The same is true in the mainstream media. Rawiri Taonui, who is perhaps the most prominent Maori political commentator, expressed roundabout support for Te Mana. Willie Jackson, who regularly offers commentary on Maori politics, has also expressed support for Te Mana.
If it were just media figures and the blogosphere wavering it would be manageable, but the MP’s bleeding even its most dedicated activists.
Some of the party’s most experienced and talented activists have switched allegiances. Think Annette Sykes, Potaua from TW.com, Tim Selwyn and so on. Maintaining a core of experienced activists would have guaranteed the party’s short term survival at least. But now they must rely on the National Party and a small faction of loyalists to, among other things, run campaigns, draft advice and organise party events.
To be fair, National’s been running the Maori Party’s media messaging for a while now. It goes back at least a year before the emergence of the Mana Party, possibly two. There’s a reason Hone called the MP “‘the Maori translation service of the National Party”.
Ultimately the Maori Party does not have the numbers on the ground. The party’s academics have also dropped away, for example Moana Jackson and Margaret Mutu. The Maori Party must now rely on their parliamentary staff to perform extra-parliamentary work, such as policy formulation. Lastly, Electorate branches in Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki are in tatters. The party never created a youth branch, they have no presence on university campuses (where a wealth of talent can be tapped) and membership is declining as former supporters chose not to renew their membership. The prognosis is grim.
Fascinating stuff – and potentially fatal at election time.
It’s hard to see where the MP can go from here. Its support for a National administration that is more explicitly neoconservative by the day and its refusal to rule out a coalition with Brash aren’t doing it any favours. An assertive tack to the Left to shore up its support would seem the logical course of action, but Turia will never let that happen.
The likelihood is that as the party’s support base crumbles it’ll find itself increasingly reliant on organisational support from National and financial support from business donors. This can only strengthen the MP’s drift to the Right and further alienate its support base. I wouldn’t want to announce the death of the Maori Party yet, but it does give off the feel of a party in terminal decline.