Thursday, October 16, 2008

The National-Maori Party Coalition

Key tells Maori he'll do a deal
John Key concedes he has privately indicated to the Maori Party that National's policy to abolish the Maori seats would not stand in the way of doing a deal with the party post-election. He also said yesterday he would be willing to look at the role of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and the abolition of the dole, as advocated this week by co-leader Tariana Turia. Mr Key did not go so far as conceding Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples was right in claiming that Mr Key had privately agreed that the Maori seats would not go until Maori consented. National's policy is to begin the process to abolish the Maori seats once Treaty of Waitangi settlements are completed in 2014. The Maori Party's policy is to entrench the entitlement to the seats in legislation - which means a 75 per cent majority or a referendum to change them. And it believes that Maori should determine when the seats are abolished. The spat between Dr Sharples and Mr Key has become less about whether Mr Key has agreed to the Maori Party's position already and more about if one of them is not telling the full story. Dr Sharples again stood by his claim on Wednesday on Alt TV and his chief of staff, Harry Walker, who was at the meeting, backed him. The meeting was held in Parliament in Dr Sharples' office about two months ago. Party co-leader Tariana Turia and National deputy leader Bill English were present. Mr Key made his admission while campaigning in Dunedin yesterday. He said Dr Sharples had raised the issue with him many times. "I've certainly acknowledged it is not a bottom line for us." Mr Key continued to say no agreement had been made and that would remain so until after the election on November 8. On TV3 yesterday, Mr Key discussed the issues that could be on the negotiating table with the Maori Party and that included the role of the Treaty. The Maori Party does not see its MP as being part of the Crown. It wants any larger party it enters into a formal agreement with to recognise it as "the Treaty partner." Prime Minister Helen Clark was highly critical of Mr Key's statements, saying he had said one thing to the Maori Party behind closed doors "but then its dog-whistle politics to its broader electorate is to say 'we'll get rid of the Maori seats'. "This really does go to the core of the secret agenda - to say one thing to the public to try to get votes and another thing to try to get a political party on side." But Mr English said although the matter was discussed, he agreed with Mr Key - there was no agreement.

But they have just admitted that the claim Key made on the TVNZ debate that Pita Sharples was wrong about assurances Key had given him over the Maori Seats wasn’t the truth so why the hell would we believe anything else they have to say as they scramble to shut the public fight down with their potential ‘Treaty Partner’ and the damage this will do to the more feral part of the National Party supporter base.

National want to go into coalition with the Maori Party, it will give Key the grand gesture as a unifier that he wants and broaden the National Party beyond Farmers and Businessmen to win in 2011, the cost of this partnership will be huge hence the Maori Party pushing this ‘Treaty Partner’ rather than ‘Coalition Partner’ concept, the problem is that a chunk of National’s support are rednecks and any real sniff of this deal in the air will have them burning crosses in the main street.

Key wants to woo over the ‘blue necks’, social conservatives who find Tariana’s call to abolish the dole as sexy, and as the deal between the Maori Party and the Nats becomes more concrete, ACT have realized they are about to be jilted at the alter and that explains Rodney Hides outburst on Monday claiming that the country would be in danger if the Maori Party were the kingmakers.

With the SFO clearing Winston, he’s trying to woo that redneck vote away from National with yesterdays anti-immigration stunt, meaning the likelihood of NZ First getting over the 5% threshold increases, this becomes a double whammy against National because Winston will be taking their vote while getting back into Parliament. NZ First back in the game means National has little option other than a coalition with the Maori Party making Key’s position where he is effectively calling Sharples a liar totally untenable, hence his change in tune. In this scenario the real loser becomes the poor old Greens, who while on their way to possibly their best election result since their conception will find themselves locked out of any ability to influence legislation, their sudden understanding of this explains their very direct attack against Tariana’s dumping of the dole idea yesterday.

The possibility of a National/Maori Party coalition is fascinating and could create extraordinary and historic outcomes that has the potential of taking NZ somewhere breathtaking, but this is a shotgun wedding of competing self interests, not a love affair, and while the optimist in me hopes for the angels of their better natures to succeed, the cynic in me sees this for the shallow desires that are driving it, Key wants a perception shift about National while the Maori Party want concessions beyond any that are on offer with Labour and with such weak bonds this possible relationship has little chance of standing up to the Brat Pack front bench backlash within National and ACT’s new Fish’n’Chip club from working to derail this deal as soon as Key and Sharples sign it.

If the internal ructions within National and ACT this coalition will create weren’t bad enough, let’s not forget to mention an opposition consisting of a Phil Goff led Labour party sidelined with grievance enriched Maori who have given Helen their party vote, a desperate NZ First flushed with bigotry and a Green Party stronger than they have ever been. Cutting the deal may be the easiest thing Key the trader does, trying to make it work with an empowered Opposition and an angry 5th column will be something that may well be beyond his 6 years of political experience.

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