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.