Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett: Labour's Andrew Little puts on dancing shoes for the danse macabre

Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira and Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell after signing agreement. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira and Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell after signing agreement. Photo / Michael Cunningham

There has been a summer infestation of politicians criticising other parties for cutting deals while cooking up their own deals.

The latest such deal to hit the shelves was between the Maori Party and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira.

It consists of the Maori Party giving Mana leader Hone Harawira a clear run to try to win back the Te Tai Tokerau electorate while Mana gives the Maori Party a clear run at the six other Maori electorates.

Although the aim is to push out Labour MPs, the Maori Party repeated its position that its door was open to being part of either a future Labour Government or National Government.

As co-leader Marama Fox has rather colourfully observed, in the Maori Party's eyes Labour and National are "blue undies, red undies, same skid marks."

But it takes two to tango and Labour leader Andrew Little was putting on dancing shoes with sprigs.

He was not interested in the tango.

He was interested in the danse macabre; he wanted to kill off the Maori Party completely.

Little went into a lengthy, full-blown tirade against the Maori Party on RNZ.

He downgraded the Maori Party as a future support partner from "far from the first cab on the rank" to "simply not in my contemplation."

He then declared the Maori Party was "not kaupapa Maori" [based on Maori values]. The insinuation was that Labour's Maori MPs were more Maori than the Maori Party's.

Former co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia reacted with anger, as did the party's President Tukoroirangi Morgan.

The most gracious response came from Marama Fox on the Spinoff. She defended the Maori Party's record and the deal with Mana: "We have a common enemy and it's not each other. Our enemy is homelessness, it's poverty of mind, hand and wairua."

She said she was not interested in getting into a war of words about kaupapa Maori with Little, that she believed he was a good man and "if the Maori Party ... are the difference between a National or Labour government then he will reach out to us. Of that I have no doubt."

She is right. It seems highly unlikely that if push came to shove Little would turn down the Maori Party if it was the difference between Government and three more years in Opposition.

But Little also had a point.

The biggest threat to the Maori Party's ongoing survival is not Labour, it is National.

It has suffered from its deal with National. Whether that is justified or not is irrelevant: It is fact.

The deal with Harawira can do no harm. Nor it is likely to be enough.

Any voters pondering a return to the Maori Party will want to know what kind of government their vote will end up supporting. It is why Labour is pushing the line that a vote for the Maori Party is a vote for National.

The Maori Party has refused to state a preference. One step to secure its survival would be to state that it will side with a Labour Government if it has a choice.

The party will not be forgiven for siding with National if it is in a kingmaker position.

It needs a Term of Redemption, either with Labour or on the cross benches.

Little, too, should be careful how he goes.

If Labour and the Greens can build on their combined vote, it is not impossible the Maori Party will be enough to get them over the line without the need to turn to NZ First.

The Greens would prefer to have the Maori Party and, unlike NZ First, there is no doubt the Maori Party could work with the Green Party.

As for National, polling data indicates it is unlikely to get a fourth term by relying on its current partners. It also indicates NZ First's rise from 4 per cent to 11 per cent in the polls has been at the expense of National. NZ First will likely be the kingmaker.

National will be hoping for a miracle and in 2014 the miracle came in the form of Kim Dotcom.

The more Dotcom railed against Key, the closer National edged to the 50 per cent mark. Dotcom's Moment of Truth was the Moment of Salvation.

Dotcom has already made rumbling noises about getting involved in this election as well.

Should an extradition decision go before ministers before the election, they may well be tempted to refuse it just to ensure he is around to offer his unique destruction attempts this time round.

- NZ Herald

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Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor and joined the Press Gallery in 2007. She began with the Herald in 2003 as the Northland reporter before moving to Auckland where her rounds included education and media. A graduate of AUT's post-graduate diploma in journalism, Claire began her journalism career in 2002 at the Northern Advocate in Whangarei. Claire has conjoint Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Canterbury.

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