How long can the Maori Party survive before it collapses under the weight of its own contradictions?
The idea of a single party to represent all Maori has always been a fallacy. When the Maori Party first appeared, I wished it well as a left-wing fellow traveller but since then, because of its impossible goal of representing all Maori and Tariana Turia’s insatible aim to suck up to National to spite Labour, it has lost everything it claimed to stand for.
Over the last few days we have seen, exposed in disgusting and dismaying detail, the contradictions inherent in a party that claims to represent an ethnic group that now transcends class boundaries. On the ETS, the Maori Party could either choose to support the Maori elite who, like their Pakeha capitalist brethren, are more concerned with lining their own pockets in the short-term than anything, or the majority of working Maori who, like their Pakeha brothers and sisters, are the ones who will bear the burden of the ETS under National’s scheme, and who will suffer and whose children will suffer if we do not take action on climate change now.
The Maori Party, excepting Hone Harawira, sided with the rich when push came to shove. They screwed over Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders in favour of treats for the wealthy polluters.
Clearly there is extreme dissent within the Maori Party over this. How could there not be? The party was founded on the ideal of enfranchising the dispossessed, but at Turia’s insistence it has come to stand for the interests of the elite. Pita Sharples is obviously unhappy but too weak to challenge Turia. Flavell, too, is a weak character and totally unable to stand up for his ideals. Katene seems to have a bizarre doublethink going on inside herself.
It was telling that when the story of ructions within the governing council of the party over the ETS sell-out emerged it was one of the co-vice presidents that came out denying it, alone and not backed by the president or the other co-vice president. Clearly, the divisions between the sell-outs and the principled extend through the party from the bottom to the top.
Can the Maori Party survive from here? Turia has exposed herself as a lackey of the Right and the bulk of the MPs have fallen into line like cowards. How can the activist base support this? They can’t. The contradictions in the party have split it open over an issue that isn’t even central to its raison d’Ãªtre. How will the party hold itself together when Turia inevitably tries to sell out over the foreshore and seabed? It won’t.
If there is a future for a Maori-based political movement, it is in a genuine Left party that does not arrogantly purport to represent all Maori, perhaps led by Hone Harawira if he can redeem himself. The future does not lie with Turia and sell-outs like her.