So Hone Harawira has been readmitted into the fold of the Maori Party. It’s hard to see how excluding him from Parliament until the end of the year is a punishment, given that he has repeatedly said he detests the place (and who can blame him?).
It seems more like political convenience for the Maori Party not to have the only one of their MPs that hasn’t totally sold out to the National Party agenda around. That’s what this issue has always been really about. More than Harawira’s behaviour, it’s about the splits in the Maori Party that probably sparked that behaviour.
As John Armstrong writes today:
The party’s shifting stance on climate change has also been a shambles. In backing National’s emissions trading scheme, the Maori Party ended up endorsing something much weaker than the previous Labour Government’s version which the Maori Party was unable to support because it wasn’t tough enough. Figure that one out.
The party’s MPs were completely outmanoeuvred by Labour which shifted attention away from the concessions designed to help poor Maori to the ones seen as unduly benefiting so-called Maori elites.
[Harawira] is far more likely to quit on a point of principle over some Government measure he finds untenable. That is the nub of it. The Maori Party represents many voters for whom National Party doctrine is anathema. Harawira’s enforced absence from Parliament during last week’s debate and vote on National’s emissions trading scheme may have been a blessing in disguise.
Haami Piripi explained further about the divisions inherent within the Maori Party on RNZ this morning:
The fact that the Maori Party was able to stitch together a number of different constituencies ranging across a spectrum of perspectives, it was always going to be a big ask to keep it all together”
[If Hone had left the Party] there’s a whole lot of people who would have gravitated towards him. We’re very committed to our seat in the North, and in that sense we’re committed to whoever occupies it, so that would have created a huge dilemma for people in the North and I think they probably would have gone with the seat as opposed to the Party. So this is a good opportunity for Hone and the Party to think about our political future because I think the Party has as much to think about as Hone does.
The fact is Turia has been forced into a humiliating back-down by the Harawira/activist wing of the Party. She wanted Harawira out. She was forced to let him back in with a slap on the wrist. Duncan Garner reckons Harawira has effected a coup and become de facto leader of the Party because he has proven the base are on his side. We’ll have to see. If the Party keeps selling out to the National Party on policy, then Turia is still in charge where it matters.
Meanwhile, once again, John Key has taken the weak, inoffensive position. He has now decided that he thinks Harawira’s comments were racist but hasn’t accepted or rejected Harawira’s apology. Instead, he meekly said Harawira will ‘have to prove himself’ against unspecified tests. It’s as if Key sees himself as an observer of events, not a leader.