Wednesday 7 February 2018

Labour and Maori: The ‘Auld Alliance’ Re-Forged.

Getting The Band Back Together: It is to be hoped that Ms Ardern understands the extent to which she and the Labour Party are indebted to the strategic insight of Andrew Little and his Chief-of-Staff, Matt McCarten, for the 2017 result.

THE FIVE DAYS allotted to Waitangi 2018 by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can only be accounted as time well spent. Maori votes were critical to Labour being able to construct a governing coalition with NZ First and the Greens. Ms Ardern is well aware that maintaining – and if possible building on – the tangata whenua support that gave Labour a clean sweep of all seven Maori seats in 2017 will be crucial to securing her government’s re-election in 2020.

It is to be hoped that Ms Ardern understands the extent to which she and the Labour Party are indebted to the strategic insight of Andrew Little and his Chief-of-Staff, Matt McCarten, for the 2017 result.

At the core of that insight was an acceptance that Labour and the Greens, alone, would be unlikely to secure sufficient votes to govern alone, or in coalition with NZ First, unless the National Party was first stripped of as many of its potential coalition partners as possible.

The means adopted to secure that outcome were by no means universally welcomed within Labour’s ranks. In particular, the recruitment of its principal human instruments, Greg O’Connor and Willie Jackson, outraged more than a few of Labour’s social-liberals.

As a former President of the NZ Police Association, O’Connor was derided as a “fascist” by some social-liberals, and his selection for Ohariu, the seat held by the leader of the United Future Party, Peter Dunne, for 36 years, was lambasted as a sop to “Waitakere Man” – the socially-conservative element of Labour’s electoral base.

The response to the recruitment of Willie Jackson was even more vociferous. Labour’s feminists recalled the broadcaster’s role in the “Roastbusters” media controversy of 2013 and spoke out angrily against Little’s decision to more-or-less guarantee Jackson a winnable position on Labour’s Party List.

With the benefit of hindsight, however, Little’s and McCarten’s foresight is remarkable.

By positioning O’Connor in Ohariu, Labour confronted Dunne with a candidate uniquely qualified to attract the support of that electorate’s socially-conservative voters. With just the slightest swing to Labour, Dunne’s position would become untenable. Jacinda Ardern’s elevation to the Labour leadership, by delivering the required surge in Labour’s support, duly spooked Dunne into announcing his retirement from parliamentary politics.

National’s potential coalition partners were reduced by one.

Willie Jackson’s role in eliminating the next partner – the Maori Party – was pivotal. As the man appointed to run Labour’s campaign in the Maori seats, he took the leaden offer from all seven candidates to foreswear any ranking on the Party List and turned it into gold. The battle for the Maori electorate was reduced to an all-or-nothing fight to the finish between Labour the Maori Party.

How those seats were won for Labour is of crucial importance to the way Ms Ardern and her colleagues govern New Zealand.

In essence, Willie Jackson and his team ran an unabashedly class-based campaign in the Maori seats. In terms of tone and imagery, their propaganda celebrated and spoke directly to the lives and aspirations of working-class Maori families. In startling contrast to Labour’s appeal to the general electorate, the party’s message to the Maori electorate was all about working-class jobs, working-class aspirations and working-class pride.

Bearing comparison with the rhetoric of its storied past, Labour’s message to Maori voters was clear. The Maori Party has sold you out to the corporate warriors of the Iwi Leadership Group. While your whanau has been living in cars, theirs has been living high-on-the-hog at the Northern Club. While your rangatahi have struggled to find decent jobs, the children of the Maori Party’s principal benefactors (and beneficiaries!) have moved effortlessly from university to high-paying jobs in the private and public sectors. If you believe, as Labour does, that it’s time for decent, working-class Maori families to have a fair go, then you know who to vote for.

They sure did! And with those Labour votes went all hope of National securing a majority without NZ First. Little and McCarten had blown all the bridges that could possible carry the National Government to a fourth term with its preferred allies. Only Act survived Little’s and McCarten’s strategy – and Act, on its own, wasn’t enough.

Keeping those Maori votes in Labour’s column is now critical to Labour’s re-election prospects. Five days at Waitangi are, therefore, only the beginning of what’s likely to become a sort of royal progress around the marae of Aotearoa.

Ms Adern’s undoubted warmth and empathy will not, however, be enough to deliver the promised lift in Maori working-class conditions. That will require economic and social interventions as reflective of Labour’s traditions as the campaign which destroyed the Maori Party and reclaimed all seven Maori seats.

Ms Ardern’s challenge, now, is how to govern for both the Pakeha middle-class and the Maori working-class.

Serving two masters is never easy.

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 6 February 2018.


Kat said...

Maori working class and Pakeha middle class will have a fair go when the MOW is reinstated. Lets see if Mr Jackson and Mr Jones can organise that.

greywarbler said...

The MOW is a favourite idea of yours. It did great things in the past, and I don't see why it can't morph now and become the Ministry of works, infrastructure and physical work. Tie the activity of building infrastructure, such as roads, rail, bridges, school buildings, little houses, regular state housing etc in with an eager work force that wants to create something real, solid, and get satisfaction from seeing their creation. I'm thinking of the young school leavers who don't have anything to go to. It's a difficult age and keeping them occupied, valued, interested in learning skills, and hopeful would be 100% positive for all left in the lurch in the 'economically stable' economy.

Our economy, when one lifts the mat is a dusty mess that is moribund but maintains a vital appearance through being addicted to steroids. The steroids I am thinking of are the injections of money and apparent international trading from selling bits of NZ to overseas buyers wanting to turn their economic credits into something real and lasting, tourism - still selling off bits of NZ for people to gape at, ("see the last... before it becomes extinct"), or smother in poo or plastic, and, reprehensibly milking the country of its soil fertility, water and water purity - those sort of steroids.
(Urban dictionary definition of steroids - " Roid usage is most common amongst younger athletes and wannabe bodybuilders with no brains, no patience, no dedication, and no actual strength.")

Maori are multi-talented but they like to bring all their talents to their lives. They will work hard, probably play hard at some sport, play guitar and sing, carve, catch and grow their food - the complete, talented, multi-skilled human. There isn't a huge desire for riches in their lives, but they have great lives when they can get a good start. That is if they can get the life training from parents who are busy, but warm, loving and disciplined, and are not ground down by poverty and being made to feel they are square pegs when there are only round holes.

There is modern talk of 'disruption' in business and that everyone should be ready to make changes, be ready to usher in a new thing. When Maori had colonial disruption with the wordy legal approach to filching their land and rights, they were left bereft by this new thing. There are young ones ready to get back on the old tried and true track where they were prepared and practical for difficulties of a size that ordinary humans could handle,and they can do that old stuff and smartly add the new, the tech as well. Give them training and then open up employment opportunities doing work-start with or through MOW and the further training if they later want to initiate their own businesses.

So let's get a revamped MOW going to look after the country's infrastructure, run apprenticeships, train and bring on the young fellas and girls who are dying for the lack of a future and ability to build kind, co-operative partnerships with each other, and with a working society, in all its meanings. Now that would be social investment where it offered a pathway to a positive personal future and mirrored the positive NZ we are desiring to claw back from the present psychopathic shameful shambles.
(Urban dictionary again - "Aug 1, 2014 - Superficially charming, psychopaths make a good first impression on others and will often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are dishonest, self-centered, and unreliable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it.")

Plinthe said...

Go thru the annual reports of iwi and have a look at the salary bands.

$100k $200k $300k and CEO's on $500k+

In many instances the iwi authorities / organisations have created a duplication of services & efforts already provided by the crown.

It really is a 'broreaucracy'.

greywarbler said...

Yea affluenza can strike anyone. It is definitely to be watched out for. But fronting up in the greedy economic system to talk business, it probably helps to match the salaries of people who measure you by your money.

The thing is what do they do with it? Have they their own pipeline advancing their own marae and hapu?

Kat said...

The biggest hurdle for reinstating a 21st century MOW is the almost religious belief that govt should not be involved in the business of everyday commerce. The neolib strangle hold on that ideology is the fire box of todays private sector engine and stoked vigorously by the financial, banking, federated farmers and transport operators.

Until that thinking changes or is forced to change nothing will change. And there will be no MOW.