A political speech at Waitangi!
The charge that National Party leader Simon Bridges somehow erred by "politicising" the annual pilgrimage by politicians to Waitangi drips with irony.
The annual Waitangi commemorations are, and will always be, about politics.
It's just a question of the crowd you're playing to and the crowd at the Waitangi Treaty House was of only limited interest to Bridges.
Held on the so-called 'upper marae' – the paepae on the Waitangi Treaty House grounds - the formalities are a highly controlled environment where the audience is largely the media, a lot of cops, along with grandees of Northland and national politics.
A few slightly disgruntled tourists watch on from behind ropes, having inadvertently timed their visit to coincide with a day when everything's shut.
There's a slight 'Potemkin village,' feel to the whole thing now that proceedings have moved away from the comparative anarchy of the 'lower marae', where the politics tended to overheat and give TV cameras a reliably divisive spectacle on a day of intended national unity. (A Potemkin village is a fake village created for propaganda purposes.)
So, when Bridges got up – clearly pumped up in the bulldog mode he's started to perfect – his audience was not the kaumatua of the Far North. They're never going to vote for him anyway, especially since National will again stand no candidates in the Maori electorates at this year's election.
His clear purpose in talking up National's commitment to a four-lane highway from Auckland to Whangarei and various other practical policy measures was to hammer the message National will hammer all year: that this is a do-nothing, incompetent government and that only National can "get things done."
Aim for the public, not the political bubble was the message the Australian Liberal party's New South Wales deputy campaign director Nick Westenberg gave the National caucus at their two-day retreat in Havelock North before Bridges headed to Waitangi. That was key to how Scott Morrison won what was supposed to be the "unwinnable" election for the Australian conservative party last year.
Bridges is taking that advice.
True, his emphatically campaigning speech felt out of place at Waitangi, but every other speech given was just as political.
Treaty Negotiation Minister Andrew Little's 10 minute korero in te reo was as surprising as it was impressive – but it was also pure politics. The idea that at least one Labour minister should speak at length in te reo was born eight or nine months ago, and designed to do two things: shore up Labour as the natural party of choice for Maori voters and, as one highly placed observer put it: "to make Simon Bridges look dumb."
Likewise, New Zealand First's self-described "first son of the North", Shane Jones, injected his usual combination of hilarity, theatre and a moment of candour.
He told Ngapuhi elders not to "make a lot of nice speeches and then go home and do nothing" – a reference to the endless Treaty negotiations that are holding back the economic potential of the country's most populous Maori region.
Then he called to his leader Winston Peters, to make an unscheduled response to Bridges – a move rendered less obviously spontaneous by the fact that something similar happened last year.
Peters then delivered a, well, political speech.
Perhaps the limpest performance of the day was from the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who promised to continue being held to account, acknowledged there is "always more mahi" to do and did what she will do all year: rattle off a long list of the government's announcements to date. Compared to two years ago, when she first spoke at Waitangi, it was a flat performance, phoned in for a friendly crowd.
Meanwhile, Waitangi Day continues to expand into Waitangi Week and to look more and more like some sort of Kiwi-style BBQ Davos.
The leaders and large contingents of all the main political parties are here, along with representatives of the Maori elite who spend two days in conclave at the Iwi Chairs' Forum, where politicians take turns to plight their troth on issues ranging from freshwater rights to Whanau Ora and Oranga Tamariki reform, to a resolution of the Ihumatao dispute.
The bars and restaurants and poolside at the Copthorne Waitangi are politics central for these few days. With political apparatchiks of all levels of significance rubbing shoulders, swapping gossip and plotting election strategy, the hotel began running out of food mid-afternoon yesterday.
For many of those left feeling peckish, there was still the prospect of the gargantuan spread put on annually by Shane Jones and his wife, Dot, at their large house in the countryside near Waimate North.
This event, generously catered and somewhat legendary, just keeps getting bigger. The diplomatic corps was there in force this year, along with the usual Northland business mafia, iwi leaders, press gallery hacks, and an ever-growing number of lobbyists. For Jones, it might have doubled as an informal launch for his barely disguised intention to run in the general electorate seat of Northland against National's invisible incumbent, Matt King.
However, the question here on everyone's lips has been: can the Maori Party resuscitate itself? Despite tiny resources and much scepticism among former supporters, the party has played deftly into the four issues mentioned above, all of which the government regards as crucial to keeping Maori voters in the Labour tent.
The key now, for the Maori Party, is which seats it might realistically have a chance of winning. It has neither resources nor ambition for all seven.
That's why it is prepared to consider John Tamihere, a high-risk candidate, for Tamaki Makaurau and staged the show of support a fortnight ago at Ratana by former Green Party candidate Jack McDonald, for the Maori Party's Te Tai Hauauru candidate, Debbie Ngawera-Packer.
In the next few weeks, it is likely to select a well-known local and former Labour candidate, Rawiri Waititi, for Waiariki, the seat lost in 2017 to Labour's Tamati Coffey by the former Maori Party co-leader, Te Ururoa Flavell.
However, there is nothing to suggest a return to Parliament would create an extra partner for National, as the Maori Party was from 2008-17. It has shifted well to the left since then.
However, if Tamihere pulled off an unlikely win in Tamaki Makaurau, all bets could be off.