Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Too little too late for Harawira

Hone Harawira has been suspended by the Maori party. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Hone Harawira has been suspended by the Maori party. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Hone Harawira's suspension from the Maori Party caucus this afternoon apparently took Harawira by surprise, as it did everyone else.

The swift execution was the result of a telephone conference call between his four fellow MPs today following the weekend at Waitangi, where Harawira upstaged Pita Sharples' "State of the Maori Speech," with his own state of the nation speech.

Harawira denied this morning that his speech was a challenge to Sharples' leadership, protesting - a little too late, as it turns out - that he respected the fact that Sharples was the Maori Party co-leader.

Harawira claimed not to have known that Sharples was giving a speech - but we have been told that Te Puni Kokiri sent an invitation to Harawira on January 27.

Sharples will be feeling bruised from the Waitangi experience, having been labelled "kupapa" [traitor] and 'plastic Maori" from hecklers at Te Tii Marae.

Harawira wasn't the heckler but he may as well have been, having effectively accused the Maori Party leadership of selling out for accepting National's invitation to enter coalition arrangements.

When specifically asked by media about the kupapa jibes at the weekend, Harawira didn't defend Sharples.

Harawira might respect the fact that Sharples is the leader, but he shows no sign of actually respecting the leader.

The suspension makes the job of the Maori Party disciplinary committee easier on Wednesday.

At the very least, he will be suspended from the party.

Harawira has already vowed to fight. That means the Maori Party will continue to be a house divided for weeks and months to come and possibly for the whole of election year.

The best chance the Maori Party has in escaping a crippling civil war would be for Harawira to take up the reins of a new left-wing party - with Sue Bradford as co-leader. The Aotearoa Party, perhaps.

The notion was put on the backburner until next term after the abysmal showing by Unite leader Matt McCarten in the Mana byelection.

Harawira's suspension will have the phone lines between Grey Lynn and Mangere alive with possibilities.

He has a Plan B.

- NZ Herald

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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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