Friday 21 January 2011

The Left's Favourite Warrior

Saviour of The Left?: If Hone Harawira secures control of the Maori Party, the National Party's policy intentions - hitherto blurred by its confusing relationship with the Maori Party - will snap into much sharper ideological focus. NOTE TO READERS: This essay was written prior to the Maori Party caucus laying its complaint against Mr Harawira. Push has indeed come to shove.

HONE HARAWIRA is fast becoming the "Great Brown Hope" of the New Zealand Left. And you don’t have to be a political scientist to see why. His extraordinary column in last Sunday’s Sunday Star-Times makes it brutally clear that the relationship between the National-led Government and the Maori Party will not survive the current parliamentary term.

Unless the National Party is able to do what hasn’t been done since 1951, and secure a majority of the votes cast, the Maori Party’s imminent left-turn places the Government’s re-election chances entirely in the hands of Act – and the Epsom voters. For his Government to endure, the Prime Minister, John Key, not only needs Act’s leader, Rodney Hide, to carry the Epsom seat – but also a fat swag of Act MPs on his coat-tails.

Forcing National into the arms of Act is clearly Mr Harawira’s key strategic objective. The Maori Party’s most important contribution to National (as Mr Harawira himself wryly admits) has been its ability to blur the sharper edges of the Right’s ideological agenda. Without the Maori Party, that agenda will snap into sharp focus. It will then be much harder for Mr Key to persuade voters they have nothing to fear from a second term National-led Government.

But what about the Maori Party’s leaders – Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples? Have they no say in this?

The short answer is: "No."

Since the Maori Party’s Hui a Tau (annual general meeting) at Hastings’ Omahu Marae last October, it has been very clear that the party’s rank-and-file are looking to Mr Harawira for the leadership Ms Turia and Mr Sharples have failed to deliver. His frank exposition of the Maori Party’s shortcomings in the Sunday Star-Times is proof of this. No politician would castigate his leaders in the way Mr Harawira has done unless he’s pretty sure that, should push comes to shove, a radicalised and rebellious majority will be shoving his way.

Besides, the political logic of abandoning National for an alternative, Centre-Left, coalition is as clear to Ms Turia and Mr Sharples as it is to Mr Harawira. National’s own rank-and-file are telling their MPs that the Marine & Coastal Areas Bill is a ‘beach too far’ for many Centre-Right voters to accept. The Maori Party membership also understands that National’s stock of symbolic gestures is fast running out.

Time to steer the waka in a new direction.

You would be quite mistaken, however, to believe that Mr Harawira is paddling towards Labour. His most compatible Pakeha allies (as his own daughter bluntly reminded him by announcing her intention to vote for them) are the Greens.

The Maori Party stands to win many more concessions from the Labour Party by negotiating alongside the Greens, as a bloc, than it does by negotiating separately. Between them, the two parties will control a minimum of 11 seats. Neither Labour, nor National, will be able to form a government without them.

The only complicating factors in Mr Harawira’s strategic calculations are Winston Peters and NZ First. If the electorate suspects a Green/Maori Party bloc would demand too much from Labour, it may decide to give NZ First sufficient support to provide Phil Goff with the same either/or, both/and options which the Act/Maori Party combination gave Mr Key in 2008.

This intriguing prospect supplies all the parties of the Centre-Left with a powerful incentive to mobilise the maximum number of eligible voters. And, as National learned to its cost in 2005: the higher the turnout, the lower the chances of a Centre-Right victory.

It will be interesting to observe how many of these considerations Mr Harawira explores in his forthcoming columns in the Sunday Star-Times. My suspicion is that these verbal sallies will reflect much of the strategic and tactical virtuosity displayed by his illustrious Ngapuhi forebears. There is more than a hint in Mr Harawira of that other great ‘Hone’ of the North – the warrior, Hone Heke.

No wonder the Left love him.

This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star on Friday, 21 January 2011.


Sanctuary said...

Until Mr. Harawira finally makes up his mind between wondering if brown trumps class or class trumps brown he'll simply stagger erratically along disappointing everyone, including his daughter.

Shona said...

Spot on Sanctuary.Hone is first and foremost a racist. He will never have nor has had the level of support across society to achieve any thing of real worth because of his prejudice. It renders him arrogant, ignorant and ineffective in any real positive sense.

Graeme Edgeler said...

I'm not sure it's established that high turnouts favour the Labour Party. e.g. the MMP election with the highest turnout was Labour's worst result since 1928 and the MMP election with the lowest turnout was National's worst result since its formation.

Although you haven't specifically addressed it here, I would note that the argument that Labour won the 2005 election on the back of an excellent get out the vote drive in South Auckland has been debunked (albeit by me, so consider my biases in claiming this :-). I wrote a post addressing it a few years back here:

It has been suggested to me that compulsory voting (and perhaps analogously high turnout) favours incumbents. People who are okayish with the current system, but perhaps can't be bothered to vote, turn out and vote anyway. National's election loss, whether this year or in three or six years' time, or whenever it comes, may well happen off a low turnout, winning not because Labour voters came out to vote, but because National voters didn't.

Victor said...


I agree with you. However, Hone's rebellion is an interesting straw in the wind.

It raises questions about the Maori Party's future direction and/or its ability to retain its electorate seats.

It also suggests broader Maori dissatisfaction with the National/Iwi Concordat, which could impact on list votes.

We may be in for an interesting year.

paul scott said...

Lets hope Harawira gains power, so that New Zealand can see what Maori activism actually is, and then we we will sort all of this out at next elections.
His Foreshore, Maori privilege , Maori rank over pakeha,
Come on Warrior prepare to die.

Ana said...

All these ignorant racist comment about Maori struggle need a history lesson & a decolonsation workshop.

Who are paying the biggest price in the current recession? Maori families and Maori youth who are facing 40% unemployment. Hone was right to call out the Maori party on their brown version of 'trickle down economics' he knows that the Maori working & underclass is growing and wont be as politically passive in the future.

There has to be more of a future to look forward to than a stay in a joint serco/corporate iwi private prison.

I have disagreed with a lot of Chris Trotters views on things Maori, so I say this article is timely. Hone gives voice to the widespread dissatisfaction with neoliberal corporatism of the Maori party. This as the article illustrates the possibility of getting the gnats out of power before more damage is done to the land and the people.

Loz said...

This is the man who would disapprove of his kids having relationships with white New Zealanders... "loved by the left"? "Great brown hope"? Seriously Chris?

How do you define this extremely non-vocal but doting "left"?

The term (or direction) is thrown about way too much and is never defined. Labour has no idea of its direction or philosophy but is automatically labeled left. Mr Harawera has a demonstrated ability to offend everyone at once with his direction & that gets him labeled as left as well. I'd hate to think that being "of the left" is a way of grouping politicians who are to inspire others or draw support from the community. If it walks like a duck...

If Hone is the great hope for the New Zealand "left" its time for everyone to abandon the label and join the right.

B'art Homme said...

Good stuff Chris,
Maori Party should be playing Harawira as hard and as loudly as their ombashure (sp?) can cope ... in the Nat. brass band.

I love your suggestion that their cuddling up with greens will force an even stronger left block but as you say the Winston factor also awaits electoral re-testing

Mutterings around the artistic bloggisphere and Capital that this is the start of a new left of left party will also be very interesting to watch.

Barry Thomas

markus said...

I don't entirely rule out the Tories winning a majority of seats (longstanding records ARE broken at times, especially in this particular context where the Right-leaning vote coalesces much more tightly around the Nats than the Left-leaning vote does around Labour).

Nor do I rule out the Tories (or their proxies)using the prospect of a Lab/Green/Harawira-led Maori Party Coalition to spook voters towards FPP in the up-coming Electoral System Referendum.

Anonymous said...

"All these ignorant racist comments about Maori struggle need a history lesson & a decolonsation workshop". Yes, quite. A two-sided history lesson would be nice thanks! I've had one of those 'decolonisation lessons' and I felt like smacking the Canadian tutor in the face at the end of it....I'm not a big fan of cults.

"Who are paying the biggest price in the current recession? Maori families and Maori youth who are facing 40% unemployment." Yes, correct, but some of us white folks (and Asian folks and Pasifika folks) are suffering too y'know - I'm currently unemployed, not claiming a benefit and living on the goodwill of my wonderful parents. So it would be nice if the Maori Party would express some sympathy for ALL unemployed and downtrodden people for a change, not just their own whanau. Apparently Maori experience a unique kind of poverty and suffering compared to other poor people.

Hone Harawira reminds me of Hitler's National Socialist Party - they were extremely left-wing as well but unfortunately they only wanted to create a better society for so-called 'Aryan' people with blue eyes and blonde hair. The Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals had to be purged out. Well I'd rather be a gay Romanian Yid than a fascist racist MOFO like Harawira. That man has done more damage to race relations in this country than anyone else before him. His veins run with pure hatred, just like his mummy's. The Maori Party refused to eject him for his disgusting comments, and therefore they will never be trusted or listened to by any Pakeha who isn't into self-flagellation.

Gerrit said...

I'm suprised that the left voter (presumably wanting equality for ALL within a people owned and controlled socialist state system) actually agree with Maori seperatism and sovereignty.

For if one section (and 17% is a decent chunk) of the community is able to operate outside of the socialist system how can one truly say socialist utopis has been reached and is being maintained?

What Harawera wants is seperate soveriegn and independent socialist state for individual Maori tribes (while others within Maoridom want independent sovereign capitalist states).

Quite how the left sees this happening in their picture of a New Zealand socialist utopia is quite beyond me.

For surely a seperate property owning 17% of the population, outside the control of the state, would not make a socialist utopia.

I see the original Labour Foreshore and Seabed legislation as an kneejerk control reaction to the rise of Maori tribes desire to own and operate their own sovereign states.

Same with the Greens, Keith Locke and Russel Norman socialist agendas would be out the window as unworkable, as would the environmantalist within the Green party for with Maori sovereignty comes the option to mine, dam, develop Maori land outside of New Zealand environmental rules.

Greens also have a co-leader (very silent currently) who is a Maori monarchist and possibly unlikely to sit by and encourage Maori socialist to run Maori sovereign states.

The rise of the Maori middle class is seperating Maori people as much as the rest of New Zealand.

The gap beween rich Maori and poor Maori is as big as the gap beween the other New Zealanders.

Harawera quite rightly represents poor Maori while the Maori Party represents rich Maori and to a large extend Maori sovereighty under a heirarchel of government.

Hence the need for the Maori Party to "deal" with the Harawera issue.

Not quite sure if a new FAR left party in New Zealand can actually accomadate Maori sovereignty. Will be interesting to see how the picture this.

Victor said...

Last night I watched the surprisingly good TV One adaptation of 'Nights in the Gardens of Spain'.

Rather more than the novel, you could see it as a tale of the emotional problems of a highly privileged aristocrat, who is allowed to walk out of an inherited senior corporate role in a fit of delayed adolescent rage, only to have it offered back to him by his dad.

Television isn't, of course, the same thing as reality. Even so, I couldn't help wondering if, leaving gender identity issues aside, this was an accurate picture of how Iwi hierarchs live.

If so, you can imagine the distance between the neo-feudal hierarchy and the average Maori family; not just the poor and marginalised but the large urban, aspirational quartile, for whom the assumptions of vast inherited privilege are as alien as they are for most of their Pakeha, Asian or Pacifika equivalents.

Sooner or later, the love affair between Maori and the party of Iwi hierarchs is going to come to an end. Harawira's ethno-centric posturing does not mean that he represents an alternative, better future. But he's a symptom of the disease riddling his party.

As per normal, Markus brings us back to electoral reality with the observation that a Labour/Green/Harawira alliance would be a propaganda gift for National and its allies.

It seems to me that the best approach for Labour remains the hard slog of re-connecting with its erstwhile Maori supporters. In other words, 'It's the economy, Stupid!'

peterquixote said...

lot of Asian voters coming dude, lets hope the warrior takes over, we will demolish Maori supremacy,
be brave print my comments

peterquixote said...

Chris says :
"Unless the National Party is able to do what hasn’t been done since 1951, and secure a majority of the votes cast, the Maori Party’s imminent left-turn places the Government’s re-election chances entirely in the hands of Act – and the Epsom voters."

Yes Chris,And that is why Epsom will put Rodney Hide back in, and also why Winston Peters will not stand in that seat.
And it is also why NZ Govt NAT should back away from the ludicrous Marine and Coastal bill in favour of crown ownership New Zealanders.

Anonymous said...

Hone is very leftwing and support progressive policies such as GST off Food and opposing Free Trade which unions and the green party also support (but Phill Goff doesn't)

from Hone's website:
I just wanted to let you know about a tax justice campaign ( which was recently launched by Socialist Worker and the Alliance Party