It’s a very delicate title for the Maori Party’s press release on National’s foreshore and seabed offer but it reveals much. On the one hand, they know they can’t accept a deal that doesn’t give title to iwi. On the other hand, the co-leaders really don’t want to leave government.
It’s very telling that the Maori Party’s press release said “the caucus” doesn’t think it can accept Key’s offer and Te Ururoa Flavell fronted for the media calling Key’s deal “a bridge too far”. Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples haven’t stated their personal views. The press release pleas for Key to meet with the Iwi Leadership Group: “We have got to a point where it is critical that the Prime Minister hear directly from the iwi leaders”. As if their positions can magically be made reconcilable is a sign of desperation, is a prayer that the inevitable can be avoided.
This is obviously very difficult for the Maori Party’s co-leaders.
By making them ministers, Key very cleverly co-opted Turia and Sharples. They have given his government an illusion of centrism and allowed him to play one coalition partner against the other. He has also made it very difficult for the Turia and Sharples to walk away. Leaving the government means a pay cut and a loss of power, and losing what little ‘wins’ they have gained, like Whanau Ora. All Key loses is a partner that was becoming a liability with his base anyway.
The backbenchers, especially Hone Harawira, are obviously pushing hard for the Party to stand true to its principles.
Which is why they should never have gone into the deal in the first place.
But there’s no option for the Maori Party here. They can’t get the deal they want from National. They can’t buy into a deal that fails to meet their basic objectives on their key issue. They can’t stay in government after failing to make a deal because the relationship would be all give for no gain.