Labour have often been accused of taking their Maori support and Maori seats for granted. They lost seats when the Maori MPs split and formed the Maori Party, but they have won all but one of them back.
In an interview on The Nation Andrew Little blasted the Maori Party – “the Maori Party has totally failed Maori” but avoided acknowledging he had demoted his Maori MPs.
Lisa Owen: So the Maori King has given Nanaia Mahuta a serve this week and is putting his support behind the potential Maori Party candidate in Hauraki-Waikato. He says she’s got no mana after being moved down the party rankings. Do you take responsibility for that loss of mana because you demoted her?
Andrew Little: No. I think if the Maori King wants to hitch his wagon to a failing National Party and a Maori Party that has just totally failed Maori, failed to deliver anything meaningful to Maori, it’s his prerogative.
Lisa Owen: This is about Nanaia Mahuta being moved down the rankings, Mr Little.
Andrew Little: I backed Nanaia, who is not only in my shadow cabinet but in the front bench, and—
Lisa Owen: No, she’s not on the front bench, Mr Little.
Andrew Little: Yes, she is.
Lisa Owen: No, she’s not. The front bench in Parliament—The physical front bench in Parliament is, what, eight seats? She’s not on that front bench.
Mahuta is currently ranked 11. Here is the seating plan as at 8 March 2017, after Jacinda Ardern’s promotion to deputy this week:
Mahuta is clearly not on the front bench. Was Little trying to fib, or did he not remember where Mahuta was placed?
Andrew Little: She is in the group that meets every week to lead the direction of the caucus and the party. She’s in that group.
Lisa Owen: How many spots did she drop down, Mr Little?
Andrew Little: We have two Maori on the front row—
Lisa Owen: Mr Little, for clarity, how many spots has she dropped down?
Andrew Little: She has—We have two Maori on the front bench. We have, I think now, five Maori in our shadow cabinet.
I can see just one Maori MP in the front row, Kelvin Davis.
Mahuta and Whatiri are in the second row.
Henare (who Labour tried to move out of his electorate), Rurawhe and Tirikatene are in the back row,
Lisa Owen: Do you not want to answer that question? How many spots has she dropped down?
Andrew Little: But you’re—If you—
Lisa Owen: How many spots, Mr Little? It’s a simple question.
Andrew Little: If you want to run to me the Maori Party line, by all means, you know, go ahead. I back our Maori caucus. We have an outstanding Maori caucus.
Lisa Owen: You demoted Nanaia Mahuta.
Mahuta was 6 on Labour’s list in 2014 (Davis was 18). David Cunliffe promoted Mahuta to 4, but Little dropped her to 11.
Andrew Little: We have in Nanaia an outstanding advocate for Maori. She’s doing terrific things for Maniapoto right now, and we’re going to have a fantastic Maori caucus after the election and they’re not going to be the lap dogs of anybody. They’re not going to be called in on a grace and favour basis, as Maori MPs are with the National Party right now.
Lisa Owen: Mr Little, how many spots did you demote her?
Andrew Little: They are part of the Labour DNA. They’ll be sitting around that Cabinet table. They’ll be sitting around the caucus, and Labour will be capable of doing way more for Maori than the Maori Party, shackled to the National Party, could ever do.
Current ranking of all of Labour’s Maori MPs:
- Kelvin Davis 7
Spokesperson for Māori Development
Spokesperson for Corrections
Spokesperson for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
- Nanaia Mahuta 11
Spokesperson for Conservation
Spokesperson for Whānau Ora
- Meka Whaitiri 13
Spokesperson for Local Government
Associate Primary Industries Spokesperson. Associate Food Safety Spokesperson, Economic Development (incl Regional Development), Trade and Export Growth.
- Peeni Henare 22
Spokesperson for Urban Māori, Māori Broadcasting, & State Services.
Associate Māori Development and Economic Development.
- Adrian Rurawhe 24
Spokesperson for Internal Affairs
Associate Education (Māori) Spokesperson
- Rino Tiraketene 28
Spokesperson for Fisheries
Spokesperson for Customs
None of those are major portfolios, although Davis has been getting some attention with Corrections.
In his ‘State of the Nation’ speech in January Little made no mention at al of any Maori issues – see Maori 0f Little importance?
Mahuta faces a major challenge from a Maori Party candidate endorsed by the Maori king in her Hauraki-Waikato electorate.
King Tuheitia then turned to politics. He spoke of having kept a close eye on Parliament since his surprise address at last year’s coronation celebrations. It was there he severed all ties to Labour. Part of this was due to Labour’s demotion of Nanaia Mahuta.
“Just looking what Labour has done to Nanaia… she’s gone right to the backbench now.”
There were sighs from the marae. Not of surprise but of sadness.
“To me she’s got no mana in there now,” he said.
King Tuheitia then expressed his dismay at Labour’s newly elected deputy leader, Jacinda Ardern. “She’s only been in there five minutes…how long’s Nanaia been in there? 21 years.”
He criticised Labour’s treatment of its other Māori MPs, including Peeni Henare. If you’re wondering what he’s referring to, here’s a reminder – Willie Jackson, Tāmaki Makaurau.
Little is being strongly challenged by King Tuheitia on his apparent lack of commitment to Maori MPs.
Making false claims about Mahuta’s Labour ranking won’t help her or Little’s mana in Maoridom.
With just two seats the Maori Party has been limited in what they could do in Government but they can claim achievements.
Little even acknowledges this by having a Spokesperson for Whanau Ora – Nanaia Mahuta.Whanau Ora is regarded as a cornerstone of the Maori Party coalition agreement with National.
Is the Maori Party failing? Or is Little failing on Maori?