Rodney Hide: Politics of exclusion never fares well

Dusting off his megaphone, Hone Harawira echoed what has become commonplace for Maori MPs speaking of "Our People" as in, "the rights of Our People are important" and "We must always be guided by [creating a strong, Maori sovereign point of view within Parliament] because that's what Our People want."

When referring only to themselves, MPs employ the singular and speak of "My People".

For example, when in hot water, Harawira declared, "I answer to My People, not to them or to anybody else."

Bill English would be toast if he deployed the same affectation and spoke of "My People". The reaction would be short and sharp. We would not tolerate it.

His colleagues would assume he had lost the plot and dump him.

English is prime minister, not some ancient king with royal rights over us.

And nor is Harawira. "His People" don't belong to him.

Indeed, "His People" voted him out. And when he was an MP, the voters weren't "His People" but rather he was privileged to be their representative. He was their servant, not the other way around.

There is more than semantics at stake. The claim demonstrates a born-to-rule kingly entitlement whether "My People" like it or not. There's also hubris in Harawira's assumption that he somehow knows and can speak to what "My People" want as though he channels their feelings and thoughts.

He doesn't. And he can't.

The concept also embodies the idea that "My People" are of one mind. They are not. There is always a diversity of views. Politicians talking about "My People" choose to deny that diversity and attempt to choke off dissent.

There's also a vagueness with boundaries. Who exactly are Harawira's People? Is it the Mana Party membership, Harawira's tribe, people who vote for him, his electorate or Maori generally? And how exactly does a person become one of Harawira's people? And is it possible to opt out? It's certainly possible to be kicked out.

The concept of "My People" is also deadly divisive. Harawira doesn't presume to represent others, just "My People". Such politics never fares well.

It is the politics of insiders and outsiders and the politics of exclusion.

It's invariably nasty as the definition of who is in and who is out has no reason nor logic. It's a simple matter of politics. As Harawira's mum Titewhai demonstrated back in 2011, "I have the right as a kuia of Nga Puhi to say that My People no longer are going to be walked on by [Maori Party co-leaders] Pita Sharples and Tariana [Turia]."

So Sharples and Turia weren't Her People. We are left wondering who exactly the Harawira's People are. I suspect it's a much smaller group than we imagine.

Indeed, the very idea is a fiction. It's a simple attempt to add weight their words otherwise wouldn't carry.

- Herald on Sunday

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Rodney Hide

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