that David Shearer will now give Jones the Māori Affairs portfolio, the position of seniority in Labour's Māori caucus. Even if Shearer and Robertson decide instead on Nanaia Mahuta, who has the Parliamentary experience, whakapapa and talent to be able to do well in the role, Jones will still be seen as the 'Chief'. This will help him if he stands again in Tamaki Makaurau as it would be a contest between the two kaumatua of Parliament, himself and Dr Pita Sharples, and also an electoral battle between the current Minister and probable Shadow Minister for Māori Affairs. Jones has the political instinct and nous, but Sharples has better established links with the electorate. If I were to hazard a guess more than a year before the election, I would put my money on Jones. Sharples' declaration that he wants stay in Parliament until he is taken out in a box, won't go down well in what is actually quite a young, liberal electorate.

Jones campaigning at Otara Markets in South Auckland

Jones' biggest challenge will be his perception within flaxroots communities. He needs to be able to convince low paid workers and community sector advocates that he is on their side, like Parekura did so excellently. He does not have the same working class background as Parekura Horomia, but his oratory and achievements do, and will continue to, endear him to many Māori and Pākehā alike. But if Labour really want to stop Green and Mana momentum in the Māori seats they will need to try and inspire the taiohi Māori vote. The 18-24 grouping is the largest in all seven of the Māori seats but many taiohi don't vote on election day. The Greens are relatively strongest in this area of the population and have a lot of potential in electorates like Tāmaki Makaurau, Te Tai Tonga and Te Tai Hauāuru, while Te Mana will probably continue to do well among young people in Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki. 

Jones does have the potential to inspire young voters as he in many ways epitomizes Māori aspiration. He has worked at the highest levels of Māori and Pākeha society in both the public and private sector, while always retaining a deep level of commitment to tikanga Māori, reo Māori and iwi Māori. Be sure that Jones will do his very best to hammer the Greens and Mana in the run up to the election. However, his recent call for the re-planting of native trees in the North as part of a strategy to support the reforestoration of marginal land, shows that he has a high level of political discernment, because he realises that his attacks on the Green Party maybe seen as hostility to strong environmental policy. He knows that Labour can't ignore environmental concerns in the Māori electorates.

With the passing of Parekura Horomia the political dynamic of the Māori seats has once again changed. Shane Jones looks set to play a central role in the lead up the 2014 election and beyond.

Shane Jones' mōteatea for Parekura via Claire Trevett at the NZ Herald:

Ko te uranga o te Ra
Terenga waka torangapu
He waihoe tuku iho
Ko Apirana kei te ihu
Ko Parekura kei te rapa.
E Hina i te po hutea
E Tama te painaina
Hei a wai te hoe a Pare
Haupu a tini moehewa
He waka utanga kaita
E ahu ki te pae o te rangi
Ma te tai a Paikea - ariki
Te Matau a Maui tikitiki
Te Upoko o te Ikaroa
Tena te ripo kawanatanga.
Nana te ohaki whakarere
Whangaia a pipi patere
Kia ngata, kia mapuapua
Aue e Pare ngakaunui
E whakawairua kau iho.

Under a rising sun
A waka appears
A time-worn journey.
Apirana is at the prow,
Parekura at the stern.
Moon goddess of pale light
Sun god, we feel your heat.
Who takes Pare's challenge?
Driven by great dreams
His is a waka of legacy.
Fix your course
By the tides of Paikea
Past the Hook of Maui
To the Head of the fish
Where power swirls.
Your departing words:
Feed the little ones
To grow and flourish
Pare, of great heart
Your spirit enjoins us.

Post by Jack Tautokai McDonald


  1. The best candidate for that seat is you Morgan -Shane is destined for greater success and they need someone young in that seat that can secure it for labour for decades

  2. Kia ora Anonymous. I agree Morgan would make a great candidate for Parliament, but just letting you know that I wrote this post, not Morgan :)

  3. I hope the Greens are going to contest this, most people have had enough of labour and the results of their actions.

  4. I'm hearing from different sources that Mana has a great, high-profile may not all be one-way traffic for Labour.

    1. I haven't heard much on the Mana front. I heard Moana Maniapoto was considering a stand (in 2014 though). Do you have any thoughts?. A strong field will hold Labour to account. The more the better.

  5. The Left and/or Maori are 'spoiled' for choice when it comes to Parties and candidates to vote for. MMP offers a "free market" in the political field.

    The Tories, meanwhile, have National and, um... ACT! *snigger*

  6. I am hearing from MP sources that Na wants it bad, but they are wanting Te Rangihau Gilbert to run. Stink one MP! History repeating!

  7. ' ... exceptional intelligence and a sharp political mind ...'? Really? An intelligent politician wishing to be accepted as a serious, inspirational contender for a real position of power should be at the very least strategic enough (regardless of his private views) not to call women 'geldings'. I don't care what this man may have had to offer - and actually, I don't now care what the Labour Party may have had to offer, after unwaveringly supporting it for 40 years. That comment was arrogant, unthinking, uncaring and misogynistic; one wonders if Mr Jones thought the women he was watching in pornographic films in his hotel rooms were geldings.



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