Monday, 10 October 2011

Mana - Not A Serious Option

Limited Talent: The choice of the John Key and National Party admirer, Kereama Pene, as Mana candidate for Tamaki Makaurau is proof positive that not only is the party's talent pool woefully shallow – so, too, is its political judgement.

WELL, THAT’S IT. For a while there it looked as though the Mana Party just might turn into something worthwhile – a second chance for all those who were dismayed to see the Alliance crash and burn over Afghanistan back in 2001-2002.

But, no. Mana’s announcement that Kereama Pene, a minister of the Ratana Church, is to contest the Tamaki Makaurau seat has put an end to all that.

Mr Pene is a flamboyant character who has, at one time or another, been a supporter of the Mana Motuhake, Labour, Destiny and Maori parties. He is also on record as saying the Prime Minister, John Key, is “ a person who should be admired”.

Not content with singing the Prime Minister’s praises, Mr Pene has also publicly declared that: “National is actually the group that have done most of the great things for Maoridom over the past 20 years.” Identifying (erroneously) the Treaty Settlements Process, the Waitangi Tribunal and the Kohanga Reo Movement as National Party achievements, Mana’s Tamaki Makaurau candidate told the NZ Herald: “You’ve got to give praise where its due.”

These statements show Mr Pene to be, at best, a dangerously naive political novice, or, at worst, a ticking time-bomb, guaranteed to explode at the worst possible moment. His remarks have deeply compromised the Mana Party at a time when political journalists are already discussing its lack of momentum, and its failure to capitalise on Leader Hone Harawira’s success in retaining the Te Tai Tokerau seat.

The Tamaki Makaurau contest required a candidate of real ability and, well, mana: someone capable of being “retailed” to the Maori electorate. For a while it was assumed that the candidacy would go to the former Alliance MP, and highly successful Maori broadcaster, Willie Jackson. Wisely, Mr Jackson thought better of it – as did his Radio Live side-kick, the former Labour MP, John Tamihere.

The reluctance of these two veterans to risk their reputations (and salaries) in the race for Tamaki Makaurau spoke volumes about Mana’s readiness to engage in the high-octane environment of mainstream electoral politics.

The sort of person to break the grip of Maori Party co-leader, Pita Sharples, and bar the way to Labour’s Shane Jones, had to be able to connect with Tamaki Makaurau's energetic, secular and overwhelmingly youthful population. Someone out of Maori TV’s stable of young, talented and "tuned-in" presenters would have been ideal: a Julian Wilcox or Annabelle Lee Harris.

The choice of Mr Pene is grim evidence that, after Hone Harawira and Annette Sykes, Mana finds itself struggling to identify Maori candidates of genuine (and electable) political talent among its ranks.

It is difficult to see Mana’s erstwhile mover-and-shaker, Matt McCarten, allowing Mr Pene to carry the party’s colours into such an important and highly visible contest. Before being forced out of Mana’s day-to-day decision-making processes by illness, Mr McCarten had set up an extremely testing set of political and organisational hurdles that every prospective candidate was required to clear before their nomination could be accepted. The choice of Mr Pene for Tamaki Makaurau suggests that these pre-requisites are now being honoured more in the breach than in the execution.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that Mana would have been wiser to put the radical lawyer, Annette Sykes, into the Tamaki Makaurau seat. Waiariki may include Ms Sykes’ own Te Arawa iwi among its constituents, but that very fact carries with it a significant disadvantage. Te Arawa are among the least accommodating of Maori tribes when it comes to recognising the rights of women, and this may well count against Mana's candidate in the looming battle with the Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell. Tamaki Makaurau is an almost entirely urban seat, containing Maori from all over Aotearoa. Pitted against Mr Sharples and Mr Jones, Ms Sykes would have attracted considerable support – across many iwi affiliations.

Too late now. Mr Pene’s selection is proof positive that not only is Mana’s talent pool woefully shallow – so, too, is its political judgement.

This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.


Morgan Godfery said...

You beat me to it, Chris! I was working on a post today intending to raise roughly the same points. Anywho, I agree with all of your points.

Anonymous said...


Bernard Woolley: As they say, it's a custom more honoured in the breach than in the observance.
Jim Hacker: Oh really, Bernard, must you and Humphrey really always express yourself in this roundabout and pompous way? "More honoured in the breach than the observance"! Must you always distort and destroy the most beautiful language in the world - the language of Shakespeare?
Bernard Woolley: That *is* Shakespeare, Prime Minister.

Anonymous said...

Mana was never going to be a second Alliance. It's always been about one guy who happens to hold a seat in parliament. With a grab bag of policies decided on the hoof and the whole lot propped up by desperate left opportunism. I'm afraid they deserve this Key lover.

Anonymous said...

One mistake over one candidate and you are prepared to write Mana off.
How many unsuitable candidates have the other parties had over the years? A great many of course, including one the Greens had to get rid of just a few weeks ago.
Mana is struggling for resources and in a race against time. It supported and run by the most marginalised people in our society. They are learning on the job with none of the educational or class priviliges members of other parties have to assist in that learning.
Mana never wanted to be another Alliance. That party was led by a man who patronised the strugglers rather than seeking to work with them to gain power over their own lives and had little sympathy for the aspirations of Maori.
In trying to organise a Maori led political movement that challenges the very basis of our society, Mana is trying to do something quite different,far more risky, and far more ambitious, than anything the Alliance ever dreamed of.
You are displaying the intellectual arrogance of a smartarse bystander to a class war that is being waged with greater intensity each day. You could pull finger and help but have chosen to smirk from the sidelines rather than join the poor,the alienated and the marginalised in their struggle for a better future. That is a source of great sadness for those of us who would have expected better from you.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Chris, surely you didn't think Harawira and his ragtag bunch of supporters have the same mana as the likes of Jim Anderton, Laila Harre etc? Harawira is a shoot-from-the-hip loudmouth with a one-eyed view of history, always ready to heckle others but can't take any criticism himself, looks like he's about to burst into tears or burst into flames most of the time. Good riddance, if you want to help the left, vote Labour, Greens or NZ First.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@9:21

Mana is by no means bereft of intellectual grunt - far from it. But, for some reason the party leadership has acquiesced in an entirely unsuitable candidate being selected for a crucial electoral contest.

Politics is a very unforgiving business which repays inattention with the most severe consequences.

Precisely because Mana is a party of the poor it really has no need of all the bells and whistles the other parties invest in. Its greatest asset, and all it really needs are men and women of political and personal authenticity.

Mana has that in Hone and Annette and John and Sue. Nothing was more important than to replicate this "revolutionary" authenticity in, at the very least, all the Maori seats.

Dropping the ball in Tamaki Makaurau was not something the party could afford to do during this, the knock-out phase of the electoral competition.

I have been fullsome in my praise of Mana when it did good, and so I must be unflinching in my criticism when it does bad.

And, regretfully, it HAS made a bad - quite possibly a fatal - mistake in nominating Mr Pere.

I've got to call it like I see it.

Anonymous said...

Not ONE mistake, there's a number of mistakes - and all to do with lack of organisation and unrealistic views of how government works in reality. The harsh truth is that so many Mana supporters and candidates are great people with fine aims - they just need to organise themselves - stop praising Hone Harawira as if he's the party - he isn't the party - and be clear about where they stand on major social and economic issues, never mind all this confusing, ambiguous "maori"-ising every issue to confuse potential voters. Advice: Make a stand ideologically, and effectively and proudly communicate a strong message in a way in which people know their being engaged with.

Tar and Feather The Bastards said...

@ Anonymous said ...@ 9.21pm.

Well put . You are right about it being a huge task and I personally believe, but will not talk of it to Mana people, that the election is too close and time too short to do real well.. Saying that,there is 3 years in which to build a support base before the next election, raise money from, as you quite rightly point out, the poorest in the country. I can't afford petrol to get to a meeting but went to Aranui High to listen to Hone . . . . I was amazed at the turn out of WHITE older couples - ones you'd expect to be voting Green or Labour . . . . and here they are at a Mana meeting.
Mana needs to put itself with the 99% and let the #OWS message spread. Us v's Them. On #OWS, the message has been getting supressed in the mainstream media, until approx a week ago. Now it is being co-opted by liberal entities trying to balance out the "TeaParty" party . . AND THE PROTESTERS ARE HAVING NONE OF it.

Mana is entering the political scenario at just the right time. with class warfare breaking out all around us. "Occupy the WORLD" it's message will begin to resonate as more and more cities and people come on board. it can only help Mana long term !!!

Anonymous said...

is your photo a recent one or a nostalgic 20c one? Ho, Ho!

Anonymous said...

Great article and one I appreciate. Mana lost our Tamaki Makaurau Candidate vote unfortunately due to the person they chose, a significant electorate. I cannot believe they failed to deliver a candidate that had credibility, of the 3 they had chosen, 2 who turned it down and 1 who took it, neither deserves the vote of the people, yet there are people in Tamaki who definitely could have stood well. What a shame.