I’ve always regarded the possibility of a National-Maori Party governing arrangement as absurd, even grotesque. The interests of the Maori people, who are predominantly working-class, are clearly best represented by the Left.
Under National in the 1990s, Maori unemployment reached 25% and incomes plummeted. Today it is 7.7%, and Maori incomes are rising as fast as other groups, albeit from a lower base. Maori would be among those to suffer most from National’s anti-worker, anti-poor policies. Indeed, many Maori (those on incomes between $14,000 and $24,000, those on a benefit or receiving Working for Families, and those in Kiwisaver) would pay more tax under National than they would under Labour. The Maori Party’s leadership universally comes from a left-wing, often extreme Left, background with a natural distrust of right-wing politics (Hone Harawira calls John Key a smiling snake). Their supporters overwhelming favour a Labour-led government and most will give their party votes to Labour. Only Tariana Turia, deluded Nats, and the more excitable journos ever thought there could be a deal with National. Even they have now woken up.
I think it’s interesting to remember how the myth of a possible coalition was destroyed.
In private meetings, John Key made a secret concession to Pita Sharples: National would be willing to drop its policy to abolish the Maori seats. That was incredibly foolish of Key, he effectively handed one of his best bargaining chips over to Sharples, he didn’t gain anything in return for this secret concession, apparently, and he put himself at the mercy of Sharples, who could now reveal this politically damaging double-dealing by Key whenever he wanted. Sharples didn’t have to reveal Key’s concession, he could have kept it to himself, but he repeatedly reported it in the media. What interest could Sharples have had in doing that? Only undermining the prospects of a National-led government and a National-Maori Party coalition. Key got played for a sucker by Sharples. His response, calling Sharples a liar and repudiating the deal, just made things worse.
The Maori Party’s choice to follow up on the debacle by making entrenchment of the Maori seats a bottom-line, Sharples’ comments that he would prefer to work with Labour, and Lockwood Smith’s racist comments just hammered the final nails into the coffin. But it was Sharples who chose to put the chance of a deal in the coffin in the first place.