Leaving big shoes to fill before the election

Last updated 05:00 21/12/2012

It'll be fascinating to see if the Maori Party can survive the loss of their co-leader Tariana Turia.

Last week Tariana announced she was resigning from politics at the 2014 elections and the announcement had political commentators like Matt McCarten, Chris Trotter and Duncan Garner declaring that the party would now inevitably die.

They say the Mana Party and Labour will be the beneficiaries.

McCarten says it's now easy for Mana and Labour. All they have to do is keep repeating the line that a vote for the Maori Party is a vote for a National-ACT government and once that reality sinks in the Maori Party will be toast.

Now Matt may well be right but the election is still two years away and Tariana Turia is a wily old fox who won't want her party to die, particularly after she worked so hard to set it up.

Clearly she's got a plan in terms of succession and it looks like she's already started its implementation.

She wants a woman to take over from her, and fellow co-leader Dr Pita Sharples to step down.

She says it's not about Dr Sharples resigning as Minister of Maori Affairs but it's about giving a new leader the opportunity.

The person she's talking about is Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell who may have thought his leadership hopes had disappeared when Sharples announced he was standing again in 2014.

However Turia's surprising revelation would have re-invigorated Flavell's leadership aspirations and it'll be interesting to see how Sharples responds to Turia's challenge.

Apparently, according to her, he is thinking seriously about standing down as co-leader.

And while I agree with Tariana that there have to be changes in terms of leadership, Sharples will be mindful of a rookie partnership fronting for the party.

If Turia was to step aside as well as Sharples in the next 12 months, the party could be very vulnerable and ripe for the picking.

The last thing he would want is for the new party leaders to be exposed.

He and Tariana have been a terrific partnership; her the staunch and principled fighter for Maori rights and tino rangatiratanga, and he also very principled but the acceptable face to pakeha when talking about Maori issues.

To lose both of them before the 2014 election might not be a wise move for the party.

So Tariana might just have to have a re-think over her promotion of a woman to leadership if she still wants Flavell up. But whatever she decides she will just about be impossible to replace and the Maori Party have huge challenges ahead of them.

Mere Kirihimete me nga mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa.

- Manukau Courier

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