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The unfortunate necessity of the ‘Ordinary Voter’

10 days ago I nearly voted Labour. David Cunliffe’s automated phone call the night before the election nearly got me. Nearly. In the end I gave my two ticks to the Māori Party. I figured it would need them to stay alive, and to have any kind of role in continuing the development of Whānau Ora. In a way I was disappointed in the Māori Party campaign as I did not get a sense of how they would seek to influence economic direction; they almost never talked about the economy, the single most important thing voters can make a choice on. But I voted for them anyway, not so much on policy but on strategy. So, the thing is, I did not vote to change the government, and I knew it. Even as my blimmin’ kids started chasing each other between and around the voting booths, with the four-year old doing a pretty good impression of someone in the grip of a psychoactive substance, I knew it. And when we scuttled out of the Newlands school hall before anyone could throw us out, I knew it. It came down to a matter of trust for me. While I prefer Labour’s economic policies, I couldn’t trust that the Labour hierarchy I would give my party vote to would be the same Labour hierarchy in following months or years. Nor could I trust their ability to hold together a coalition of the Left.Easy enough to say that now, in hindsight, with yet another Labour primary looming. But lack of trust is what drove my decision not to vote Labour, and therefore the Left as a whole.

So, in outing my voting behaviour, I can now admit it’s been a little depressing in the days since the election. Not so much because of the election result, which was predictable (and I was relieved the Māori Party survived, albeit in depleted form), but because of my Twitter feed and FB status updates that have been spitting rage on upon both non-voters and centre right/right voters. [And impliedly, voters like me, who passed up the opportunity to vote Left]. A few of these give the general impression I have been getting..

I am gutted at the lack of compassion and understanding from all those National and right wing voters. You’ve just given John Key and his mates a mandate to continue with corruption, gutting what’s left of a safety net, signing away New Zealand sovereignty, raising debt… […] Soooo gutted FUCKING FUCKTARDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Should have given the right to vote to your 12 million sheep, they have more intelligence and compassion

Many of the people I know that voted National …have a great lack of understanding on how they will affect the future of this country. It makes me wonder how they made their voting decision. As much as I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that all opinions are valid, I sometimes wish there was a law that prevents stupid people from voting!

I have no love for my country anymore, I despise the All Blacks for helping Key get re-elected, and I don’t respect the 48% who voted for National because they are heartless and brain-dead. I hope they will feel the pain and suffering already experienced by the disadvantaged, it’s the only way to make them regret their decision.

It’s not so much that electoral democracy is not fit for purpose but rather that a large portion of the voting electorate are no longer fit for purpose.

Wag friend on election results: “Evil will always triumph because Good is dumb.”

 

Many, but not all of the comments I saw came from predominantly Pākehā well-educated, employed and middle-class commenters. The anger and the disbelief was confronting and disturbing. It was also immediate, and visceral and, for the most part, emotionally honest. What worries me is not the emotionalism per se. What interests me is the contempt expressed for The Ordinary Voters. He and She are stupid, gullible, uneducated, corruptible, greedy, and more.

Perhaps these kinds of comments (and the above examples provide just a tiny smattering)  is the product of what often been called political ‘tribalism”. After all, there is nothing so powerful and unifying between individuals joined by a common political ideology as the sense of being part of a chosen people that have the best answers. That is an ancient narrative as old as social humanity, is it not?  Such thinking is, after all, at the heart of our party-based system of political representation. But that belief creates the inevitable corollary that those who don’t share any given belief are at worst dumb, gullible, and corruptible, and at worst, corrupt, craven to ‘interests’ and, well, just plain evil.

On the other hand, there is another strong theme that has been emerging; the Ordinary Voter as Sensible and Discerning paragon. John Key even told us so, on his Campbell Live interview two nights after the election. ‘The Public’ he reckoned are ‘much smarter than maybe all of us the media and politicians give them credit..[…] They are much smarter than we think. Much smarter.’ [That repetition didn’t make it onto the web edit, but I repeat it here because the emphasis is..well, emphatic.]

I don’t take issue with Key paying tribute, as he saw it, to the electoral intelligence of voters (from his point of view, natch) . It would be extraordinarily ungracious for a prime minister who had just led a third term election victory with increased support to neglect to pay tribute, in some way, to the voting public. A couple of things interest me about this quote, though. One is that Key clearly identifies the ‘elite’ (‘us the media and politicians’) as not quite connecting with, or understanding ‘the Public’. The second point is the necessary implication from this quote is that this identifiable elite (albeit wrongly) considers The Public to be stupid in the first place.

I’m sure his observation reflects a truth. After the leaders’ debate on 10 September the TV3 expert panel (including Bryce Edwards and Josie Pagani and Duncan Garner) was convened to discuss the debate. The panellists were convinced The People watching would have drowned in the policy detail (despite the many thousands of text voters who were highly engaged with the issues being debated). They then enlisted a quaintly-named People’s Panel (comprising amusing Ordinary Voters Who Are Clearly Not Experts) and asked them if they found there was too much policy detail for their little heads. ‘Um…no.’ was the general response, to the surprise of all. I found this aspect of the piece patronising.

The theme of an elite  out of touch with Ordinary Voters has also been picked up consistently by those commentating on the demise of the Left vote, and the internal chaos of the Labour party, as shown here, and here. Morgan Godfrey identified that  political elitism of the Left was to blame for electoral defeat, not policies:

Yet the problem wasn’t that the policies were poorly pitched. The problem seems to be that politics – the process, the institutions and then the policies – isn’t reaching voters at the hard edge. Our New Zealand not only talks past the New Zealand that won last night, our New Zealand also seems to talk past the people we claim to represent. Everyone is entitled to a better life, yet our leaders seem incapable of giving convincing expression to that very simple idea.

I don’t know how the Left can rebuild a relationship with Ordinary Voters, or how deep the disconnect really is between “the elite” and those voters. Nor is the “elite”, including mainstream media and others in ‘the beltway’ are entirely to blame for the routing on Election night. I sure as heck don’t think the blogosphere of Right or Left are to blame any more than any other factor; they are merely part of the mix. Focusing blame and attention on that elite or a combination of its parts, I suspect, is only going to reveal some of the problems.

My gut instinct tells me, however, that contempt for ordinary voters is never a good strategy for any political movement, within its elite, or within its broader membership. Rarely have I seen more unattractive advertisements for the Left than those disseminated on social media in the past couple of weeks.Cameron Slater may be a card-carrying attack dog for the Right, but I wonder if the largely middle-class and educated Twitterati and FB Status Update Commentariat don’t themselves comprise a fairly vigorous battalion of attack piranha. Except they attack their friends and family and acquaintances directly and indirectly. For every person who posted “I can’t believe the New Zealand public voted in Donkey and his lackeys again’ there was an auntie or an uncle or a cousin, or old school friend who either voted for the centre-Right, and just held their counsel, or who didn’t vote Left, or who simply didn’t vote, and who also will have held their counsel, because non-voters were just as big a target as voters for the wrong parties. And the divide between potential voters for the Left and actual voters grows just a little bit wider.

So maybe, just maybe, for the Left to regenerate some relevance and numerical support, obviously some serious thinking needs to go not into sorting out machinery of politics and the right platform.  But perhaps  the angrier politically active voters of the Left might also seek to understand (instead of presume) why other ordinary people actually voted as they did. And a hint: it will not generally be because they are venal, corrupt and stupid. Maybe some honest and open conversations could do at least as much for the rehabilitation of the Left than another Labour leadership primary. Maybe political tribalism is less an answer to political apathy or conservatism than a trap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why my vote may not be that important after all. (Gulp)

Like a lot of bloggers at the moment I have been toying with the notion of writing a piece encouraging my Dear Readers to get out and vote. Indeed, I found myself starting to get all worked up about how IMPORTANT OUR VOTE IS. And how I OWE IT TO MYSELF AND MY WHANAU to use my  little vote wisely. Then I had to check myself, and tell myself to ‘settle, petal!’ Cos actually, it’s easy to get sentimental about voting; as if it is our one big ritual by which we discharge our duty of civic citizenship. Actually, that’s kind of rubbish, really. That kind of thinking might even verge on fetishisation of voting, potentially at the cost of all the other things we can do to keep democracy alive in this country. Plus, it invalidates the conscious decision made by some to not vote at all, and yes, that too can be a civic and political choice, even if not one I favour. And for so many Maori who are or consider themselves, disenfranchised from national politics, what…are we condemning them to a kind of democratic purgatory when they don’t vote in national elections? In the immortal words of the Black Eyed Peas: Is that all there is [to democracy]? In short, no, it’s not. In my view it’s civic decision making that characterises democratic behaviour: participating in decision making that affects not just me, my whanau and my immediate kin-network, but the whole of my local community, and beyond. I don’t just mean generating a whole lot of heat and light about issues that affect those communities such as we have seen at public fora in this election campaign. Protest alone, or ecstatic hollering at Moments of Truth meetings don’t comprise civic decision-making, for example.  Of course that kind of engagement can often be critically important precursors to people then carrying out democratic actions. Would, for example, thousands of people have joined up to the Maori Party and later, the Mana Movement, were it not for the foreshore and seabed hikoi in 2004? The hikoi alone was not democracy in action, no matter how fondly we might imagine that it was. It was the other stuff, such as the birth of new political parties, the creation of fresh avenues for civic decision making, among other things, that comprised democratic action. Turning up to vote at settlement ratification hui, at local body elections, making submissions to commissions of inquiry, or to Parliamentary select committees, or to local iwi authorities, or other local bodies, giving evidence before the Tribunal, any, all, or other such actions affect what decisions can be made that have an impact on our communities more broadly. And Māori have such an extraordinarily rich, complex and fascinating history of civic engagement throughout New Zealand history. Our focus on the Big Election Every Three Years allows some commentators to bemoan the lack of Māori engagement in some aspects of national politics (re Māori voter apathy, for example), while completely ignoring Māori civic engagement and decision making where it does occur. There are numerous observations from the early and middle decades of the 19th century referring to a specifically Maori democratic practice. As used elsewhere on this blog site, here’s a quote from Francis Dart Fenton from 1857 (when he was a resident magistrate) talking about Maori runanga making decisions:

No system of government that the world ever saw can be more democratic than that of the Maoris. The chief alone has no power. The whole tribe deliberate[s] on every subject, not only politically on such as are of public interest, but even judicially they hold their “komitis” [committees] on every private quarrel. […] In case of a war the old chief would be a paramount dictator: in times of peace he is an ordinary citizen. “Ma te runanga e whakatu i a au, ka tu ahau.” “If the assembly constitutes me, I shall be established,” is an expression I heard used by a chief of rank, and perfectly represents the public sentiment on the question.

Maori civic decision-making processes led to the establishment of Kotahitanga parliaments, the Kingitanga, the Maori War Effort Organisation during and post-World War II. And today, within parliamentary representation, the operation of Maori land law, the Waitangi Tribunal hearing process and the Treaty settlement process we can still identify a large contingent of Maori individuals, tribal groupings and other polities that are deeply invested in using whatever power may be available to them to effect legal and political transformation of the New Zealand civic and political landscape. This, among other things, is the Māori exercise of democracy. Yes, I’ll be voting tomorrow. I’ll be taking my kids down to Newlands School, and kinda chuffed, as I usually am at election-time. But instead of merely asking ‘who I am going to vote for?’ on this last day before the nation goes to the polls, I’m also going to ask myself: what am I going to do after this election? What am I going to do, in the wake of all the sheer volume of information that we ordinary voters have been subjected to, to just….participate in civic decision making? Or will I slip back into my three-year slumber? Mind you..with the way my head is hurting from information overload from the past few weeks, it’s tempting!

Confessions of a moderate Maori voter…(If that’s OK with you, that is).

On my Facebook feed this morning I read the following status update written by a friend. It made me wonder. This was a cry from the heart for something that Māori have apparently lost. This woman was just..

[r]emembering the days when we weren’t separated by our political beliefs but were connected through kaupapa, whakapapa, hope, and making Aotearoa a wonderful and amazing place to live.

The many likes and comments on this status showed that quite a few people were agreeing with this thinking: Māori have become too politically divided, too self interested, too disconnected from this things that really matter, too divorced from the kaupapa. Māori live in a fallen, individualistic world. The answer to the fall is somehow to rediscover cohesiveness between ourselves as a people, remember the ties that bind us, to reject those things that divide. That’s a pretty powerful vision, especially for a people, such as Māori who, research and our own discourse tells us, are more likely than Pākehā to adhere to collectivist practices and values.

True to my own bloodymindedness I read the question above and thought…’um..no I don’t remember that time, because I’m not sure it ever happened.’ I think that if we apply the microscope to any period of Māori social and political history what looks like unity and cohesiveness mutates and disappears before our very eyes. Māori value collectivism, including securing collective outcomes (even if only at the expense of other Māori collectives) sure, but that has never translated to hive-think. Our mythology is suffused with stories of conflict, especially between siblings or cousins, and between grandchildren and grandparents, Tāne separating Rangi and Papa in the face of opposition from Tāwhirimatea, Māui’s enduring conflicts and collaborations with his brothers in fishing up Aotearoa and slowing Tama-Nui-te-Rā, and in Māui stealing his ancestor’s jawbone, Tāwhaki overcoming the hatred and jealousy  of his cousins or brothers-in-law, and tricking his grandmother by filching her taro tubers in his and his brother’s quest to ascend to the highest levels of heaven.  And so on. Any number of other myths show intense rivalry, conflict  and sometimes desperate cooperation before fundamental change is able to take place. Māori mythology does not present us with homogeneity. The towering figures of these narratives are intimately bound by whakapapa, but fight furiously for different visions of how the world ought to be. Māori mythology gives us a pretty good template for modern Māori politics and, in that light, makes the split between Hone Harawira and the Māori Party seem positively pre-ordained. I’m not sure what the template would be for the coming together of the disparate elements of Internet Mana, but hey, there would be something in there somewhere…maybe.

A couple of the comments on the status I mentioned above refer to a dismay that Māori are not only divided, but can to be seen across the political spectrum. As one said: ‘Frustrating I would say! Look at our mates in every camp!’ This reminded me of the many comments made in the wake of National releasing its list in July. With 2 Māori women in the top 10 (Hekia Parata and Paula Bennet) some comment was made on the left of the spectrum of those women’s betrayal of Maoridom by their alliance with National. As one Facebooker commenting on Annette Syke’s posted link sharing the list wrote:

Yes agreed and to be honest if getting a promotion up the ranks is a result of screwing over your own people then it’s not really something to be proud of.

The tenor of such comments reflects once again the dearly-held notion that a true Māori political vision is a unified one, and those who cross into other political fields, away from the perceived locus of Māori political cohesiveness, are betraying Māori. I just can’t buy that. But that’s because I’m a hopeless political moderate (more on that below)

So while Māori political representatives are spreading throughout the political spectrum more easily in MMP times what can be said about the other part of that equation: Māori voters?

It is probably not a terribly original observation that our voting behaviours (and not-voting behaviours) can reveal a lot about us and how we became formed as individuals. Voting itself is an intimate thing; no matter the promises you make to others, or the signals you send out to the world at large and the people who care to listen, the moment in the voting booth is just between you and your conscience. Of course, we can never know exactly how people vote, we can only know what people choose to tell us about how they voted.

Still it might be good in the lead up to this election, in the wake of all the Dirty Politics palaver, to take a quiet moment or three to work out why we vote as we do (or don’t vote, as the case may be). For some of us our inner voter/non-voter might have been created by a coherent set of political principles held from an early age that we adhere to through the years. Perhaps we vote because of how our whānau and our tupuna voted. Political beliefs might be analogous to a religious belief, in these kinds of cases. Only a crisis of faith caused by some true political upheaval (like the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and the consequent rise of the Māori Party, for example) might cause a deviation for these kinds of voters.  Were there identifiable moments in our pasts, discrete incidents that sealed our voting fates? Were there moments that forced us to give up an old allegiance or create a new one? How might these events have helped create us as individual voters or non-voters? Or is it a messy accretion and conglomeration of experiences and beliefs that have created our voting personas?

There are some limited things we do know, or think we know, about how Maori voters behave. We know, for example, that about 55% of Māori are enrolled on the Māori Roll, with 45% enrolled on the General Roll. Young Māori are more likely to be non-voters, and there is some evidence to suggest that Māori enrolled on the Māori roll are more likely to be involved in Māori communities and more likely to vote. Māori in Australia are more likely than New Zealand-based Māori to be politically apathetic. We also know that Māori are far more likely to give their party votes to Labour, but also, to vote split.

But the stats and research don’t tell us anything really about how Māori voters and non-voters arrive at their voting decisions.

So how are Māori formed into the Māori voters or non-voters about to participate in, or ignore, the coming General Election? I’d love to see your whakaaro on this in any comments you might like to leave! This is not so much a question about how you intend to vote (or not vote), but what set you on that path. Karawhiua!

And now for the confession part…(cos that’s what it says in the title)

The unpalatable truth, for what it’s worth, is: I’m a moderate centrist. So moderate as to be infuriating to anyone with actual political conviction. I’m sure if former PM Sir Geoffrey Palmer was to describe someone like me he would say ‘She is an irredeemably moderate person.’ (In case that sounds odd, I’m referring to the time he once called NZ an ‘irredeemably pluvial country’, meaning: it rains a lot.) In my view this centrism means I prefer a political vision that takes most people with it. Therefore I eschew the edges of mainstream political thought that serve few people.  But, until Māori have a full economic role in this country, we will continue to fall short of all we can be as a country. And, no, I have not made my mind up yet on who to vote for.

But even for an horrifically moderate centrist like me, there is a kind of whakapapa to my (and everybody’s) voting persona. Why am I so resistant to that which is beyond the political mainstream?

I remember our home’s ‘carless day’ from the Muldoon era circa 1979. It was a Monday. I was 9. I didn’t care. Nor did I care about things Maori in those days, although I sporadically went to ‘Mahrey Club’ (Te Kotahitanga Juniors actually, with the extraordinary and extraordinarily scary (to me) Tihi Puanaki)  because my brother did.  Not long after, prices and  wages were frozen for a couple of years. I had no idea what that meant either. All I do remember was my mother’s heartbreak when Labour won the 1984 election. ‘Not those bastards!’, she groaned. Muldoon had been an economics whizkid, he was on the board of governors on the IMF! And the World Bank! (I was just impressed that there was such a thing as a Bank of the World..) What the hell did that upstart from Manggerry know about running an economy?! The choice New Zealand voters appeared to have, in my mother’s view, was between control and, well, absence of control. National represented for me, in those formative years, stability, familiarity and economic knowhow in the obvious absence of my own knowhow. Labour represented the fly-by night government that would only last one term. I really internalised my mother’s distrust of the Left. I rebelled against her in so many other ways, but not in my politics. I learned as a kid to distrust politicians that I perceived (regardless of the objective truth of the matter) to be unstable and inexperienced.

For my first election (1990) I had no understanding then of what Māori may have stood to lose or gain from the policies of political parties. I don’t think I really had, throughout my teenage years, a concept of Māori as, in part at least, an identifiable voting bloc.  Those of us who were Māori  at our overwhelmingly Pākehā high school were too busy trying to be Māori enough to be distinctive, but not so Māori as to fright any well-bred horses. My first brush with actual politics came when I met David Lange in 1988 when he came and spoke to a bunch of us somewhat start-struck teenagers working at the Brisbane World Expo about how how he and his government had brought the winds of neo-liberal change to our previously stilted and fun-less lives. We were the vanguard of change, apparently.  Us and our shiny newness and our eagerness and our willingness to believe that we could do anything and be anything we wanted. But then I shook his hand and he wouldn’t meet my eyes. So there went my vote. I then became wary of what I saw as larger than life political personas. The eyes might just be empty.

I was on the Māori roll by then, not because I had any idea of what Māori political aspirations were, or need were. I just wanted to be able to identify in a civic manner, that I was Māori. I became one of a handful of outliers to vote for National in the then Southern Maori seat in the 1990 election. The following years saw me drift slowly Left, and I’m I’m not even sure why. I don’t think I knew why I voted why I did. There was no epiphany.

The final moment for me came in 2004 on the day of the Hikoi to Parliament on the Foreshore and Seabed debacle. Two moments actually. One came in the grounds of Parliament hearing and seeing the veneration expressed for Tariana Turia as the leader of a new age. I saw the huge posters of her smiling face, and I had another Lange moment. I didn’t want to put my trust in a saviour for Māori who would rescue Māoridom from the Pākehā Pharaoh. The second moment came from hearing two Pākehā ladies at my work, after the Hikoi, sneer at the marchers, one of them saying something that sounded suspiciously like ‘If I had a gun…’. That moment solidified for me that Pākehā mainstream politics could not deliver good outcomes for all Māori without Māori being part of designing and delivering those outcomes. Voting for parties pursuing a Māori vision then became possible for a centrist like me. But I have no illusions that that Māori vision requires homogeneity of thought and a harmonious unity that has never really existed, not even in our mythology.

Internet Mana: the enemy of my enemy is my friend (atm, lol)

There is a leap of faith that the membership of both the MANA Movement and the Internet Party have taken. That leap is the presumption that voters will be as pragmatic as these parties have been. As one thoughtful commenter on social media observed (commenting on Sue Bradford’s decision to leave the party):

I also was worried about this when it was first mooted. However it is a very pragmatic arrangment with the Internet Party (not Kim Dotcom the individual) and the way it is set up totally leaves Mana intact as well as it has many rigorous safeguards…What it does do is offer the possibility of maximising the party vote in a way that may make some dent in ousting the Nats (without which the reality of a “farleft movement for change” is a fantasy) Realistically Mana had neither the people or resources to promote the party vote alone. The Mana electorate candiate campaign is the same as it would always have been. …. More damage will be done to the “left” by inaccurate negative spin than the arrangment itself.

The last sentence of this post encapsulates the issue I mention. To some degree at least, it won’t matter that the arrangement leave a high degree of autonomy to each party. It won’t matter that  MANA gets most of the top seat spots in the combined party list. These countervailing arguments won’t matter to a significant degree of the voting population because now they can no longer be so sure what each of these parties represent. They are the voters not involved in the decisionmaking, not in the room when the deal went down, or on the email lists. I know MANA apparently has a terrific party organisation, and I’m sure that was a major factor in the decision. I also suspect that standing on lonely principle is not all that attractive to two parties that really want some degree of political power, and memberships that clearly want that as well.

But the abandonment of unifying principle is a dangerous course. Many people still vote on the basis of a positive idea, however muddy that idea becomes in realpolitik. National party supporters really do buy the notion of freedom, autonomy and individual responsibility, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Labour Party voters really do buy the idea of social and collective responsibility, again in the face of all political history that suggests such pure ideals never survive intact. The Māori Party knows better than anyone how difficult it is to sell a party based primarily on a pragmatic idea, in this case that Māori can benefit from being at the decision-making table. That too is a pragmatic stance, but at least it is phrased in the positive, and closely married to the idea of achieving a level of rangatiratanga for Māori. And it might be yet seen that the Māori Party has ended up losing its way because of that pragmatism.

Selling the idea of getting rid of the current government just doesn’t stand for anything in the hands of this new entity.  No doubt ample numbers of the supporters of both future components of Internet Mana can explain the logic and the utilitarianism of this decision, with that unifying goal of bringing National down. But those people are not where the tyre hits the tarmac. How does each potential voter now articulate for themselves and others what this entity stands for? Internet freedom (except in the case of Māori cultural knowledge)? Being the voice of the poor and dispossessed (except when that voice has to articulate, or at least accomodate other concerns)? How does each voter explain their own voting beliefs in the absence of any demonstrable conjoined beliefs in their party?

And thinking of the future..come September, if the election does see the return of a National-led coalition, where will the combined energy of these two collections of people go? On? In 10 years time will there be an Internet Mana? Once the conjugal purpose is either fulfilled or defeated, what’s left?

I spotted this quote a moment ago:

“[The party] was not well received by the general public…The perception that these MPs had “betrayed” their former party was strong. Many voters believed that [the party] had been born out of political opportunism, not out of firmly-held principle.”

Any guesses? Yep, a quote from the Wikipedia eulogy to the very short-lived Mauri Pacific Party formed in 1998. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauri_Pacific

Of course Internet Mana will likely have a longer presence just because Hone is a sitting MP and favoured candidate. Ultimately my prediction, for what it is worth (!), is that this pragmatic venture can’t have a long life, because it cannot now give voters something they can believe in without a proviso, a ‘but’, or a hedged exception.

It’s the Māori economy, stupid.

Listening to Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell is kind of depressing right now, as he speaks with Kathryn Ryan on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon. The Māori Party wishes to be a kingmaker, so Te Ururoa says. OK, fair enough. The Māori Party wishes to provide an independent voice for Māoridom. That’s fine too, notwithstanding all the problems relationships with larger parties present. I get that relationships in politics matter, and the Māori Party have had the traction that they have managed so far under this government by their pursuit of positive relationships with National in general, and John Key in particular. So far, so good. But as a voter enrolled on the Māori Roll I am waiting to hear from the Māori Party what their vision of the New Zealand economy is, and what the Māori economy should look like under the next government. I know the Māori party cares about the Māori economy and about improving Māori economic participation, because they have a strategy on it: http://maoriparty.org/maori-economic-strategy/. THIS is where the Māori Party needs to pitch for Māori votes because, just like Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential nomination campaign, the biggest issue for Māori, Pākehā and all other groups in this country is “the economy, stupid!’ Whānau Ora is a great, as yet inchoate, achievement, the messages of empowerment are important, but I want to hear about regional development for jobs for my whanaunga in Kaitaia and Whakatāne. Why the heck isn’t the Māori Party reporting back on the achievements and work undertaken by the Māori Economic Taskforce? The goals of the Strategy? Future directions of a post-settlement economy? Principles of economic development? As a thinking human being I am very interested in constitutional reform, and the in debating Māori rights and status. As a Māori voter I need to know nuts and bolts and where the hell the Māori Party will seek to take Māori economic development. 20 minutes of interview so far and not a sausage, not even a porkbone on this one.

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