Which way will the Maori Party go?

I find it very amusing to see so many on the left start to hug the and claim that it is unthinkable for the Maori Party not to support Labour after the next election. Because some of them used to say the exact opposite.

Jordan Carter blogged in 2005 on how the Maori Party is *not* on the left:

It seems to me that the Maori Party’s ambition is to work back towards an illusory golden past of Maoridom, where individuality is subsumed under collective whanau, hapu and iwi identities. This is highlighted by the constant references to whanau, hapu and iwi in their speeches; by their hostility to the inevitable effects of modernity and the Enlightenment on Maori society; by their desire to see social services dominated by a Maori “Aristocracy” (also known as iwi-based service agencies) rather than the universal services provided by the welfare state.

A more conservative – in fact reactionary – approach to politics is hard to imagine. If a pakeha-based party was out campaigning for the restoration of the great landed estates as there were in England; supporting the putting of economic and social power back in the hands of the elites; undermining the national institutions of common citizenship that bind us together – that party would be laughed out of political existence within minutes.

And it gets better:

That party stands for the antithesis of left wing politics, and of liberal politics. It seeks to turn around Maori society and take it back to some non-existent glorious past, and in so doing create a new privileged elite that can exert the kind of social control of the past. These are not its policies – the policies are more middle of the road than this analysis allows; I am talking about the values and the direction they want to go.

It has nothing to do with the challenges that truly face Maori society in the 21st century. It has no answers to poverty or disadvantage or structural racism or the fight for social and economic equality. It has nothing to do with the left. On that basis, the miracle of Turia’s time in the Labour Party is that it lasted so long; not that she left. The stunning ineptitude of most of our media means that the party has been pained as Labour friendly, when it is the opposite.

And finally:

I know some wet urban liberals who are thinking of voting for the Maori Party. I just hope they realise that if they do, they are voting for a party of the conservative right, which would be much more comfortable in coalition with parties that shared its hostility to the State and to national collective institutions – National and ACT – than it would be dealing with the progressive elements in National and with the bulk of the Labour Party.

Sadly the realities of politics may mean that my party has to deal with these people post election, just as it may mean we have to deal with NZ First, but even NZ First is not as bad (from my point of view) as the Maori Party. At least they fall within a recognisably relevant set of issues – fear of cultural change, populism, economic and social nationalism and so on.

And more recently in 2007:

But when the rubber hits the road, in real hard edged policy debates, they always seem to end up siding with the right.

Anyone on the left who supports the party is simply making a National government more likely. I thank the Maori Party leadership for continuing to demonstrate that on a regular basis.

Now I’ve fairly consistently advocated the opposite – that in fact the Maori Party is more left leaning than right leaning. Their voting record backs up my assertion. Over time I believe the Maori Party will support Labour more often than National. But that is not to say they will back Labour every single time.

So having said that, I think anyone who states with certainty what the Maori Party will do post 2008 election is just jerking off. There will be multiple factors in play:

  • What policy agreements can be reached
  • How much vote each major party got (like NZF and UFNZ last time they may give first option to the largest party)
  • Personal relationships between MPs
  • What Cabinet positions are offered, if sought
  • How many seats the Maori Party wins
  • What they think their supporters will want
  • What deal they think will be best for the Maori Party and for Maori

John Armstrong in the Herald reports on a faux pax by Pita Sharples though:

Commenting on National Radio on Sunday’s Marae-DigiPoll survey, the Maori Party co-leader initially said the findings made it “easy” for his party to go into some kind of governing arrangement with National after the election.

No sooner had he uttered the word “easy” than he had modified it to the much safer and less definite “easier”.

Labour have used this to attack the Maori Party by saying a vote for them is a vote for National. Not the most sensible tactics I would have thought as on current polls the Maori Party is Labour’s only hope of a 4th term.

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