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Musings on Mana

Written By: - Date published: 10:49 am, December 7th, 2011 - 22 comments
Categories: greens, hone harawira, mana, maori party - Tags: , , , , ,

David Small has been a activist for social justice for a long time. Notably in the 1981 tour and getting raided by the SIS in 1996. He is currently a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Canterbury, in the US on Fulbright scholarship, and Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. He offers his views on the Mana party effects on left politics in NZ.

Where to now for progressive electoral politics in Aotearoa?

When Hone Harawira parted ways with the compromised remnants of the Māori Party, some left-leaning activists, political figures and commentators were quick to seize on the possibility of building a political party around him that would advance the interests of Māori as well as the broader left. I was skeptical. I believed that while Hone’s agenda (that is the kaupapa on which the Māori Party was originally formed) overlapped with that of the broader left, it was not the same. I hoped that Hone would aim to forge ahead with a progressive Māori party that would win the Māori seats and eventually become the natural electoral vehicle of Māori.

I also had a number of concerns about the Māori/left mix that was being touted. For one, it seemed as though it was really serving as a shortcut to get a left-wing party up and running without doing the hard yards of building it from the bottom up. Hone’s seat would give the party a parliamentary presence which might be convenient in the short-term but could ultimately make it unsustainable. The experience of the Alliance showed both the benefits and the pitfalls of parties being dependent on the electorate seat of a single individual.

Bomber Bradbury (who defriended me over this) and others kept quoting electoral arithmetic that “proved” that the Māori/left party idea would produce the numbers to oust National. I always doubted the possibility and even the desirability of a government with Goff as PM. But I was more concerned at the medium/long-term impact such a party might have on the rest of the electoral landscape and in particular on the Greens.

The Greens are the only “third party” that has survived for the life of MMP without ever having the luxury of an electorate seat. And they have done so whilst undergoing a total change in leadership. I think their model of dual leadership and the historical accident of not having an electorate seat have contributed to their sustainability. (Labour may have done them a favour by refusing to cut them an inch of slack in the Coromandel all those years ago.) Also, notwithstanding the criticism leveled at the Greens for refusing to rule out a deal with National this year, they remain one of the most progressive Green parties in the world. My worry about the proposed Māori/left party was that it if it had a reasonable showing in November, it could have attracted enough votes from the Greens to pull them under the 5% threshold. I was also concerned that if too many progressive Green members and activists jumped ship to Mana, the Greens could drift to the right.

As it happens, I doubt that Mana took more than a few hundred votes off the Greens. Mana performed quite well in the Māori seats, with Hone holding Te Tai Tokerau, Annette Sykes coming a strong second in Waiariki and Angeline Greensill pushing the Māori Party into third place in Hauraki-Waikato. But the leading Pakeha candidates failed miserably.

Just 402 people or 1.7% of the voters backed John Minto in Manukau East. This was only 22 more than the Conservative Party candidate and half the support of the NZ First candidate. Sue Bradford did even worse in Waitakere coming sixth out of seven candidates with less than 1% support. The Conservative Party candidate got twice as many votes as Sue and even the legalise cannabis guy beat her. I have the greatest respect for John and Sue but, at three and four respectively on the Mana list, it would have been bizarre for them to have been carried into parliament with anything like that level of electorate support.

I think Mana’s future lies in the direction I always hoped Hone would take; building a strong progressive Māori party that can win and hold the Māori seats. And I think the non-Māori left who are interested in electoral politics can lend Mana some support but need to look elsewhere for our own political parties. Help to maintain the Greens as a progressive force. Use the opportunities presented by the rout of Labour to keep it true to its principles. Or start building a new left vehicle that might tap into the sort of inspiration that spawned the Occupy phenomenon and engage the disenfranchised into thinking and acting politically.

Just my two cents. Comments and conversation wanted.

David Small

22 comments on “Musings on Mana”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    This demonstrates the need for parties on the left to sit down and seriously co-ordinate what they are doing and how they are positioning themselves in the electorate.

  2. alex 2

    Broadly I agree that Harawira is not that interested in building a left-wing party, but I think you have missed the point on Bradford. She was going out of her way to not get electorate seats because the broader left plan was to unseat the unpopular Paula Bennett, which meant people had to vote Sepuloni. Furthermore there was absolutely no way the Greens were ever going to slip under 5% this time around, even with a surging Mana party. They play to very different demographics. The real casualty of a strong Mana party could only have been Labour who might have lost their dominance over South Auckland.

    • gingercrush 2.1

      She didn’t get party votes for Mana either and to be honest the electorate votes she got would have been better had they gone to Sepouloni. In other words Sue Bradford didn’t actually help Sepuloni. Primarily, the problem lies with where you get your votes from. I don’t know why Bradford and Minto or any of the left outside Labour expect the unemployed and low-income to flock to them.

      You show your own ignorance in presuming South Aucklanders would actually vote for Mana. South Auckland were some of Mana’s best areas. Still less than 0.90%. But outside of the Maori electorates their best results were in Northland and Rotorua. Undoubtedly Harawira and Annette Sykes played a part in that.

      I still think if Mana persists on being more than a maori party then they will need capture votes in the urban swing seats where the Greens have done well. Taking a mere 1% from those electorates would be helpful. In addition provincial electorates such as Northland, East Coast, Rotorua, Taupo and Whangarei could be places where they could capture votes.

      • lprent 2.1.1

        It is a question about how you can bootstrap a party under MMP, and that is the question that David Small is asking.

        So far we have two moderately successful models that have survived to date and managed to go independent of a reliance on an electorate seat. The Greens and NZ First. 

        In both cases under MMP they used an electorate seat as a centre. The Greens in Coromandel and NZF in Tauranga. In both cases they survived losing that seat but managed to stay above 5%.

        Arguably (as David points out for the Greens) losing the seat was actually beneficial because it forced those parties off the dependence on defending an electorate seat. That appears to have caused several other parties to fail IMHO including Act, Progressives, and United Future. They spend so effort in those seats that they don’t build a constituency.

        Both NZF and the Greens have a nation-wide constituency and therefore a nationwide party organisation. While they had it before, they had to develop that further without a electorate seat. It makes their parties resilient.

        While NZF dropped below 5% in 2008, that is likely to be more because of the cynical campaign waged on NZF by NAct to cause their 4% vote to be redispersed giving National two extra seats in 2008 (see Hager’s excellent “I’ve just been internalising a really complicated situation in my head“. They certainly laid the ground work for their predicable (to me anyway) bounceback this last election.

        As you say, if Mana wants to survive long term, they really need to start building that wide constituency and plan on losing TTT.

         

        • marty mars 2.1.1.1

          “As you say, if Mana wants to survive long term, they really need to start building that wide constituency and plan on losing TTT.”

          Time is needed and it seems to me that they are working really well on building their voter base – but time is needed as it was for the Greens and NZF. Once people hop on the Mana waka I can’t imagine, barring some disaster, that they would leave. Losing TTT is always there but far too early to be thinking of that IMO – let’s get a few notches on the belt first.

          • Tiger Mountain 2.1.1.1.1

            I understand the point lprent is making, but Mana is already more than parliamentary numbers and strategy which a look at the the Mana FB presence shows. The place is bubbling with (albeit sometimes naive) enthusiasm. And it is cash strapped, it was bring a plate at Hone’s election night function. Hone’s re election was needed as a platform and resource to try and help build the base from at this early stage. What do you think other fledgling parties do? Parliamentary rules regarding docking of MPs pay for absence on sitting days are set to be changed i.e. increased, I would argue to give Mana a biff, as Hone as is his style, has said he will be out and about during the year.

            “There is more to a seat in parliament than sitting on your arse”… as the bard Bragg once sang.

            Way too early to give up on TTT just yet. There are Northland/Far North issues a plenty such as mining exploration off Oneroa a Tohe (90 mile Beach) and an unhelpful and some would say racist FNDC led by Mayor Wayne Brown.

            David Small tries to make a case for opportunism from the left involved with Te Mana Movement. Many of the marxists are actually quite diffident about Mana and have offered qualified but respectful support. Don’t forget the history with the likes of John and Sue being part of the 81 tour movement that kept the focus on racism in Aotearoa-our own back yard, once the thugby was over.

            • lprent 2.1.1.1.1.1

              it was bring a plate at Hone’s election night function

              When would it not be? Offhand I can’t think of a function in Mt Albert Labour that hasn’t been like that unless you’re paying for the food through a ticket. Money is there for campaigning and I always bring along a lot of change to any party function.

              Way too early to give up on TTT just yet.

              Oh I’d agree – but an analogy with the drugs that keep me alive (and others)….

              Mana activists really need to be aware that having a reliance on the electorate seat is like any drug. It leads to a dependency which when withdrawn causes withdrawal symptoms that may cause death. Even having it causes problems because you have to keep expending effort to keep it fulfilled that you cannot expend on more productive life extending activities.

              • Fair point Lyn – but that dependency comes from having the seat and keeping the seat – I look forward to the day when dependency with the seat is an issue – can’t see it at the moment, although the dependency attitude must always be watched out for.

                And I agree with TM that there are many many issues to be addressed and Mana will be addressing them I hope.

                Lets put it into perspective though – imagine a year or two ago – there was no Mana, no choice and no hope and now we have all three – not just for Māori but for all who value equality as a basic human right. These early years of the Mana Movement will form a nice early chapter in the history of the movement. The legends are being created as we speak.

        • Lanthanide 2.1.1.2

          I think Mana is a bit different from the other 1-seat wonders though, in that Mana has a real shot of taking 2 or 3 electorates once the MP fades.

          That in fact may put them in an even worse position, though: then no one gives you their party vote because it would be “wasted” and so you end up causing an overhang and never get any talented list candidates in.

          • Ari 2.1.1.2.1

            Depends, in some respects it’s actually easier to campaign for electorates, so potentially Mana could make some headway campaigning to get as many electorates as possible.

            There’s also the possibility that the MMP review will bump the threshold down significantly. At 2-4%, Mana could simply refuse to campaign outside TTT and go for the party vote to grow to the point they become a list party, and at the ideal .89-1% threshold, Mana would already be in the position to lose TTT.

    • Ari 2.2

      I don’t think you’re entirely right that Mana and the Greens play to entirely different demographics, as both tend to have support among very progressive Maori or very progressive Pakeha who are interested in politics of strong solidarity. I considered voting for Mana this election, (I gave my party vote to the Greens on the logic that it was far more likely to help an extra MP into parliament there) and I’m usually a Green voter, and I know a lot of people who would usually have voted Green actually DID vote for Mana. I think we just didn’t notice Mana convincing previous Green supporters to vote for them because of the strong surge in the Green Party vote anyway.

      There are of course audiences that Mana will appeal to that the Green Party won’t because of its pragmatic philosophy, and that’s fine, and hopefully will be enough for Mana to start convincing some disenfranchised Labour, former-Labour, or Maori Party voters into the fold.

  3. Jim Nald 3

    Key’s precedent with having cabinet ministers like Mr 0.61% Dunne and Mr 1.07% Banks means it should also be acceptable for a Government led by the Left to have Mr 1% Harawira as a cabinet minister ?

    *Percentages based on current prelim figures: http://www.electionresults.org.nz/electionresults_2011/partystatus.html

  4. Richard 4

    “The Greens are the only “third party” that has survived for the life of MMP without ever having the luxury of an electorate seat.”

    False. The Greens held Coromandel in 1999-2002. 

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      Correct, but the point is that they just barely scraped over the 5% threshold and therefore didn’t need the electorate seat anyway. And I believe they only won it because the previous incumbent left (or everyone was pissed at them) and Labour weren’t standing a strong candidate.

      I believe they’ve been a distant 3rd in Coromandel since.

  5. It is early days yet and Mana have proved that they are are a party where tino rangatiratanga and social justice are the kaupapa. Hone’s war on poverty line was deliberate, even though I don’t like the terminology personally.

    I have posted about a book I just finished reading about Miyamoto Musashi and the lessons from his legend that the Mana Party can follow. Such precepts as “keep you opponents waiting”, “learn other ways than just the sword” and that, as Musashi developed an innovative two sword technique that allowed him to defeat multiple enemies, so the Mana Party can learn to win against multiple opponents with their own innovative techniques. Hone and Mana must stay true to the kaupapa and disregard distractions from the right, centre and left.

    http://mars2earth.blogspot.com/2011/12/discussing-book-and-mana-party.html

  6. Tiger Mountain 6

    People often miss out the “Movement” part of Te Mana’s name. And that is the key to its future. Supra parliamentary. That is where left politics must regain traction.

    A number of young people are getting involved at branch and campaign level. Young are a major non voting apolitical sector, so that is a positive. To banish Hone back to some sort of a ‘left’ Māori party is continuing dead end identity politics. Mana is a hybrid, Māori led, weighted toward kaupapa Māori but inclusive of other opressed and exploited peoples in a post colonial country under the thumb of finance capital, with a bankster as PM.

    Mana contributes more of a class analysis than any other party in parliament. The other parties all claim to stand one way or another for “every New Zealander”, the reality of course being something different, Mana does not. Mana Movement may be a six month old aspiration but it is one worth retaining in the environment that ev and AFKTT point out here regularly.

    It may have been better not to stand in the general seats (this time round) on retrospect. The thinking was to try and snag some party vote. Bit tricky when Bennett would not even front up to debates in Waitakere. Mana will likely have more seats at the next election, particularly if the Māori Party attach themselves to the nats again.

    The left, parliamentary and non parliamentary, do need a lot more formal coordination as the fear and loathing has started already with this government before the specials have even been announced.

  7. fatty 7

    I still fail to understand why a party cannot be pro-equality and pro-Maori…to me it makes sense, and nobody has come close to justifying why…surely people realise that capitalism is the new colonialism

  8. randal 8

    faty fool.
    hone is his own man.
    he delivers and he understands the issues.
    identifying undiagnosed nicotine addiction in youth was a masterstroke.
    as long as he concentrates on health and education and votes against asset sales he will be right.

  9. BruceMcF 9

    “I believed that while Hone’s agenda (that is the kaupapa on which the Māori Party was originally formed) overlapped with that of the broader left, it was not the same.”

    Nor could any single party agenda be the same as the agenda of “the broader left”. That’s why its so hard to organize “the broader left” in the first place, since “the broader left” so rarely fits into a single agenda.

    It seems to me that the musings above skips a step. For the Mana Party, the question is whether a Maori-led progressive party has a long term future as a viable political party. For “the broader left”, the question is what impact a long-term viable Maori-led progressive party would have on “the broader left”. Before thinking about what impact a Maori-led progressive party might have, for good or ill, it bears musing on what the general shape of such a party would be.

    First, if its to be a Maori-led progressive party, rather than an exclusively-Maori progressive party, there has to be some reason for pakeha and Pasifika voters to join a party and a movement that is explicitly Maori-led. And for it to attract Maori-support as a Maori-led progressive party, it has to have a durable commitment to being and remaining Maori led.

    Thinking about it from both sides of that political equation, the Maori seats are the key. As long as the parliamentary party is anchored on the Maori seats, the political dynamics of contesting Maori seats ensures that it remains a Maori-led party. And in terms of what progressive pakeha members of a Maori-led party get out of joining a Maori-led party ~ its the Maori seats, and the promise of not being subject to the threat of electoral wipe-out in the event of vote slipping below the 5% threshold.

    If Maori seats are to be used in that way, it has to be done honestly to be viable over the long haul. Any cynical effort to use the Maori seats as leverage for what is a pakeha-led party behind the scenes would be sniffed out later if not sooner, and result in loss of the Maori seats ~ after all, the charge will be made in any event for a Maori-led party that campaigns for votes outside the Maori electorate, and the only way to stand against the charge over the long haul is for it to be fundamentally untrue..

    From that perspective, I agree that the position of the pakeha candidates on the party list needs some consideration. I wonder about the wisdom of having a party list for what has to be a Maori-led party to have ANY position down the list with a plurality of pakeha MP’s. A “Maori-led party with broader appeal” identity suggests that the first two candidates on the list should be Maori candidates and then from slot 3 on down, no more than one in two non-Maori candidates.

    In the New Zealand electoral system, for the party to be anchored on the Maori seats but not limited to the Maori seats means that it cannot be an “overhang” party. It has to aspire to attract a sufficient party list vote to bring members in from the party list. There are three sides to that. First, it has to win the party list votes of its electorate voters. In other words, it has to convince its electorate voters that it is not an “overhang” party and that a party list vote for the Mana Party is not a wasted party list vote. And second, it has to win split votes in the broader electorate, voting party list for the Mana Party and casting the electorate vote for the preferred LOTE among the serious contenders.

    Which kind of means its general electorate candidates are out there trying to win party list votes. It might even be useful to start out, “I’m not asking you to vote for me. I’m asking you to vote for the Mana Party,”, and then make the case for the Mana Party movement and the specific platform it is putting forward in that particular election.

    Third, it has to win party list votes from the Maori electorate outside of those who cast their electorate vote for the Mana Party candidate. In other words, it should aspire to reverse the current Maori Party split vote pattern, and have a stronger party list vote in the Maori seats than its electorate vote. Which means that the Maori seat candidate needs to find the way to express, one way or another, “I’m asking for your vote. And whether or not you vote for me, I’m asking you to support the Mana Party.”

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