The move from the Maori Party to have Tainui King Tuheitia endorse their candidate Rahui Papa in the Hauraki-Waikato seat is one of the most selfish and saddest political strategies I have ever witnessed in Maori politics.
Now that’s not because Rahui isn’t a good candidate, we all know he is an exceptional person who has served his King and tribe well. However, the strategy is selfish and sad because it has split the kingitanga movement right down the middle forcing supporters to choose between two of their most popular leaders. There is no doubt that many kingitanga supporters are furious with the Maori party so the endorsement strategy from the King looks like it could backfire badly.
Also, you have to wonder if Tuku Morgan and his team have thought this out properly. You see, when Rahui loses this election, what does that say about the King’s word? Don’t they realise that this is 2017 and not 1917?
Maori no longer live on the marae – they live in townships and in the city, and they cannot be directed to vote by anyone.
Does Rahui’s team know how many votes they have to take off Nanaia? She beat the Maori party candidate Susan Cullen by 7,695 votes last time. So for him to win the seat, he needs to firstly retain the 4,498 votes they won, then take all 3,116 people who voted for Mana, then hope that Nanaia’s supporters abandon her in their thousands.
That’s how tough it is for Rahui Papa to win, when you analyse the numbers needed to beat Nanaia it really looks like Mission Impossible.
So it stuns me when I hear so-called experts say that Nanaia Mahuta will lose the seat. Any fool can see that the seat is not marginal, in fact I would bet that King Tuheitia himself would not be able to beat Nanaia – that’s how strong she is.
So you’ve got to ask the question, how stupid are the Maori Party and what have they said to Rahui, one of Maoridom’s most prominent tribal leaders, to make him think that he could possibly beat Nanaia?
Obviously, he is hoping that Tuheitia’s endorsement will be enough to get him over the line, but I think it’s very optimistic of him to think that voters would be so naïve to follow the King’s directions. I mean, why would they? There are numerous examples in recent times of Tainui members directly opposing the King’s recommendations and this political endorsement won’t be any different.
In fact it is a huge risk from Rahui to put the mana of Kingitanga on the line. Or in simple terms, the mana of his King. It’s also particularly saddening the way that the King has chosen to portray Nanaia as a woman who has lost mana by being with the Labour Party.
No amount of back-tracking and spin from Rahui and his supporters can deny the fact that they indeed have questioned the mana of Nanaia. And as for all the waffle and spin that the Kingitanga has always been political, this is simply untrue.
The most famous monarch of our lifetime, Tuheitia’s mum, the great Te Atairangikaahu, made her mark by being absolutely apolitical. In her forty years as Queen which made her the longest serving monarch, she worked closely with the National and Labour parties, as well as having special relationships with people like Parekura Horomia, Jim Bolger, Winston Peters and of course with her niece, Nanaia Mahuta.
We never knew who she voted for and kingitanga’s popularity soared, particularly in her last decade as the Queen. That is all in jeopardy now as Kingitanga supporters wonder what on earth they are going to do after the King’s sad decision to abandon his cousin Nanaia and endorse his Chairman, Rahui Papa.
I have a lot of respect for Nanaia however, it is no secret that she and I have been political rivals.
In 2002 I ran against her in a sometimes acrimonious campaign, and I have been critical of her in my time as a political commentator. So there has been no love lost between us over the years but Nanaia always gave as good as she got.
She is a sharp and tough cookie and has inherited many of the skills of her brilliant father, the former chief negotiator for Tainui, the late Bob Mahuta.
She is my tribal negotiator for Ngati Maniapoto so as my advocate, and now as a new Labour party member, she has my full support.
I have already communicated that support to her and given that a quarter of the vote is in South Auckland, I look forward to mobilising that vote and ensuring that she stays as the Member of Parliament for the Hauraki-Waikato.