Aug 25, 2013

Should a Māori MP stand for the leadership of the Labour Party?

Haare Williams, the Māori Vice President of the Labour Party, appeared on Marae Investigates this morning and made it very clear that it was time for a Māori leader of the party:

He was also clear that the party needs to embrace the Treaty partnership. In his own words:

"E rua ngā wāhanga kei roto i Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Ko te taha ki te Pākehā, ko te taha ki a tāua ki te iwi Māori. Whaia te maramatanga e puta ai te houhoutanga o te whakawhanaungatanga; tēnā iwi, tēnā iwi, te iwi Pākehā me te iwi Māori, ā me ngā iwi e noho horopani ana ki Aotearoa. Mā Te Tiriti, e kukume mai te iwi kia whakakotahi i a tātou."

At present Māori issues aren't being considered in this leadership contest. But the beauty of the new rules adopted by the Labour Party is that a democratic selection process is being used, a primary election.

The process is similar to the rules used by UK Labour Party. In the leadership election that followed the resignation of Gordon Brown in 2010, a healthy and robust selection process was used. Diane Abbott, a long serving Labour backbencher, stood in the election and was consistently dismissed by the mainstream media and political pundits. But she brought issues to the fore that needed to be heard in the Labour Party itself. As a black woman and a staunchly Left MP, she represented a huge part of the population that is consistently marginalised in British politics. She didn't win but when Ed Miliband won the election he appointed Abbott as a front bench Shadow Health Minister.
A run in the primary election by one of the Māori MPs could produce similar outcomes, and may end up with that candidate being elected Deputy Leader. I’m not of the view that Shane Jones could do this effectively as he is despised by other minorities in the party and probably most of the female members. It’s unlikely if even the Māori caucus would unite around Shane Jones. Nanaia Mahuta appeared on Te Karere and said she thought David Cunliffe was ready to go as leader and that she didn't see Jones as one of his supporters. This made it clear that she wasn't pushing for a run by Shane Jones. 

But in my view, she and the other Māori MPs should consider a run. Louisa Wall and Moana Mackey would also be well placed to do this. As John Tamihere pointed out in the above video, they aren't going to realistically win the election. But they could ensure kaupapa Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi are firmly on the Labour Party’s agenda.

Māori have supported the Labour Party for over 80 years, but in recent years Māori support  has been taken for granted. It's time for a Māori voice in a leadership position.

UPDATE: Duncan Garner has announced on Twitter that Shane Jones is in the race. While it's pretty clear I'm not one of his fans, good on him all the same. At least one Māori MP is in the race. It will be interesting to see if the Māori caucus support him.

P.S - this also raises another question; should Haare Williams stand for Parliament? He would be an ideal candidate for Labour and add real depth to their Māori caucus. He may feel that his efforts are more needed on the organisational side of the party, but he could be an excellent Labour MP if he wanted to be. There are rumours going around that Shane Jones may not stand in Tāmaki Makaurau. Is this because Williams is considering a run, or is Shane Taurima angling for it?

Post by Jack McDonald

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