It is not unreasonable to connect the sudden politicisation of the king’s public statements with the appointment of Tukoroirangi Morgan as Māori Party President last month.
Mr Morgan is a former New Zealand First MP, a close senior advisor to the king and very involved with the iwi leaders forum – so he has considerable influence.
Tukoroirangi Morgan at a Māori Party AGM last month. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson
Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell is adamant Mr Morgan did not force the king’s hand, arguing the Kīngitanga has always been a political movement.
Whatever Kiingi Tuheitia’s reasons for speaking off the cuff, he is a man of influence and his comments have broadened Mr Flavell’s already ready smile.
Just days after the speech, Kīngitanga representatives travelled to Wellington to meet with the Māori Party co-leaders.
The Labour Party’s connections with the Rātana movement remains strong with regular meetings, and local MP Adrian Rurawhe being a direct descendant of Church founder Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, means that relationship is unlikely to falter.
However, Mr Flavell argues Labour was rattled by what the King said, and he says it should be.
Helen Clark’s decicion to run one up the Maoris is still paying dividends. The real problem is that Labour have arrogantly assumed those votes were theirs and there was absolutely no need to put any kind of effort into them. That’s not working out so well.
The Māori Party is cognisant of that, and always labours the point that it is only at the table to get gains for its people, not because of any ideological connection with National.
The party’s leadership has also realised it is big personalities who do well in the Māori seats – so expect the party to shoulder-tap some high-profile names to stand in the other five seats.
Te Ururoa Flavell’s very likeable colleague, Marama Fox, has made her mark as an MP and may be a threat to Labour’s Meka Whaitiri in the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti seat in 2017.
In Te Tai Tokerau, Mana leader Hone Harawira has been working solidly around the region and will be hoping to unseat Labour’s Kelvin Davis.
What would help him would be an agreement with the Māori Party not to stand a candidate in the far north, and with Mr Harawira and Tukoroirangi Morgan having already met once, that is a possibility.
The 2017 election is likely to be the closest of the past three and National will be wanting to keep the Māori Party in Parliament, so there could be a few sweeteners for Māori voters in the lead up to next year’s poll.
Prime Minister John Key has previously said his government is a better one for being close to the Māori Party, and he is right.
But it is also important for Parliament and the country as a whole that there is an indigenous political party in Parliament which has as its core kaupapa the rights and welfare of its people.
Other parties may claim to care and protect indigenous rights, but may not do so given they have the wider electorate to consider as well.
A pragmatic Key will be in a coalition government with Hone Harewira.
Labour and the Greens are in the doldrums. No matter what they try, they will remain toxic and irrelevant.
– Chris Bramwell, RNZ