Tuesday 19 July 2011

Trick Questions

She'd Swear No Oath To An English King: Constance Markiewicz was the first woman elected to the British Parliament but was never seated because, in line with the nationalist and republican principles of the Sinn Fein Party, she refused to swear allegiance to the monarchy which had oppressed the Irish people since the 12th Century. The New Zealand Speaker's recent refusal to seat Hone Harawira until he swore allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II shows that the feudal traditions of our parliament still have teeth.

IT’S ONE of those trick trivia questions that always catches the pub-quiz whiz-kids off balance.

“Who was the first woman elected to the British House of Commons?”

Quick as a flash, all the amateur historians chime in with “Nancy Astor!” (the American-born Vicountess who famously declared: “Mr Churchill, if you were my husband I’d put poison in your tea.” To which Winston Churchill, even more famously, replied: “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”)

The amateur historians would, however, be wrong.

Lady Astor was indeed the first woman to take up a seat in the House of Commons (she won her husband’s old constituency of Plymouth Sutton in a by-election in 1919) but she was not the first woman to win one.

That honour belongs to Constance Markiewicz, the Irish nationalist revolutionary, who won the constituency of Dublin St Patrick’s for the Irish nationalist party, Sinn Féin, in the British General Election of 1918.

That Constance Markiewicz never took her seat in the House of Commons was due entirely to her nationalist and revolutionary republican beliefs. As a champion of Irish independence from Great Britain and a staunch republican, she was not about to swear allegiance to an English king, or a monarchy which had oppressed her people since the 12th Century.

And therein lies the insurmountable problem – as New Zealanders, witnessing the aborted swearing-in of a member of their own House of Representatives  93 years later, have discovered.

The Oath of Allegiance, like so many of the other feudal relics that still clutter this country’s constitutional arrangements, may seem to be nothing more than a harmless anachronism, but, when challenged, turns out to have a cutting edge as keen as any medieval broadsword.

LIKE IRELAND’S SINN FÉIN (“Ourselves Alone”), the newly-formed Mana Party is a revolutionary nationalist political movement seeking to bring about fundamental social, economic and political change within the framework of a constitutional monarchy.

To get around this central contradiction at the heart of Mana’s political project, it’s leader, Hone Harawira, is required to swear an oath, or make an affirmation, which he has no intention of honouring. Or, to put it more bluntly: before Mr Harawira can take up his parliamentary seat, the Speaker of the House, Dr Lockwood Smith, is requiring him to perjure himself.

The Mana Party leader is committed to establishing a bi-cultural Aotearoan republic, with the Treaty of Waitangi enshrined at the heart of its constitution.

Why, then, should he be required to “solemnly swear” to: “… be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.”

The legal experts, like the Speaker, will argue that “the law is the law”. It’s a fair point, but it is also a profoundly hypocritical objection.

For many years, now, Members of Parliament who have not been able, in good conscience, to swear an oath before God, have been able to make an affirmation instead. Why then, if our legislators are willing to make provision for the tender consciences of atheists, have they not extended the same courtesy to republicans?

We know how swiftly the House of Representatives can act when it wants to (just ask the executives of Warner Bros.) so why doesn’t it allow Mr Harawira to swear to:

“ … [B]e faithful and bear true allegiance to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, that I will be honest and forthright in my efforts to advance the rights of the people of Tai Tokerau, that I will do my utmost to help all Maori people become full empowered citizens of this land and that I will do whatever I can to reduce inequalities in this country, so that all may one day be proud to call Aotearoa home.”

THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, in deciding to stand firm on the Oath of Allegiance, has brought the evolving tradition of MPs swearing or affirming allegiance to Treaty, Nation, Democracy and Queen to an abrupt halt.

This is regrettable. Because, by re-infusing the Oath with all of its ancient, feudatory power, Dr Smith may end up driving the Mana Party to adopt the tactics of Sinn Féin in 1918.

Rather than take up her seat in the King’s parliament, Countess Markiewicz, along with dozens of other Irish MPs elected under Sinn Féin’s banner, unilaterally constituted themselves as the Dáil Éireann – the first parliament of the Irish Republic.

Thus began the Irish War of Independence.

JUST AS POWERFUL CURRENTS of water have carved out the courses of Canterbury’s rivers, powerful currents of history are carving out the future contours of the New Zealand state.

It will indeed be ironic if future pub-quiz whiz-kids identify Dr Lockwood Smith as the man whose neo-colonialist actions sparked the birth of the Bicultural Republic of Aotearoa.

This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 19 July 2011.


Anonymous said...

The trouble with acceding to one demand by the sort of ethnic nationalist party represented by Constance Markiewicz and Hone Harawira is that another demand will immediately be put forward. Constance and her fellow romantic revolutionaries abandoned the constitutional path at a time when 60 Irish MPs in Westminster held the balance of power in the British Parliament and had extracted a Home Rule Bill for Ireland, only held in abeyance for the duration of the war. They plunged Ireland into a nasty war (commencing with murdering some rural policeman). When the British government signed a peace deal the rebels had a civil war among themselves which killed more people than the war against the British. It's interesting to read the recent biography of Patrick Pearse, one of the revolutionaries of 1916, himself half English (an English father) and an English speaker, who devoted his life to reviving the Gaelic language and an imagined Irish golden age, came to believe in the cleansing power of war and set out to become a martyr in an insurrection which had only minority support at the time.

Unknown said...


Hone is happy to affirm allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi, which is an agreement between Maori and the Crown that states in the first article that Maori "... cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty."

It's difficult to see how that differs markedly from the oath required by him to become a member of Parliament that states as you quoted: "… be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors, according to law...."

Both the Treaty and the Oath cede sovereignty and obedience to the Queen or her successors.

The difference between the Irish situation and that of Maori is significant. One is a story of military conquest and resistance, the other is the story of a Treaty freely entered into for mutual benefit, and subsequent broken promises.

New Zealanders by and large accept that Maori have been dispossessed of lands and traditional rights that were guaranteed to them under the Treaty by the Crown. Successive Governments have sought to provide both apologies and settlements which by and large have been accepted by Maori.

For the most part, both Maori and settlers of other ethnic descent realize that we need to 'rub along' together and make the best of our situation under the rule of law, as the alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

Honi does appear to fancy an alternative which appears to be a good distance away from being supported by a significant minority. I hope he gets lots of air time leading up to the election. Being exposed to his ideology is our best chance of being electorally protected from it.

Victor said...

If New Zealand became a republic, bicultural (whatever that means in a constitutional sense) or otherwise, that republic would then be the heir and successor of HM the Queen of New Zealand

This would be in keeping with international precedents whereby, for example, the Republic of India is considered the heir and successor of his late Imperial Majesty, the Kaisar i Hind, George VI, and the Italian Republic is the heir and successor of King Umberto II.

Countess Markiewicz, in contrast, was denying the legitimacy of Ireland's constitutional link with the rest of North-West Europe's off-shore islands, within what was then known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Her refusal of the oath of allegiance flowed logically from that position.

There is, hence, no overwhelming reason for Honi Harawira to avoid taking the oath, although, from his point of view, this may be a perfectly reasonable political tactic.

Brendan is, of course, correct in his interpretation of the English text of the Treaty of Waitangi. The problem, is that the Maori text says something different.

It suggests, as far as I can understand matters, that the Crown and its successor institutions are merely one of two freely contracting parties existing alongside traditional Maori society and having a largely instrumental relationship therewith.

It also suggests that the contract between these two parties is aimed at preserving the traditional authority of the Maori tribal hierarchy.

Two questions then arise. The first is what is Hone doing as a member of what Tiriana (with a logic worthy of Countess Markiewicz)calls the "settler parliament"?

The second is how can he justify superimposing a republic over the traditional hereditary leadership of Maoridom, without violating the Maori text of the treaty?

Countess M, of course, had a totally different vision.

She and most Irish revolutionaries of her day wanted Ireland to be united from sea to sea, with Protestant minority and Catholic majority sinking their differences within a new civic patriotism. That's why there's both orange and green in the Republic's flag.

Jack Scrivano said...

Surely if Mr Harawira wishes to swear (or affirm) allegiance to The Treaty of Waitangi, he is, by implication, also agreeing to swear (or affirm) allegiance to HM Queen Elizabeth II. That’s part of the deal in the Treaty, ‘to cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England’, etc.

And if he believes that the country would be better off as a republic of some sort, and if he believes that Parliament is the place to make this change happen, then shouldn’t his first priority be to get himself ‘inside the tent’ as quickly as possible?

On the other hand, if he doesn’t believe that Parliament is the appropriate vehicle for change, why is he so keen to get himself elected as an MP? Or is he just keen to make sure that nobody else gets that chance? As things stand, he is just denying his supporters a voice in the House.

Anonymous said...

"LIKE IRELAND’S SINN FÉIN (“Ourselves Alone”), the newly-formed Mana Party is a revolutionary nationalist political movement seeking to bring about fundamental social, economic and political change within the framework of a constitutional monarchy"

What nonsense.
Hone's personal standing, his electorate seat and a grab bag of Alliance lite reforms does not make a revolutionary movement. Or even a bowderized Gerry Adams run Sinn Fein. Mana is not about " fundamental social, economic and political change". Its about an inflated populist coming to save the unwashed, who have yet to indicate in any numbers that they actually want that favour from him.

Anonymous said...

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is different to the Treaty of Waitangi. Hone used the former rather than the latter.

Victor said...

Anonymous @ 8.25

I understand the distinction you are making.

My question remains: how, under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, can Hone justify membership of the "settler parliament"?

By what right, moreover, can he (as Chris maintains he is doing)declare himself in favour of one form of Pakeha self-governance (a republic) over another (a constitutional monarchy).

Surely, under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, it's none of his business, beyond insisting that the Pakeha treaty partner, however constituted, observes its obligations under Te Tiriti.

Loz said...

Queen Elizabeth I supposedly proclaimed with vexed frustration "Blarney, Blarney, I will hear no more of this Blarney!" and prevented his name being uttered again. After weeks of this never-ending, self-aggrandising Harawira circus I have a newfound understanding for that sentiment.

Anonymous said...

Good article Chris. Bring on the republic of Aotearoa!

Andy C said...

Open question, can anybody please tell me what practical, real difference would be gained by being a republic. I'm discarding the Oath of any kind, it will make not one iota of difference to anybody.
Perjury wil still be perjury even if you swear it on the Beano, and, as far as I know, no politican in the last hundred years has ever been held to account for failing "to bear true allegiance" whatever that means.
Chris, I defer to your encyclopedic knowledge.

Victor said...

Radical change, including radical constitutional change, always operates under the law of unintended consequences.

The replacement of a democratic, constitutional monarchy by a democratic republic would be such a radical change, as we are all shaped, however subtly, by both shadow and substance of the institutions under which we live.

I'm not sure what palpable abuses would be addressed by replacing a hands-off constitutional monarchy with a (presumably parliamentary) republic.

If these could be identified and proved pressing enough, I might just possibly end up supporting the move. But I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime, it's a sure fire bet that the change would bring as yet unidentified downsides in its wake, without any as yet identified, material upsides.

And, going out on a limb, I would suggest that the power and influence of the monied interest might wax even larger if the state's iconography did not have a crown on top and did not seem hallowed by tradition, albeit of an imported variety.

It's surely not a total accident that, however bizzarely and inexplicably, constitutional monarchy and social democracy have proved such comfortable bed-fellows across the globe for the past three quarters of a century.

A further consequence of a move to a republic might well be increased enthusiasm for union with a newly republican Australia.

I'll leave it to others, for the moment, to debate whether or not this would be a good thing. The point is, however, that all sorts of hitherto fringe notions can acquire centrality, once the familiar constitutional furniture is re-arranged.

And here's the rub.... a change to a republic would also ipso facto involve a review of all our constitutional assumptions, including the place of either the Treaty (English version)or Te Tiriti in our national life.

Maori and many others (myself included)would abhor abandonment of what we see as the ideals of mutual respect, sharing, friendship and good neighbourliness enshrined, in one form or another, in both these documents. For all our manifold faults, these remain New Zealand's most precious Taonga.

Equally, though, many Maori and most Pakeha (myself again included)would object to Te Tiriti's reactionary, feudal principle of Tino rangatiratanga being imposed on us.

Amongst other things, this would be an assault on our most precious Taonga as equal members of the human species, a principle for which a very large number of New Zealanders have laid down their lives.

Our constitutional monarchy, whilst also obviously reactionary and feudal in form, provides us, in practice, with a reasonably effective way of fudging the harsh choices that a republic would force on us.

I suspect the fudge also helps Hone Harawira as it enables him to draw on both neo-feudalism and
democratic populism when framing his rhetoric.

Graham White said...

See: http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Debates/Debates/Speeches/7/c/c/49HansS_20110714_00000057-Smith-Lockwood-Members-Sworn.htm

Anonymous said...

The Mana Party leader is committed to establishing a bi-cultural Aotearoan republic, with the Treaty of Waitangi enshrined at the heart of its constitution.
Biculturalism is an unhealthy forced marriage between the open society, and its enemies.

[it's a good one Chris right it down]

Scott said...

What on earth is neo-feudalism, Victor? A few months ago you were talking about how the British empire preventd this country practising slavery in the nineteenth century, and now you're talking about Maori society as 'neo-feudal'? I don't mean to be rude, but you seem to be recycling a few conservative bromides.

The feudal mode of production has never existed in New Zealand. The use of the word 'feudalism' to characterise pre-contact or early nineteenth century Maori society involves both a misunderstanding of Marxism and a misunderstanding of Maori society. The term is best left to be abused by right-wingers. http://readingthemaps.blogspot.com/2010/12/

What did exist on a very large scale in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, in places like the Waikato Kingdom and Parihaka, was what some scholars have dubbed 'the Polynesian mode of production', a system which mixed up elements of a pre-contact lineage production with elements of the market economy, and which was both very successful and antithetical to the interests of settler capitalism. Remnants of this mode still exist in many rural Maori communities, and provide some of the material base for Maori nationalism. I suspect it is a community like Parihaka, which fused collective labour and collective land ownership with an openess to foreign markets and new technologies, that Hone has in mind when he talks about fusing socialism and tino rangatiratanga. I certainly don't think he wants to be the new Hongi Hika...

Andy C said...

Thank you Victor, a most informing reply. I believe the "as yet (un)identified, material upsides" was the piece that has eluded me. I had concluded I had missed something in this argument.
I suspect we would get some notional head of state as part of the deal. I would suggest, try saying President Muldoon out loud, without laughing, to test the appetite for republicanism.

Scott said...

It is sad to see socialists reacting to the phenomenonon of Hone Harawira by affirming, their loyalty to the monarchy and their faith in the good intentions of the New Zealand state.

And arguments about whether a bourgeois president or a bourgeois governor-general would do a more efficient job of overseeing general elections and diplomatic functions are the sort of thing one would expect to find on a conservative website like Kiwiblog, where New Zealand capitalism and the New Zealand state are seen in a fundamentally positive light.

Rather than reacting to Hone's challenge to the New Zealand state by retreating back into monarchism and sentimentality, as Victor and other frightened Pakeha seem to have done, socialists should look at how they can use the political space Hone is opening up to put forward their own ideas.

Surely socialists ought to be able to agree with Hone that the actually existing New Zealand state, far from being a natural, comfortable, historically inevitable entity, is the outcome of a series of often quite violent struggles, and tends to represent the interests of the victors of those struggles?

Socialists should also be able to recognise the similarities between the mass, decentralised organisations which have traditionally been thrown up by the Maori national liberation movement and the strike committees and workers' councils which have been a feature of revolutionary confrontations between capital and labour, both in this country and overseas.

The New Zealand state was crafted by a settler capitalist elite in the midst of sometimes desperate battles against Maori nationalists like Tawhiao and Te Kooti, and later refined to deal with challenges from organised labour like the 1913 Great Strike and world-historical crises like the Great Depression and World War Two.

Not surprisingly, given the characteristics of the people who made it, the New Zealand state is rigged to act against the interests of Maori and organised labour. The state was on the wrong side of picket lines in 1913 and 1951, and on the wrong side of the barricades at Bastion Point and Whaingaroa.

Hone's stunt in parliament last week was an attempt to draw attention to the fact that the New Zealand state has a pronounced ethnic-national character. Hone wants a binational rather than a Pakeha-chauvinist state.

The oath Hone tried to swear last week included a reference to the 'dispossessed' of New Zealand as well as to Te Tiriti, and this can be seen as his nod and wink to the socialists and trade unionists who have rallied round his new party.

Socialists should take Hone's hint, and complement his call for the reorganisation of the New Zealand state on binational lines with their own proposals for a fundamental change in the class character of that state.

Just as Irish nationalists like James Connolly and Ruairi O Bradaigh have talked about the necessity of marrying republicanism with socialism, so that the removal of the British state from Ireland leads to real social change, so we should be arguing that the reform of the old racist New Zealand state will mean nothing if it is not accompanied by the reorganisation of the economy and the empowerment of the people Hone called 'the dispossessed'.

The sad story of the Maori Party shows what happens when the quest for tino rangatiratanga is divorced from class politics. On the other hand, the victories won in recent years by both indigenous peoples and organised labour in Venezuela and Bolivia show that national liberation movements and class politics can cohere powerfully.

Scott said...


Drawing on New Zealand traditions like Te Kauhanganui and Kotahitanga, and perhaps also on the experiments in the construction of 'multi-national states' in Bolivia and Venezuela, Hone has called for the establishment of a parliament to represent the Maori nation. Like Hone's abortive oath last week, this proposal is a bold challenge to the uninational character of the present New Zealand state.

Why don't socialists complement Hone's call for a Maori parliament with a call for a workers' parliament? We could argue that, like Maori, workers are neglected by the existing parliament, and that workers' interests need to be championed by an independent body elected through organisations like the unions.

Like Hone's call for a Maori parliament, a proposal for a workers' assembly has no chance of success in the current political climate. It might, however, stimulate discussion about the class nature of the New Zealand state, the institutionalised discrimination against organised labour, and the ideological and organisational parallels between
Maori nationalist and socialist politics.

Support for a Maori parliament and a call for a workers' assembly would certainly do more to promote socialist ideas than defences of 'Her Majesty the Queen' and sneers at Hone.

Let's build bridges rather than walls, and call not for the retention of the British monarchy and the settler state but for a binational workers' republic of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Victor said...


You are misinterpreting my remarks of a few months ago.

From memory, I was questioning what I took to be Madison's assertion that New Zealand's European (primarily British)colonists were more enlightened than European settlers in the United States and, for this reason, slavery didn't flourish here. (Sorry, Madison, if I'm misrepresenting your view).

In this context, I pointed out the simple fact that it would have been illegal to introduce chattel slavery into a British colony after 1834.

I strongly suspect that, had this legislative barrier not existed, chattel slavery would have been introduced in at least some parts of the colony.

In other words, the absence of chattel slavery in colonial New Zealand had very little, if anything, to do with the alleged enlightenment of the colonists.

I also recall (perhaps inaccurately) your response that, despite this barrier, New Zealand was used as a base for 'blackbirding' in the Pacific.

I assumed your point was in support of mine or that, at the very least, we were on the same page in doubting the angelic wisdom and virtue of New Zealand's Victorian colonists.

In fact, I thought our positions on this issue so obviously in tandem that a "right on!" would have been superfluous.

As to my alleged misuse of Marx, I should point out that I am not a Marxist or even a Marxian, albeit (given my generation and provenance) inevitably influenced by that mighty shade's style of thought.

By 'Feudalism', I mean a form of governance and identity based on status, familial ties and heredity (in terms of membership as much as leadership)rather than on contractualism and the centrality of universal human siblinghood.

There is nothing essentially noxious about Feudalism, when referred to in this way.

Contractualism, moreover, also has its dark side, neo-liberalism being one of its manifestations, whilst universal human siblinghood proved a useful mantra for Stalinists.

Moreover, the notion that our social bonds are inherently elective is something of a fiction, albeit, in my view, generally a benign one.

Even so, to give primary place to non-chosen sources of identity (e.g. iwi and hapu) involves a rejection of how most people in New Zealand now see the world and of important values, otherwise integral to our society.

In this sense, it is 'reactionary', although it might cease to be so, if, for example, immigration patterns delivered a sufficiently large number of new settlers from more traditional cultures or cultures with a different 'take' on modernity.

As to 'conservative bromides', I leave it to others to decide how bromide-like I've been.

But I do plead guilty to being, loosely, a Burkeian conservative on matters of political philosophy.

However, I tend to vote for Social Democratic parties and completely reject the rigidly ideoligical contractualism that has now taken over most parties on the right and even of the so-called centre-left.

BTW. I believe that an essentially Burkeian understanding of society provides a better way of reconciling potentially opposing notions, such as Treaty Partnership and representative democracy, than does anything provided by either the Socialist or Liberal traditions (including neo-liberalism). Hence, my paen in praise of 'fudge'.

I am, however, open to being convinced otherwise. In the meantime, my apologies for the speed of my response and for any obscurities resulting therefrom.

To prevent at least some future misunderstandings, I'll stop calling Hone Harawira a neo-feudalist. I can think of other, more precise, epithets.

But I do think the term reasonably sums up the position of his erstwhile colleagues in the Maori Party.

Victor said...


Having read your two latest posts, I must insist that I am neither frightened nor sentimental.

I am a conservative by both instinct and principle, albeit with a small 'c'.

As such, I have few delusions about the human race and an inherent distrust of moves towards fundamental, as opposed to incremental, change.

I'm also a believer in the practical virtues of constitutional monarchy, albeit that I think it's perfectly reasonable to question a convention whereby New Zealand has a head of state on the opposite side of the world.

You, in contrast, are a radical. Obviously, we won't agree about how to move forward. It's as simple as that!

I actually think, though, that we do agree quite a bit about the history of colonial New Zealand. We just draw different conclusions from it, in line with our very different philosophic positions.

May I add a genuine thank you to you for explaining to me why radical leftists such as yourself are drawn to Hone Harawira. I must confess to having been mystified till now by this phenomenon.

I'll give the guy a bit more mental shelf-room in future.

Scott said...

Hi Victor,

I understand that you have a high profile in the deep south as a trade unionist and activist in the Alliance Party. It does seem to me sad that someone with such a background would respond to the phenomenon of Hone Harawira and the Mana Party by retreating into defences of British imperialism and the monarchy and insinuations that the Maori version of the Treaty is inherently anti-democratic. Your response seems odd, too, when so many former members of the Alliance and a number of high-profile left-wing trade unionists have made their way to the Mana Party.

You do seem to be taking an extraordinarily sanguine view of both British imperialism and the New Zealand state in your recent comments.

It is hard to deny that slavery existed on a massive scale in the British Empire during the nineteenth century, even if that slavery was referred to as 'bonded labour'.

After being invited into Fiji by local leaders desperate to reverse the approriation of land importation of bonded labour by white settlers, the British presided over the importation of tens of thousands of Indians who were driven to sign away their freedom by hunger and dispossession. The same policies were applied in other British colonies like Trinidad earlier in the century.

Even in New Zealand the importation of slave labour occurred: in 1870, for example, a ship carrying men from Efate arrived in Auckland. As numerous contemporary news articles and the report of a police commissioner show, the imported men, who were acquired as a result of the bribery of an Efatean chief, worked for years against their will in New Zealand.

In the twentieth century New Zealand employed slave labour in Samoa and in Niue, disguising the practice by claiming the slaves were being punished for political dissent or criminal offences.

I dwell on the case of slavery because it shows how the fine words of a legal document may have little relation to reality. You cite the apparent promise of universal human rights in the English version of the Treaty of Waitangi as though it proved that, despite certain regrettable errors, Maori have enjoyed equal rights to Pakeha and New Zealand has been some sort of liberal democracy ever since 1840. The historical record speaks differently.

It can be argued that the nineteenth century British universalism that you want to celebrate was tied up with the oppression and dispossession of Maori. If Maori would not assimilate completely to Pakeha culture and give up their land then they were held to enemies of universal values, and were regarded with a contempt that was often genocidal. (There are numerous nineteenth century examples of newspaper editorialists and Pakeha politicians advocating the physical extermination of the Maori, on the grounds that they had chosen to lve outside the reach of civilised, 'universal' values.)

Just as it is wrong to assume that the universalist language of the English version of the Treaty promises some sort of pluralist democracy, so it is wrong to assume that the references to chiefly autonomy in the Maori version of the Treaty mean that every advocate of tino rangatiratanga in the nineteenth century, let alone today, advocates some anti-democratic ideology. Tino rangatiratanga may well have had that meaning in 1840, at the tail-end of the Musket Wars, but since then one hundred and seventy years of thought and action have surely given us a variety of ways of conceiving tino rangatiratanga.

Victor said...


Just to make my position on this thread clear, I'm not overly concerned with the sort of oath that Hone chooses to swear and I don't necessarily think the speaker's approach was sensible.

Daniel O'Connell, Lionel de Rothschild and Charles Bradlaugh each, in turn, secured membership of the Westminster parliament despite refusing to take the oath as it then stood. In none of these cases, did the sky fall in.

My original objections were to Chris's comparison with Countess Markiewicz and to the grandiosity of his statement that Lockwood Smith might be remembered as "the the man whose neo-colonialist actions sparked the birth of the Bicultural Republic of Aotearoa."

I must, in all honesty, say that I continue to find his and your thoughts on this subject grandiose.

You have, however, persuaded me that Hone may still be around after the election and his party may not necessarily be the transient phenomenon I've taken it to be.

Victor said...


One last point. I've tried posting an item on your website pointing out that I'm not Victor Billott. Unfortunately, however, my comment doesn't seem to have registered with your software.

Did it not occur to you that there might be more than one Victor in New Zealand? In any event, I apologise to Mr Billott for any confusion between his identity and mine.

Some of your comments are more understandable given that you thought I was a fellow left-wing socialist, which I am not.

Even so, you ascribe to me sentiments that I have never uttered, like suggesting that I think Hone Harawira wants to start a war in New Zealand. What a load of codswallop!

I just don't like what seems to me, rightly or wrongly, to be a deliberately cultivated, threatening, macho image. I believe that this sort of posturing is harmful to our body politic, just as it is when someone like Rodney Hyde indulges in it.

You also ascribe to me a sanguine view of New Zealand's colonial past. You are completely mistaken on this, as you should be aware from some of our previous interchanges.

The past is one matter. My views on the present and future are another. They are, I believe, consistent with my political philosophy, which just happens to be different to yours.

One of the great virtues of Bowalley Road is that space is made for a variety of viewpoints. Indeed, Chris deserves some praise for his light exercise of a site owner's right to censorship.

Sometimes regular contributors who don't normally agree with each other find that there are things that they can agree on. And sometimes the reverse happens.

You and I have agreed strongly on some issues in the past and probably will do so again, despite our radically different philosophical starting points.

In the meantime, I think it's time for us to wind this conversation down, as more heat than light is being generated.

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