There have been many reckons about ‘who killed the Māori Party’.
Here’s my reckon.
The Māori Party killed itself, blaming anyone else for their demise is just sophistry. They chose to sit at National’s table so that Key could make his Government’s draconian welfare reforms look far less harsh because of his relationship with the Māori Party. National used the Māori Party as political camouflage and the policy crumbs the Māori Party received for providing National with that political camouflage wasn’t worth losing their mana over.
12 months ago, a high ranking Labour delegation met with a high ranking Māori Party delegation to talk about one thing and one thing only, if it was up to the Māori Party to decide between a Labour led or National led bloc to determine the election result, which side would the Māori Party support? The answer was that the Māori Party couldn’t guarantee Labour that they wouldn’t support National, and once that was clear, Labour went from seeing the Māori Party as a possible ally to enemy.
The Māori Party felt a pan-Māori political movement was a better approach than working with the Left. They reached out to the Māori King, urban Māori and MANA movement. Labour saw this outreach as a means for the Māori Party to establish itself as a permanent way to keep National in power.
Labour struck at the heart of this threat by stealing the urban Māori element of this pan-Māori push by gaining Willie Jackson as a candidate. Willie Jackson’s urban Māori connections and excellent campaigning skills saw a 7 seat victory on top of huge gains in the Party vote.
The simple truth was that the last 9 years of vicious welfare reforms combined with a historically punitive prison system hurt Māori hardest. Poverty and homelessness hit Māori hardest. Inequality in public services hit Māori hardest. So while the Māori Party wanted to sing the praises of their treasured Whanau ora policy, the grim reality many Māori faced made such boasts meaningless.
The only surprise about the demise of the Māori Party is that it took almost a decade to occur once they seated themselves at National’s table.
Wiping the Māori Party out means that the 13member Labour Māori Caucus have huge obligations to ensure their are fundamental improvements for Māori within society. Ironically to do that, the Labour Māori Caucus should push and champion the Green Party welfare reforms and benefit increases.