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Thursday, February 10, 2011

What to do about Hone?

I was asked to attend a Maori Party special branch meeting last night - in Te Ururoa Flavell's electorate of Waiariki - called to discuss the Hone Harawira situation. It will be reported back to the Electorate, so he might get a flavour of it.

I told them that I thought Te Ururoa's disciplinary complaint was inevitable because Hone went a handful of words too far in criticising the leadership and as whip he had to act, but a lot of what Te Ururoa was complaining about seemed to reflect more a personal antipathy towards Hone (and more than Hone has with him). The complaints about policy alignment with National were perfectly legitimate to raise and most of what Hone said was designed to get the party as a whole focussed on how to differentiate the party clearly from National in the election campaign. Hone is asking awkward, but the right, sort of questions; but because he doesn't ask them in a polite way and implies the leadership is weak the leaders avoid giving an answer and pretend he shouldn't have asked at all.

The politics of it reeks to high heaven too. Hone is gagged until his Tai Tokerau hearing - that's Mai Chen trying to shut him up, that's what the party donations are being spent on? A terrible look, because that evening (and I was still reading through the bill recommendations at the time) the Foreshore and seabed legislation had been released early - it looks like an ambush. Look at Hone's webpage to see how important that issue is.And he can't talk about it now because he's gagged, just when the other caucus members collude with the Tories in cutting the select committee short and rushing it out in a big hurry so they can ram it through. Is this supposed to be an unrelated coincidence?

I said to them as I've said on the blog: the career prospects for leadership are blocked for Hone because Te Ururoa obviously has the backing of the caucus to be the next (male) co-leader and it doesn't look possible that Hone will ever lead the Maori Party or sit in government as a minister with the power to deliver. This dead-end for Hone is causing frustration and contrary to most people I think that Hone wants leadership and power - and yes, also responsibility - just like everyone else. He doesn't want to be a maverick, loner forever. It's just that in the current circumstances his leadership path intersects with Te Ururoa. So this dispute has a significant element of personal rivalry - more than has been admitted. If Hone can't progress then he will look towards other options if he is pressed: independent and leading his own party the two options (he isn't the resigning sort).

I told them that Hone will be Hone and that is what people like - and dislike. The party is better with him in than out, and because we all know the nature of the beast will not change it is up to the caucus to incorporate him so that the party remains unified. A way must be found or he will cause a schism. Hone's concerns are legitimate and have not been addressed by the leadership.

I put it like this: Pita Sharples is like Martin Luther King Jr.He has the weight of the movement on his shoulders and his mantle of leadership and responsibility means he has to be more conservative than people with less to lose and will co-operate with the authorities when the opportunity arises to gain concessions.

Whereas Hone Harawira is like Malcolm X.He is the firebrand who won't shut up. He will tell the brutal truth to anyone and everyone at every opportunity, and he won't be part of any half-measures and compromises. Both have used the "field negro/house negro" comparison in describing the situation of their people in their own societies.

Both men were assassinated - Malcolm X at a point when he may have joined up with MLK. So I think about the political assassination going on here where Hone is being taken out in order to keep the "moderate" collaborators inside the government as the official representatives of the movement.

Those were my views. They will make their own report tonight to Te Ururoa if he's at his electorate's meeting, but what I can say here is that generally their views were similar to my own and they struggled to find what the hanging offence was that Hone had committed.

Hone was a voice that should be heard because he was speaking the truth. Hone has the best rapport with the youth and that that should not be discounted. People felt uncomfortable about the process and thought it was ultimately up to Te Tai Tokerau electorate to make the call on Hone being in or out. Hone being cast out was too much of a mess to contemplate. The importance was to remain unified and for the caucus members to work together. No one was much impressed by calling in the lawyers - the Maori Party ought to be using tikanga Maori rather than getting lawyered up when someone doesn't get their way. The bickering is damaging the party and discouraging. Hone's positive energy must be harnessed constructively, but realistically Hone is difficult to lead and any political organisation of which Hone is part would find him difficult - in either a following or leading role. It's a tight fit in the Maori Party - as broad as the kaupapa is - and the friction is causing heat, but is his immediate disciplinary problem enough to trigger a melt-down? Or will that come at a later date when he erupts again?

There is a lot a flaxroots support for Hone and a lot of suspicion - or really recognition - that the Maori Party in government has done far too little with its power, failed to take the harsh edges off National, has not opposed crucial aspects of Tory policy and that now is the time to start drawing some lines in the sand.


At 10/2/11 10:20 pm, Blogger Deborah said...

I find Hone Harawira difficult, but then I would, being pakeha. But so often he is right, and if not right, at least honest. He does not dissemble. He speaks truth to power.

At 11/2/11 12:50 pm, Blogger Tim Selwyn said...

Hone is both a liability and an asset in the Maori Party books. Some count his truth-telling as a liability rather than an asset. There is a dispute about the value of such a character and whether he adds any net value to the Maori Party.

The problem is that it is too close to the election for him to go without causing huge damage - so at this point anyway he is better in than out. As long as he keeps treading the line and doesn't go over it then he retains options.

He has the potential to become a leader but knowing that he will continue to be kept at the little kids table means he will be disruptive.

At 11/2/11 12:54 pm, Blogger Tim Selwyn said...

A comment received for this post via email:

I want to reply to your comments on Dr ML King and Malcolm X... and the comparison you make between Pita Sharples and Hone. I have only been following NZ politics a few years, and am a I white person, but am pretty politically astute, and am a trained historian in American history.

You do Dr King an injustice. He was a real radical! What most people know him by is the filtered and modified version the media gives them. The "I have a dream" King. But in the last few years of his life he began to articulate, and to live out, the radical (and dare I say, fully Christian) vision he had earlier only hinted at in his civil rights action. He came in out in strong opposition to the Vietnam War and demanding justice for American blacks and the poor and oppressed. I think he probably always believed these things but had not fully voiced them until the last few years of his life.

As for Malcolm X, his views are also not so straightforward and clear, and they developed over time. I thihk that he and Dr Martin would have moved closer to each other, had they both lived a bit longer. I cannot claim to understand Pita Sharples and his views. My feeling is they are closer to those of Booker T Washington
than ML King. But then, I could be wrong...I understand that Booker T Washington had some good ideas!



At 18/2/11 8:52 am, Blogger unattachednz said...

'There is a lot a flax roots support for Hone and a lot of suspicion - or really recognition - that the Maori Party in government has done far too little with its power, failed to take the harsh edges off National, has not opposed crucial aspects of Tory policy and that now is the time to start drawing some lines in the sand.'

Tim: what is it that flax roots people thought would happen -- I mean they need to wake the hell up -- what were 5 MPs going to achieve on their own and on the opposition benches.

I recall being told prior to the announcement of the Maori Party accepting John Key's offer to enter into a relationship with National -- and my comments were: Just do it! - not because I voted National -

but for all the other opportunities - that would arise for the Maori Party and its membership.

With apologies to Tennyson:
When they dipped into the future far as the human eye could see;
and saw the vision of the world and all the wonder that would be ...

My view is had the Maori Party remained in opposition or (heaven forbid) joined forces with Labour -- it horizons would have been that much more distant - methinks despair and the 'devouring tooth of time' would have tugged at their collective energy and resulted in an outcome far greater than what it is facing today.


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