What could time-out time for Hone mean for the Maori Party?

by Jake Quinn

Hone Harawira, according to the NZ Herald, will be pushed if he doesn’t jump.  This week really hasn’t been a good one for him.  When the story first broke of his leaked email calling white folk “white mother-f**kers” my initial reaction could best be summed up as “lol”.

You see, I am just not that easily offended and what’s more, I am simply willing to tolerate, to a point, more ‘racism’ from Maori towards non-Maori than vice-versa, in the same way that I tolerate, to a point, more sexism or violence from women towards men than vice-versa.  It’s about power relationships.

People have likened Hone’s outburst to that of Paul Holmes ‘cheeky darky’ comments about Kofi Annan.  The main difference here was that Hone was running his mouth in anger, but about something he truly feels passionate about (that is, how dastardly Pakeha have treated Maori throughout history), whereas Holmes was most likely being mischievous in his comments because Newstalk ZB was in a ratings period, and he knew his comments would cause a stir and increase his ratings above that of his main rival during the survey period.  The two outbursts thus cannot be compared.

Hone’s problem has been his handling of events since the outburst, such as calling for Goff and Labour to be lined up against a wall and shot, and probably worse for him, he clearly fell out with his party’s co-leaders by refusing to take their line of advice, which would have no doubt included a slightly more hyde-esk mea culpa.

Last night I conducted my weekly political focus group session (that is, Thursday night poker) and have concluded that 20 something Hamiltonian Pakeha males think Hone has done the Maori Party no favours at all, that he is racist and that there is a double standard if he gets away with it, and that for the Maori Party to succeed they need to sack him and let that nice Mr Sharples get on with working with that nice Mr Key. This sentiment is no doubt shared by many in the country.

So where does this leave Hone.  If he is removed from the Maori Party he could stand in and win his seat, returning as an independent.  But what would be the point?  Hone doesn’t want to be some rouge independent, off-side from his Maori Party constituency.  What’s more Hone leaving the party but maintaining a political presence could fracturing the activist and pragmatist Maori vote, and signal the beginning of the end of the Maori Party as we know it.

The Maori Party has some tough decisions to make over this stuff and none of it comes lightly. My advice? Chastise, chastise, chastise, but don’t kick him out as it could be the beginning of the end for your party.  Many Maori Party voters need a Hone in there to cling to.  They respect Sharples, hell everyone does (and that’s half the problem), but Hone brings X-factor to the table that his colleagues simple cant.

Update: Associate Professor Ann Sullivan, Head of Maori Studies at the University of Auckland, seems to agree; she says the Maori Party co-leaders have made a mistake and that Hone is more important to the Maori Party grassroots than the mainstream media acknowledge.  She also says that playing this saga out through the media, and so quickly, is a mistake (7 minutes 40 seconds in - on Afternoons with Jim Mora on RNZ today).