Claire Trevett looks back on dignified politicians
Few could question the integrity with which Sharples and Turia approached their political lives. They rarely got embroiled in the mundane distractions of politics, the grandstanding and personal snipes, unless it was in defence of themselves. They were the perfect complementary force. Turia was the rock, Sharples was the orator, galvanising and the perfect voice to quell suspicion about the Maori Party among Pakeha.
When it came to the Pakeha media, both took time to explain who they were and what they were doing, over and over again if need be. They were dignified, courteous and calm. Turia’s entertaining habit of breaking into giggles when asked the occasional ridiculous question often said more than words would have.
The reality of politics has had the usual erosive effect. The acrimonious split with Hone Harawira delivered a cut the party has yet to heal from, despite its bravado. It continues to struggle with the perception it has simply become a stooge for National. Its MPs would occasionally adopt siege mentality at times of trial rather than front the issue.
But they stayed relentlessly on message, and that message has stayed consistent throughout. For Turia, that message has been life-long: the case for Maori self-determination. In her maiden speech as a new Labour MP in 1997, she did not bother with the usual platitudes of paying homage to the party she represented, or those who led it. Instead, she spoke of Maori being forced to live in two worlds, “drip-fed, spoon-fed and acted upon like imbeciles”. Read more »