Is the Maori Party "finished"?
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples is dismissing David Shearer's claims that his party is finished as ''wishful thinking'', attacking Labour's track record on Treaty issues.
The Maori Party's candidate, Na Raihania, was beaten into third in Saturday's Ikaroa by-election by Mana's Te Hamua Nikora, prompting fresh taunts that the Maori Party is dying, and it was time for the two parties to merge.
But Sharples continues to dismiss the talks.
"We will not fly the white flag simply because others believe it is in their best interest for us to do so. Our motivation remains as it ever was."
Sharples singled out Labour leader David Shearer, who had earlier claimed the Maori Party were ''finished'' and would fade away to nothing.
"This is the same man who began the Ikaroa-Rawhiti campaign with a promise to "terrorise" other Maori candidates standing for the seat," Sharples said, highlighting Shearer's own leadership troubles, with rumours colleagues have put him on notice to improve the party's polling record.
''[M]ake sure your own house is in order before you start throwing grenades at another."
The Maori Party was driven by aspirations for self-determination for its people, Sharples said, something Labour could not match up against.
"Sorry Mr Shearer, but a mainstream vehicle such as Labour - with its less than honourable track record against Maori interests - still fails to deliver on the Treaty promise and the voters know so."
Sharples said Saturday's vote showed that while Labour's Meka Whaitiri won the largest votes of any candidate, Mana and Maori combined won more.
''Maori showed a preference for tino rangatiratanga on Saturday night, he said.
"There is a clear message from our people, that Maori want their people leading the way and standing up for them. The truth is we have maintained our position. It is clear that our people favour an independent Maori voice."
KEY UNFAZED BY POOR SHOWING
Prime Minister John Key says he is not worried by the Maori Party's poor showing in the weekend.
Key insisted today that turnout at the by-election was too low to read much into the result. The Maori Party had never won Ikaroa Rawhiti.
"We're not terribly stressed about it."
And he said it was hardly a resounding result for Labour either.
"Their majority has been slashed."
Who do you think will 'win' tonight's debate?Related story: Leaders' debate: And the underdog is....