Mana, Maori party leaders in uneasy truce
VERNON SMALL AND KATE CHAPMAN
Stung by a by-election thrashing, the Maori Party will again try to unseat Hone Harawira at the November election, despite the maverick MP saying he wants to work with his former colleagues.
Mr Harawira will return to Parliament, albeit with a slashed majority, after securing Tai Tokerau in Saturday's by-election. He won by a narrow 867 votes over Labour's Kelvin Davis.
Mr Harawira said yesterday that he was prepared to work with the Maori Party to find common ground, but then criticised its senior party figures as "slow and stodgy".
The Maori Party's Solomon Tipene came third in the by-election, with less than 10 per cent of the vote, but party co-leader Pita Sharples said it would contest the seat again in five months.
"I don't think we can do that [step aside], in fairness to our people," Dr Sharples said. "We want our seat back. We are going to get it."
Mr Harawira, who won the seat as a Maori Party MP in 2008 with a 6308 majority, quit in February to set up the Mana Party.
The party was officially registered on Friday, giving him access as a leader to extra parliamentary funding worth more than $50,000.
After his victory Mr Harawira initially attacked the Maori Party, saying it had "shit on him", but he is now suggesting the two may be able to work together, possibly as a Mana Maori Party.
Dr Sharples said the deal between Mr Harawira and the Maori Party, including agreeing not to stand against each other in the Maori seats, had been breached by both sides. He indicated the deal was now in the past.
Mr Harawira offered yesterday to try again to find common ground. "Our people want us to at least try. The Maori Party has let Maoridom down by standing against me. They weren't prepared to try in Tai Tokerau. I still am prepared to try in the other seats."
However, he took aim at the age of senior Maori Party figures.
"I think given that four of their leadership are pensioners, doesn't suggest that they have the wherewithal to lead a vibrant young nation. That's not to put them down, but I think that's kind of lacking, they seem kind of slow and stodgy."
Mr Harawira supported Mana considering a tilt at the general seats but no final decisions had been made. "We will be standing candidates, I think that's pretty clear."
Dr Sharples said he was not concerned that the success of Mana would weaken his party's hold on other seats. Sitting MPs had been working hard and had good support.
But Labour MP Shane Jones, who is standing against Dr Sharples in the Tamaki Makaurau seat, said the Maori Party was in trouble. "The Maori Party is now a ghost ship."
The level of "acidity" between Mr Harawira and Maori Party whip Te Ururoa Flavell was so strong it was hard to see the Mana Party not standing against him in Waiariki.
The fight between Mana and Maori would be "like the black widow and the katipo".
Prime Minister John Key, on his way to trade talks in India, said most people would consider the by-election an expensive waste of time. "It's not like really, Hone Harawira can claim victory. This is a very reduced mandate."
WIN PROVIDES WAR CHEST
As the leader of a registered party, Hone Harawira will get a salary rise from $134,800 to $148,500 a year. That gives him about $6000 more for the rest of this term, but he would have lost about $20,000 in salary during the by-election campaign.
He will receive about five months' worth of an annual leader's fund allocation of $100,000 plus $64,320 for each member of the caucus who is not a minister.
Another $22,000 goes to each MP to cover research and the party whip's office.
The money can be used to provide support services and resources for the party, including communicating with constituents and providing information, but must have a parliamentary purpose.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is Shane Jones' departure a crisis for Labour?Related story: Jones job offer 'not shot at Labour' - PM