Saturday, October 15, 2005

You should have seen it coming

Many people have been surprised at how much effort Tariana Turia has put into seeking an accommodation with National, despite Don Brash's Orewa speech etc.

Co-leader Pita Sharples has been going along with it, claiming on Mana News on Friday that Brash was seeing Maori issues and in particular the foreshore and seabed issue "in a new light now".

They obviously weren't listening hard enough before the election, when Turia and other party leaders repeatedly outlined positions on the socially conservative side of the fence. Don't lump us in with the gays and the prostitutes and the tree-huggers, and don't tell us what's good for us, was the gist. After all, what is "whanau-hapu-iwi" but family values writ large.

"This whole notion we are a party of the left and we have got to be a party of the left. Oh no," Turia told me in July. "We are a party that is on about kaupapa. Politics needs to change. Politics does not have to be about the left or the right. Politics can be about values and principles and integrity and commitment and honesty. It can be all those things and we can have politicians who genuinely believe they are there to represent the interests of the people they serve."

She said there was little or no difference between politicians like Winston Peters, Don Brash and Trevor Mallard.

On coalition with National, she said once the election was over Brash would want to sit down with the party if he was short of the numbers.

The fact is the rupture between Turia and Helen Clark was deep and bitter, and was about more than the foreshore and seabed. It won't be healed overnight.

Clark went out on a limb to bring Turia into Parliament and into a ministerial position, and it blew up in her face. Turia has never courted the wider Pakeha public, and made no compromises in power. The occupation of Pakaitore/ Moutoa Gardens, which made Turia nationally recognised, did not win wide public support in the same way the Bastion point occupation eventually did. As a minister Turia stymied initiatives which did not conform to her idealised views of Maori social structures failed to provide the kind of leadership Clark was looking for from her.

Turia's side: "I lost complete respect for Helen Clark. I held private and confidential discussions with her which were leaked to the media, and I knew there was an attempt to portray me as someone who wasn't well, who was stressed, who was basically unsure of things, mentally diseased. The same as they did to John Tamihere actually. I knew I would have to leave as quickly as possible to maintain my integrity with the people, or they would portray me in quite a different way."

This is the same person who told a Maori asthma conference last week that she overcame stress-induced asthma by leaving Labour (as well as by adopting the Buteyko method of breathing exercises).

Tariana's utu has given Winston Peters with a far stronger hand than he merited, which he seems to be using to block the Greens from any useful role in government and to wring a number of trophy policies which may, like those of his inspiration Rob Muldoon, shore up some of his votes but cost the country dearly in future.

Over on the Tino Rangatiratanga mailing list, tree chopper Mike Smith suggests the Maori Party should keep its powder dry in anticipation of winning more seats in 2008, and "don't let personality politics get in the way of the kaupapa".

Too late Mike. The powder is sodden and personality politics are rampant.

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