Te Tai Tokerau by-election strategy and General Election ramifications
The ramifications of this by-election will be felt through to the General Election and has the potential to swing the result to the left so the importance of Te Tai Tokerau can not be underestimated for those with a genuine interest in New Zealand politics. The slow speed of the corporate mainstream media to appreciate what Mana could do to the balance of power in this country suggests recent cutbacks in news rooms around the country have given proof that the recent news room cut backs really have gone too deep.
Hone can not simply 'win' the by-election, Labour don't really want to win the by-election and the Maori Party must lose well.
For Hone, this is his opportunity to platform the leader he is becoming and wants to be. The spotlight of National media attention will give Mana a platform to present itself as a genuine political representation for the electorate of poverty who are now angry at the depth of pain and length of time of this recession. As tough as the global financial collapse has been for the middle classes, the added weight of economic recession has become unbearable for those on the bottom of the heap. When the doors of power close and the elites divvy up the capital of society amongst themselves, the poor will want advocates in their corner arguing for their aspirations that they know won't sell them out. Say what you will about Hone Harawira, Annette Sykes, John Minto and Sue Bradford, but they don't sell out.
The by-election is an opportunity for Hone to give NZers a reason to support Mana and it gives the people of Te Tai Tokerau the chance to start a new political path for Maori and left wing pakeha that could with a 3.5% result hold the balance of power. For those with a genuine passion to reduce the distance between the haves and the have nots, this is a possibility for social justice that only presents itself once a generation.
But Hone can't just scrape in, he has to win by a large majority, it's not just a mandate for himself that he seeks, he is looking for a mandate for a new political movement and that mandate must be unequivocal.
Do Labour really want to win this by-election? No they don't. Labour need to put in a strong performance and they have an incredible candidate, but the problem for Labour which Mana will employ is that at number 23 on the labour Party list, Kelvin is assured in Parliament anyway, by electing Hone the people of Te Tai Tokerau get two for one. Labour sense they have a massive swing occurring within Maoridom as the disgust at the Maori Party's dead rat swallowing diet has reached a crescendo but beating Hone isn't part of that wider strategy because if Mana win and run candidates in the other Maori electorates, the split vote would see Labour winning up the middle of almost every other Maori electorate, not to mention the changed Parliamentary math a sub 5% Mana would create.
The Maori Party have the most to lose in all of this. As Duncan Garner pointed out on Firstline on TV3 this morning, their candidate Solomon Tipene's confusion over the most basic of questions does not bode well. The Maori Party will lose, no question, but if the loss is a damning one then they will be a spent political force come the General Election. How on earth Solomon Tipene will defend Pita Sharple's position that the Maori Party can work with Don Brash (expect that line to be repeated a thousand times during the by-election) will remind all Maori voters that a vote for the Maori Party could be a vote for ACT.
A by-election with these types of ramifications for the general election rarely occur, it's going to be a fascinating month for NZ politics.