Hooton on Little’s racist attack on the Maori party

Matthew Hooton thinks that Andrew Little’s attack on the Maori party was racist:

[T]he Mana leader is unquestionably a genuine representative of a certain kaupapa of a minority within Maori society.  Equally undeniable is that the rival Maori Party gives voice to another genuine Maori worldview and mission, albeit one that is more positive and optimistic.  The temporary truce between the two parties indicates that both believe Parliament is richer that the other is represented, despite their differences.  They are almost certainly right.

Labour leader Andrew Little takes a contrary view.  In a Monday morning rant every bit as hate-fuelled as Mr Harawira at his worst, the failing Labour leader – a white man from Wellington – declared the Maori Party was hopeless, had achieved nothing for its people and was “not kaupapa Maori.” He savaged Mr Harawira, who has been nothing if not consistent through his many decades as a radical activist, as “all over the show.”

Mr Harawira was first out of the blocks, defending not just himself but also his Maori Party rivals. In an interview all the more devastating for its unusual restraint, Mr Harawira called Mr Little’s premeditated attack inappropriate and nasty, and declared that Maori did not need “white guys like Andrew Little telling us what to do and what our aspirations should be.”  

Other Maori leaders joined the fray. Sir Pita Sharples said Mr Little was denigrating the authenticity of Maori people and should be ashamed of himself. Dame Tariana Turia said Mr Little’s comments were a reminder of “the racism that continues to exist in the Labour Party.”

Mr Harawira’s rival in Te Tai Tokerau, Labour MP Kelvin Davis, leapt to his leader’s defence, saying Maori “have to acknowledge it was the Labour Party that housed our people; the Labour Party that clothed our people.”

Mr Little’s attack was in the best traditions of Sir Robert Muldoon and Don Brash in deliberately picking a fight with Maori to impress the pakeha working class, especially men among whom Labour is polling disastrously badly.  It follows Mr Little’s efforts targeting Indian chefs and home-owners with Chinese-sounding names.

Andrew Little represents the patronising and condescending hard left. Labour and he know what is best for Maori. The last thing he wants is the cheeky darkies becoming self-sufficient and no longer needs the comforting arms of welfare.

Those two previous race-based attacks failed to boost Mr Little’s pitiful poll ratings but, in crudely political terms, choosing Maori may make it third-time lucky for the besieged Labour leader. Let us not be naïve about the political power of playing the Maori card in New Zealand politics. It works not just because of what is said initially but also because it positions the speaker as a victim of the inevitable retaliatory tirades from unpopular Maori radicals and Pakeha liberals.  Mr Little will be hoping it encourages National voters tired of what they see as John Key and Bill English’s pandering to Maori to cross over to Labour.

But this is not to say Mr Little was not to a certain extent sincere. To the contrary, for a white male enveloped his entire adult life in the oh-so politically correct yet almost entirely pakeha bubble of liberal Wellington, Maori are indeed foreign creatures who require paternalistic care from people like him.  In their colonialist belief it is their burden to better the hopeless natives, there is none so similar to 19th century English missionaries than today’s Wellington liberal elite.  It is why the Wellington liberal elite was so perplexed that so many Maori leaders rejected the assumptions that lay behind Helen Clark’s ill-fated “Closing the Gaps” programme.

For his part, Mr Davis was exactly articulating Labour’s attitude when he claimed it was his party that had housed and clothed Maori people.  That the overwhelming majority of Maori people aspire to and in fact do house and clothe themselves is incomprehensible to the Wellington liberal elite – and even dangerous in that it risks an ever-greater percentage of Maori voting other than Labour.  It is through this prism that Mr Little, Mr Davis and their ilk can genuinely believe that for Maori not to fall in behind Labour is to abandon kaupapa Maori.

Kelvin Davis didn’t mind the whitey’s help to beat Hone Harawira. He mistakenly thinks he won all by himself. One day the full story will be told, and Mr Davis might find himself rather embarrassed by what went on to get him elected. So too will anyone who professes Labour is innocent of dirty politics. I keep my powder dry.

Mr Little’s political awakening was during the 1981 Springbok Tour when he took to the streets to protest sporting contact with the apartheid regime. He would be mortified to be regarded as racist. But what else is a white man who goes on radio for his own political benefit to accuse leaders across the widest possible spectrum of Maori opinion of not articulating a Maori worldview, all for the crime of not supporting his party and its ideology written by dead white men in Europe in the 19th century? 

Blunt and to the point. Matthew Hooton does have a way with words.

 

– NBR

 


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