In the words of the Rebel of the North, Hone Harawira, I’m just another ‘white motherf****r’ so what I have to say is likely of little or no value. Hey ho!
[For any non-Kiwi readers this is a political setup peculiar to New Zealand- we have special seats set up for exclusively Maori voters because historically the tangata whenua (the native New Zealanders) felt somewhat disenfranchised because they were a minority in the nation and felt that the pakeha (white/non-Maori general electorate) MPs did not reflect their hopes and aspirations in The House and often felt legislation being enacted was anti or at least a-Maori in intent. Many New Zealanders do not support the existence of Maori seats claiming they are racist and divisive. Many others dismiss the few Maori MPs as ineffective, powerless and without influence despite the fact that under our current MMP parliamentary system often minority parties, of which the Maori Party will always be one, are wooed by the majority party to join them to generate sufficient seats to govern, thus become ‘king makers’ and do have a degree of power and influence. This does of course require them to temper some of their election policies as an expedient to establishing an alliance (and power sharing) with a party who weeks before were, at worst, bitter enemies or, at best electoral opponents.]
Here endeth the lesson! Back to my observations.
Hone is the elected representative of a region that is largely populated by people of the Ngapuhi tribe and they are variously viewed as being argumentative, fighters, opinionated, rebellious but are obviously proud and independent. He has often taken positions that put him somewhere outside the ‘Party Line’ but this is not necessarily a bad thing in Maoridom. Maori people (or at least those that have authority to speak) have always spoken their mind and it is in this tradition that there is always lively debate and not always consensus. Hone has come from a family of activists and proudly carries on the tradition.
What I see as interesting in the new situation for Hone now that he is no longer in the Maori Party and is supposedly an independent MP is that he must surely have lost a deal of any effectiveness he had because, as I stated previously, minority parties are only as strong as the deal they are able to make with those in power, and when one is a truly ‘independent’ Member all he has is his voice, his words, and the support of his electorate. As a Maori electorate representative Hone certainly has lots of support in ‘the provinces’ but if the rest of Maoridom are supporting their own electorate MPs then it would seem to me both Hone and his many electorate supporters are truly voices in the wilderness.
What will be interesting is whether Hone Harawira decides to create a new Maori party, and if he does how much support he might generate throughout the other Maori electorates. I suspect there would be a decent level of support, but ironically the effect of this split of the Maori vote could well be to lessen the effect in The House of the Maori ‘voice’. Currently there are a number of Maori MPs who are in the ‘mainstream’ parties- National, Labour, etc., both elected or list members, but these will always toe the party line and I would imagine that in the interests of dividing the Maori vote these MPs will be given greater responsibilities by their own parties, and the effect of the split will almost turn Maori electorate MPs into pseudo independents.