The Herald reports Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell has said “police and their political masters” appear to be waging a campaign against the people of Ruatoki.
Now the Maori Party could well help decide who forms the next Government – even more likely if they increase their number of electorate seats from four (and I think they are presently looking good for at leats five).
While there will be many policy areas both National and Labour can work with them on, this is a useful reminder that there will be a number of areas where Maori Party MPs will say something that is highly controversial or adversarial. And if you are in coalition with the Maori Party, then you may get caught in the debate over their comments and/or behaviour – as happened to National with NZ First in 1996.
At some quiet stage this year, National might be well advised to put aside a few hours and do at least a mental roleplay on how they would handle various situations – if after the election they are in coalition with the Maori Party, or some other form of agreement. The results of such an exercise could help consideration of what sort of relationship would be best.
Questions I would start thinking about are, what would be the reaction of Prime Minister John Key to:
- One of his Ministers joining a protest march against Government policy in a particular area
- A Maori Party MP calling the Police racist
- A Maori Party Minister or MP referring to a visiting head of state/govt as a colonising bastard or some such
Do you refuse to comment? Do you just say we agree to disagree? Do you hope the media don’t ask you?
I don’t write this to suggest National should not seek the support of the Maori Party after the next election. I actually want National to seek the support of all parties (except Labour) – even if they do not need their numbers to form a Government.
But National should be aware dealing with the Maori Party won’t be the same as with United Future (for example). There are issues so dear and passionate to Maori Party MPs they would put their rights to speak up on those issues as far more important than being in Cabinet, or keeping the Government in office. So one needs to think about what sort of situations may arise, and how best to deal with them so you don’t have headlines such as “Ministers calls his own Government racist, PM won’t comment”.
In one sense it is a “nice” problem to have (means you are in Govt) and only one should worry about after the election. And while I generally agree planning to win the election should be by far the main focus over how to govern after the election – spending a bit of time thinking about these issues in advance could save a lot of grief later.