Labour/Maori MoU

In contrast to the Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Greens all Labour seems to have for the Maori Party and MANA Movement is Memories of Utu

Ever since Maori MPs split from Labour and created the Maori Party in 2004 Labour seem have wanted revenge, or at least nothing to do with a party competing for the Maori seats in Parliament.

Leading in to the 2005 election:

SAINSBURY: If you had to, could you deal with the Maori Party in terms of forming a coalition? Yes or no.

HELEN CLARK: They would be the last cab off the rank, because I’ve got other options.

Twelve years later Andrew Little’s Labour seems antagonistic towards both the Maori and MANA cabs, wanting to slash their tyres and smash their windows. Little has all but ruled out trying to work with either party in government.

But does this make any sense apart from exacting utu on the party that split from Labour?

Labour are in a weak position and may all the potential coalition partners it can get, if not to form a government with but at least to strengthen their negotiating position.

It would probably be much easier to get Green and Maori parties working together in coalition than the Greens and NZ First.

Last month Bryce Edwards wrote in Labour’s balancing act with Mana-Maori:

Of course Andrew Little has no choice but to support his Maori MPs, and it may be politically astute to distance Labour from the Maori Party and Harawira before the election. But a ruthless examination of Labour’s path to government would suggest that losing the Maori seats would not necessarily be a disaster.

While Little’s comments have been interpreted as “all but” ruling out working with the Maori party, it would be foolish to damage the relationship and re-kindle the bitterness that existed when Tariana Turia was leader.

It’s a delicate MMP balancing act that requires party leaders to look beyond the individual and factional interests of their MPs in order to secure the treasury benches.

Labour seem to think differently, having ramped up their attacks and antagonism towards the Maori Party and since they have joined forces also MANA.

At The Standard in Kaupapa Pākehā Weka wrote yesterday:

I understand why Labour need to be pragmatic around the Māori seats. Not only is this traditional Labour territory, it will be important to the Māori MPs in the party. There’s mana at stake. But technically Labour don’t need to win the Māori seats to govern. They could lose the six of the seven seats they hold and it wouldn’t affect the number of Labour MPs in parliament, because Labour get their MP total off the list vote.

It would affect the balance of MPs across the house (in part to do with the overhang issue), and I’m sure Labour have been crunching the numbers, but there are other ways that this could play out. Labour don’t need the Māori seats, but they do need coalition partners.

This raises an interesting point.

Of course Labour would like to have all the Maori seats, but that’s not what will get them into government. They need to improve their all important party vote.

Stirring up and dividing the Maori vote may work against Labour’s overall interests.

There is a jarring contrast between Labour and the Greens trying to show how well they can get on and work together.

NZ Herald: Greens’ Julie Anne Genter and Labour’s Jacinda Ardern strike up friendship in Mt Albert

The least bitter rivalry in New Zealand politics has broken out in the Mt Albert by-election, with the two leading candidates striking up a new friendship.

The Greens’ Julie Anne Genter and Labour’s Jacinda Ardern have been car-pooling to events together and handing out leaflets side by side.

Genter, who is the Greens’ health and transport spokeswoman, said she had built up a close relationship with Ardern on the campaign trail.

“It’s been really fun being on the campaign with her. We get on really well and I’ve really appreciated it.

Genter and Ardern have made a point of not attacking each other to show their parties can work together under their Memorandum of Understanding.

In contrast Little has been vigorously attacking the Maori parties over the last few weeks, with things escalating this week.

Bitter battles seem to be overriding common sense.

If Labour want to increase their party vote, which is what they need more than any Maori seats if they want to get back into government, then they should be showing they can work with any other party, including Maori and MANA.

If not they are both limiting their chances of maximising their party vote, limiting their coalition negotiating strength and limiting their coalition options.

I’m not the only one baffled at Labour’s approach.

Memories of Utu seem to dominate their thinking, which puts their party vote and their coalition options at risk.