Hone Hariwira will win his electorate in 2011, and if at that time he is a member of the much touted new Left party then it may be that other MPs will follow him in to Parliament. Yesterday Phil Goff ruled out working with such a party:
Goff rules out working with Harawira party
Labour leader Phil Goff has ruled out working with Hone Harawira even if Mr Harawira heads a party of several MPs. …
Mr Harawira’s record meant he would not be a suitable coalition partner, Mr Goff said. “I don’t think Hone Harawira would be a reliable coalition partner. The second (reason) is extreme policies, some of which I have found personally offensive. I don’t think there is a basis for us working with Hone Harawira,” he said. “I am saying we would not entertain a coalition with him.” …
Mr Harawira had breached agreements with his party. “We’ll have a bottom line and that bottom line is not one that Hone Harawira reaches.”
While I think it is useful and honest to be clear about your preferences before an election, I think all of this ruling “out” of people or parties is just foolish posturing. I think it’s foolish when John Key (eventually) rules out Winston Peters, I think it’s foolish when Phil Goff rules out Hone Hariwira.
If an individual or party is elected to Parliament then they have a mandate to be there. Many of us may disagree with those mandates. Right wing nut jobs like to froth about the evil Winston Peters. I happen to think that perky little Rodney Hide and his stupid racist ACT party is far worse. But the voters get to decide. If they put you in Parliament then no one can question your right to participate in Government. Nor do I think for a moment that either Key or Goff would actually decline power if dealing with the “excluded” ones was the only way. They’d find an excuse in an instant.
So what of Goff’s reasons for ruling out Hone. First, that he can’t be trusted, that he broke his agreement with his party. Well – bollocks to that. Labour just spent 9 years in government with Jim Anderton, who broke his agreement with Labour long ago when he split off to form New Labour. And at the last election Labour didn’t rule out working with the Maori Party, co-leader Tariana Turia, who likewise shattered her agreement with Labour in the strongest possible terms. Hone can’t be ruled out on these grounds. In fact, I (and I’m sure many others) admire him for holding his principles higher than any agreement with the bunch of sell-outs that the Maori Party have become.
Goff’s second reason is that Hariwira holds views that are offensive. Presumably this refers to the “white mother fuckers” incident. I’m no fan of racism either, whether it is Hone Hariwira, Winston Peters, ACT, Iwi/Kiwi Nats, or any other kind. But rule out working with racists (especially via supposedly private and unguarded email), and I’m pretty sure that half of Parliament would be gone. Nor can National can’t attack Labour for being willing to work with such a firebrand, when they’ve been working with him themselves for months.
Instead of ruling anyone out, Labour should rise to the challenge. Instead of playing defensively, Goff should take the gamble, and back himself to be able to work with Hariwira. If, for example, a workable and enduring consensus on the foreshore and seabed could truly be reached, think what a worthy and historic contribution to New Zealand politics that would be…
All of my posts for March will finish with this note. While life goes on as usual outside Christchurch, let our thoughts be with those who are coping with the aftermath, with the sorrow of so many who were lost, and with the challenges ahead.