Hone Harawira is to trigger a by-election in Te Tai Tokerau by resigning his seat. This is the right thing politically – more attention for the Mana Party – and in principle. Harawira should test his mandate as leader of a new party – as Winston Peters and Tariana Turia did.
Of course, it’s completely in Labour, National, and the Maori Party’s political interest to act all faint over the $500,000 cost. Labour is right to not waste money standing a candidate. And the Maori Party has its self-interest right in choosing to fight Hone now and challenge his legitimacy as the voice of the Maori Left lest they be swept away by the Mana Party in November.
But let’s be serious here. It’s $500,000 for a legitimate and well-precedented action. If the public purse can’t afford $500,000 let National’s MPs give back this year’s tax cut (also about $500,000 in total) before complaining about the price of democracy.
But Harawira might like to consider why Paddy Gower’s piece on TV3 that sparked all the attention on the cost of the by-election was so hostile. It’s because Harawira twice told TV3 outright there would be no by-election. Journos punish you if you lie to them. Harawira could have left the question open – ‘you better come along to the party launch’ – without answering either way.
(btw. the only way to block the by-election is for the PM to table a document in Parliament pledging that there will be a general election within 6 months and 75% of Parliament agreeing to leave the seat vacant. Early election, Mr Key?)