Okay, so the election happened, and it’s both not as bad as it could have been and worse than I had hoped.
I had hoped that at least Annette Sykes would have joined Hone Harawira in Parliament, and I think that would have been fun to watch. They are both smart, ethical and really frickin vocal. I believe that having a debater like Annette in the house would have made a difference to how the public think about some issues. She gets shit for being as smart and unrelenting as she is, which is bad enough in a woman. But Annette’s worst crime is that she is not just smart and unrelenting, but that she is always demonstrably right. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard in the last few weeks “I agree with what Annette and Hone are saying, but they’re just so bitter/ angry/ racist.” Bearer of discomfort has a great post on this. Mana have to work out how to best use Annette outside parliament, because I still think she and Hone can change political conversations, asking good questions, showing alternative strategies, and being honest.
I suspect a lot of voters who completely agree with Mana, instead voted Green. There’s no doubt that Metiria Turei is a great politician, she works hard, she is smart, ethical and vocal. Put her next to Annette and Hone, and she has a couple of other things in her favour—the public only know her as smiling and friendly (even when she is tearing into policy that is anti-Māori, anti-poor, or anti-environment), and a middle-class accent goes a long way. I know lots of Māori who voted Green just because of her. The Greens do have good policies, and usually have some exciting MPs. Perhaps they have become more interesting than my experiences 5-10 years ago. Then, their membership seemed dominated by comfortable, liberal Pākehā—green capitalists who were conservative on everything except the environment (people who love Russel Norman), but who for some reason filled their list with much more radical and inspiring people (like Metiria, Jeanette Fitzsimons had a warm, friendly face to go with her principled staunchness. Sue Bradford was just straight-up staunch, which is why she isn’t a co-leader). I thought that Metiria was pretty quiet in this election campaign, I hope that her party allows her and the other radical MPs to speak out in this term on a wide range of issues. Metiria tore into the Māori Party over their support of the Marine and Coastal Areas Act, and humbled Destiny’s political front man and Māori MPs who spoke at a Destiny meeting. Attacking the Māori Party, Māori MPs and Destiny is pretty safe territory for the Greens. I hope that she is allowed to target non-Māori groups with the same awesomeness.
New Zealand First is another odd party that many Māori probably voted for, unable to bring themselves to vote Labour, but unsure of Mana and the Māori Party. New Zealand First attracts two types. Conservative Pākehā like what Winston has to say about old fashioned kiwi values–patriotism, hating on immigrants, protecting New Zealand ownership of land and businesses, and not pandering to Māori (which is particularly awesome, because you can’t be called racist if you vote for a Māori to hate on Māori). The one thing this group has in common with Māori voting for New Zealand First is that they distrust politicians—only Winston calls it the way he sees it, and has the guts to stick it to the man. Winston is smug, confident and represents a type of success that some Māori are inspired by—no hand outs, just hard work (imagine if he and Paula Bennett formed a party). I can’t stand him or his politics, but with all the shit representation of Māori that we live with every day, I can understand his appeal to some people.
The Māori Party didn’t do so well, because they confused Māori voters with their unwavering support of National, even when the policies were obviously crap. Pita Sharples made things worse by trying to spin shit—no-one expected the Māori Party to fight for a repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act and then support its replacement by an effectively identical act. Trying to sell that as anything other than a loss shows a complete lack of integrity, and is an insult to their supporters’ intelligence. I would love to see them use this term to re-invigorate themselves and build bridges with Mana and the Greens. Unfortunately, I expect we will see more embarrassing fawning over the National Party.
And what about us? We who don’t ever expect party politics to get us what we want? The next three years are going to be hard. National and ACT are going to take support away from poor people (making the poor poorer), education (keeping the poor poor), the environment (making future generations poorer). There is going to be a shit tonne of stuff to react to, which means less time for dreaming and making headway on our own agenda. All we can do is organise, find allies and work on those relationships.
There will be rhetoric about putting aside our differences—I think we need to embrace our differences. This is a time for Pākehā and male activists to embrace the different strategies and goals that Māori, tauiwi, women, queer, etc activists may bring. This is a time to talk about why we see things differently, whether and why my goals and dreams are as legitimate as yours, whether there is real conflict or just difference. We need to not attack each other just because we don’t completely agree, and we need to listen when people tell us that we are shitting on them. There will be talk about building a movement—equally there is nothing wrong with small groups, the main thing is to get involved, whatever that means to you. We need to get our shit together fast, because the National Party is going to move fast.