Hone Harawira is set to launch his Mana Party next weekend, possibly triggering a by-election in Te Tai Tokerau at the same time.
As when Tariana Turia left Labour and set up the Maori Party, resigning and triggering a by-election establishes legitimacy for the new party (assuming the by-election is won). As with Turia’s by-election in 2003, I don’t think Labour would bother to waste resources standing a candidate against Harawira – they can write the by-election off as expensive grandstanding.
It will be very interesting to see the platform of the Mana Party. With Matt McCarten and Willie Jackson on board it may be less focused on Maori Nationalism and more about solid Leftwing values. That may earn it the support of many Pakeha and PI can support as well, despite Mana being overtly a Maori party, particularly if there are some Pakeha candidates.
I definitely don’t think this is something for the Greens and Labour to fear. Sure, they may lose a few votes to it (maybe mine) but mostly it will take votes away from the kupapa Maori Party and bring in more of the enrolled non-vote. One in five Kiwis don’t vote because they don’t feel there’s anyone to vote for that represents them – the Mana Party could appeal to many of them.
At the other end of the spectrum, Don Brash’s haphazard attempt to take over ACT may actually just be casus belli for him to establish a New Right Party.
As I was writing yesterday’s post, Brash was being interviewed on Q+A. Watching that video later, it seemed clear that Brash had put very little thought into actually getting the numbers to take over ACT. He needs 3 out of 5 MPs and 8 of the 12 board members. Of the MPs, he might get Douglas and Roy but he won’t get Boscawen and it looks like Calvert is with Hide.
Brash is used to being the unaccountable Governor of the Reserve Bank and then parachuted in to National’s leadership. He no doubt thought that the informal support of ACT Party President was all he needed to get the leadership. The (sorry) brashness with which he then started talking about it publicly and musing about where he would position ACT post-election when he isn’t even a member of the party stomped on a lot of ACT toes.
I think he probably genuinely believes that this is like a job interview: he makes his case and ACT will welcome him on board. Silly old man. You have to remember that, while Brash as a brand is backed by a lot of the hard right, as a man he is a hopeless and naive politician. 31 years after first competing in national politics, he still looks like a babe in the woods.
But if ACT refuses Brash’s advance, then it gives him and his backers room to write it off as a lost cause and set up their own New Right Party (the Money Party?). I don’t think Brash is consciously orchestrating it that way, but others may be.
If Brash offers his services to ACT, is rejected and sets up a new party, the money will flood into it.If you read Slater’s posts on rightwing party dynamics, you realise they’re not worried so much about votes and activists, those can be bought, what matters is to whom the few big Auckland money-men write their cheques.
Whatever party Brash leads will share a lot of characteristics with the American Tea Party: reactionary social and environmental policies, hard-right economics, and funding from shadowy businessmen.
Stepping back a bit, the rise of new parties, and New Zealand First’s resurgence, is on the back of public dissatisfaction with the status quo in the context of long-term economic decline. Economic distress breeds political extremism and innovation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all, unless the reactionaries win.