Hone Harawira as the Alf Garnett of the South Seas, retreating off the political stage as a wave of embarrassed titters echo through the land. What a sorry way to go.

The big positive to come out of the Tai Tokerau MP's latest anti-Pakeha comments, this time that he wouldn't be comfortable if his kids dated a Pakeha, is that they no longer cause outrage, just bemusement.

How it must have made him squirm in his old man's recliner chair to read the observation from a reader in yesterday's Herald, that "I think Mr Harawira's just from a different generation, so has a different mindset. As long as my children were happy - with whoever - it would be fine".

In not wanting his children to date Pakeha kids, he's highlighting the fatal flaw in the separatist philosophy of the old Maori sovereignty movement to which he still clings. He's like some mad social scientist, trying to stop his guinea pigs from slipping under the fence at night to mate with the outsiders and ruin his experiment.

Donna Awatere, the high priestess of the movement in the mid-1980s, appreciated the need for this all-or-nothing approach in her book, Maori Sovereignty, when she declared "This country is Aotearoa, it is ours. White people of any generation have no business being in this country."

She later said "we can never have biculturalism ... because the Pakeha, with their in-built hatred towards other cultures, will never allow it".

Ten years later she recanted, admitted the reasoning was flawed, joined the right wing Act Party and said Maori and Pakeha were as close as Siamese twins and had no choice but to get on.

The South Africans tried to ban race-mixing by law and failed. How Mr Harawira thinks a parental frown is going to achieve what the whole draconian apparatus of the apartheid regime failed to do, I don't know.

For a start, he's left it a bit late. His Northern Maori tribes began fraternising with Pakeha around 200 years ago and the canoodling has continued unabated ever since, regardless of the sermonising of moral guardians from either side of the fence.

At the last Census in 2006, 42.6 per cent of the 565,329 people claiming Maori ethnicity also claimed shared European ethnicity.

Another 7 per cent of Maori said they were part "Pacific peoples", 1.5 per cent had Asian blood and 2.3 per cent added "New Zealander" as one of their ethnic groups.

Among those of blended descent, of course, are both Mr Harawira's Maori Party co-leaders.

Tariana Turia was born in Whanganui in 1944 to Te Aroha Te Angina of Ngati Apa, Nga Rauru, Whanganui and Ngati Tuwharetoa descent.

A newspaper profile in 2001 says she was shocked to discover when she was 14 that her father was an American soldier stationed in New Zealand "and has never been comfortable with her American lineage".

Given her separatist instincts, you can appreciate the embarrassment. Especially when she used to call Pakeha "tau iwi" or strangers, and in 2000 caused a furore by referring to colonisation as "the Maori holocaust".

Pita Sharples, in a Herald interview with Catherine Masters a year ago, declared himself half-English, his father coming from Bolton, his mother of Ngati Kahungunu, Hawkes Bay, descent.

Explaining his commitment to things Maori, he said his English side was doing well and the Maori side was not, so he was devoting his life to his Maori side.

On New Year's Eve last year, as part of the debate over the Government's decision to fly the Tino Rangatiratanga flag alongside the national ensign on certain occasions, the head of Maori and Indigenous studies at Canterbury University, Dr Rawiri Taonui, said on this page that it would be a symbol of unity.

Congratulating Mr Harawira and the Maori Party for leading the charge on this, he said "whether Pakeha see two flags as divisive or unifying is directly proportionate to the extent of hang-up about race. Those who have difficulty relating to Maori, especially if they are dark-skinned, physically large and/or overtly ethnic and tribal ... will see the flag as separatist simply out of fear of difference and diversity. Fortunately this lot are in rapid decline. New Zealand will be 50 per cent brown by 2030".

He said that "those who are at ease with themselves, respect Maori and like other cultures will see the flags as representative of an over-arching unity, of every colour, hue and creed. They are the New Zealanders of the future".

I'd happily claim those words as mine. But it cuts both ways. What hope is there of achieving this "over-arching unity" with this ongoing hang-up about race in sections of the Maori leadership?

Maori academic Margaret Mutu says Mr Harawira's mindset "is still strong among many Maori. They still feel a lot of hate, distrust and there's still a lot of hurt" about what "the Pakeha did to us".

To borrow Dr Taonui's words, let's hope "this lot are in rapid decline".