Mana, NZF, the Greens, and even the Maori Party, are suddenly grabbing the asset sales issue from Labour, just when it actually started to be a really valuable issue to lead on. Shearer should stop playing pundit on whether the Maori Party will go and how ‘unstable’ that makes the government. Instead, realise the broad base of opposition to asset sales and build a coalition to stop them.
The initiative has been seized by the Maori Party and iwi leadership. The Maori Council is lodging Waitangi Tribunal complaints relating to the ownership of the water used by the hydrodams that National wants to sell and whether the Government has complied with its legal good faith obligations.
Key won’t be unhappy with Maori going it alone against asset sales and using the Treaty like this. His strategy around asset sales and the rest of his agenda is to split Maori (nearly all non-National voters) from Pakeha (many potential National voters), in a re-run of the race-baiting that saw National surge from utter defeat in 2002 to near victory in 2005. That’s his only path to re-election.
But what about Labour? In what passes for their brains trust, Labour will be dithering:
Option 1 is get active, get networking, and lead a broad anti-asset sales coalition, of which the Waitangi claim is just an element. Thus diffusing the racial divide National is trying to fight this on. But that would be hard work, would require strategic thinking, and would mean dealing with people outside the 3rd floor (ewww)
Option 2 is chasing the reactionary Pakeha vote that Key is courting too by coming out against the Waitangi water claim. That would break any chance of a broad anti-asset sale coalition and, just as with the prospect of Labour chasing National to the Right on beneficiary bashing, wouldn’t actually win any Pakeha reactionaries to Labour because Labour’s position will always be softer than National’s.
With the same old crowd of Paganis and Mallards advising Shearer, I have a sinking feeling that they will choose the seemingly easier option 2.
But maybe all isn’t lost. The Greens are still talking to Labour about an anti-asset sales petition for a referendum.
If they agreed to act and then opened it up, got Mana, NZF, and the Maori Party to join too, along with various NGOs like the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa, unions, and environmental groups, then getting the required 300,000 signatures should be a doddle.
I mean, 300,000 among 60 MPs is only 100 signatures per week per MP – shouldn’t they be knocking on that many doors a week in their electorates anyway as a matter of course? The parties have tens of thousands of members between them while unions have 380,000 members and the environmental groups tens of thousands more. Getting enough of them to actually bother to sign the petition would be a big joint effort but what a great show of the Left’s ability to organise itself and what wonderful preparation for government.
The question is whether Shearer’s advisers are willing to be part of a broad coalition, or whether they prefer to rule their roost in splendid and irrelevant isolation.