I have often thought that politics is the modern form of warfare. Our taiaha replaced by words, and our new enemy is philosophy. The end point is still the same, control and power.
Two days after the election, the dust has now settled. For me as a player in the war, I feel as if I am standing on a hill looking over the battlefield at our casualties. The casualties of our war. The sad thing is, there are a lot of good people from all parties lying in that heap, and I particularly lament our Maori politicians.
The Maori Party have been reduced by one, losing a fierce and staunch representative in Te Tai Tonga - Rahui Katene. As a perpetual student of politics, I see her as one of the most hard working MP's in parliament, and arguably the best representative that Te Tai Tonga has had in my generation.
We have lost Kelvin Davis, another hard working and committed MP. I recently saw a tweet by Tau Henare that for the first time ever, Te Tai Tokerau has not had a Labour Party representative in Parliament. I often judge our representatives based on their intentions, I have seen that some are committed to the kaupapa of advancing Maori aspirations, and some are committed to advancing their own personal aspirations. Kelvin, from my viewpoint represented the first of these categories - committed to educational achievement, and transformation of the lives of the Maori people in the North. A tragic loss to parliament.
There are other Maori hopefuls who also marched on to the battlefield for the first time, valiant in their endeavors, and true in their intent to uplift Maori aspirations. They too should be admired and remembered for their commitment to the kaupapa, and I hope that they will pick themselves up and carry on to the next battle in three years time. We have many of those in our own Party, but there are also others across the political spectrum in parties such as Labour and Mana.
The losses for Maori are many and there were only three winners in this election - National, NZ First and the Greens. I am happy for only one of the fore-mentioned parties. I think it's fabulous that the Greens will maintain good representation in parliament.
The war was short but sharp, and delivered the left and the centrists a blow. It is only now as we look at the new lay of the land that we can fully appreciate the damage, and start to strategise towards the future.
For Maori we saw a small battle within a battle between the Maori Party and Mana Party. We could have both knocked each other out (at times it felt like this was the aim), but we didn't. We both survive, albeit as a very small minority. We did a very good job of attacking ourselves though, something I had blogged about in an earlier post "The Politics of Distraction" - I do wish we would stop killing ourselves off, and focus on the big picture.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and it is moments like this, when all sides have suffered losses that you move into a period of reflection. Where to from here? This will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on. I think what is clear is that our Maori people still have major attachments to Labour, as evidenced in the high proportion of Party votes they got in the Maori seats. Those brave enough to give their Party votes to the Maori political parties equaled 2.35% in total - I'm not sure this is enough to sustain even one Maori political party.
Looking now into the future, we clearly have a major right wing block who will govern the country. The Maori Party are in a difficult position moving forward. We have three choices, walk away completely, enter into a policy based agreement (Memorandum of Understanding - similar to the Greens arrangement), or a confidence and supply agreement.
It will be interesting to see how people steer us. From my perspective, I see the benefits and risks of all of the arguments. A MoU arrangement sounds good, but it leaves our previous gains up in the air, such as the Constitutional Review, Whanau Ora, Whare Oranga Ake, Nga Pu Waea, Kaitoko and Oranga Whanau, and many others. On the other hand, how can we go back when the votes from our people tell us that we are not on the right path?
The Maori Party will hold hui over the next week to get feedback on these options. Engagement by the community will be critical in these hui - and I encourage all of us to keep an ear out for when they are happening to put your korero in.
In a way, we have lost one MP, but we have survived with 3/4 of our caucus. Something no other minor political party has done after entering into a coalition arrangement with a major governing party. I believe that it is because our Maori processes have kept us safe - such as our process of wananga on major decisions, and our upholding of our Maori values above all others. That is why these hui are so critical, we need a steer, and we all need to get on the waka together to keep us moving forward.
The battle is over, but the war continues, I think we need to rally as Maori across the spectrum, and across Aotearoa to come up with a plan on how we move forward from here.