Andrew Little made something of "a captain's call" on Waitangi Day when suggesting notions of greater Maori sovereignty should not be dismissed.
The Labour leader was responding to questions from reporters about the Waitangi Tribunal finding last year, which concluded Nga Puhi chiefs did not cede sovereignty when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi.
Little said it could be worth looking at models around the world of other indigenous peoples' self-governance.
I'm not disputing the scholarship of people such as Professor Paul McHugh or Dr Don Loveridge on whose research the tribunal report drew. I am disputing Little's use of the captain's call.
Okay, he didn't exactly say "I'm sorry for being a Pakeha."
But Maori sovereignty is just too sensitive an issue on which the captain, possibly the next Prime Minister, should start a conversation unless he has a very good idea of where it is going to end up.
The issue is too loaded with expectations and fears.
Little might also find that the rest of the world is interested in our own models of indigenous governance - Whanganui, Tuhoe, Waikato River not to mention the Ngati Porou and the Foreshore and Seabed law - before suggesting New Zealand need look elsewhere for models.
One of Little's qualities is his decisiveness and straight talking which is more of a matter of style.
Little should not confuse that with feeling the need to have a substantive and decisive position on every issue.
Before the woes of Tony Abbott, a captain's call used to be a decision or policy taken by a political leader under his or her own authority.
It used to be something about which the leader was willing to risk political popularity in order to promote a point of principle.
Helen Clark did it over the Sue Bradford anti-smacking bill. And so did John Key in reaching a deal with Clark on the bill.
In the past fortnight, Abbott has redefined the "captain's call" to mean not just a leader's decision, but a leader's stuff-up when there is no one else to blame.
Lord Cooke's decision in the 1987 Appeal Court lands case establishing the principle of "partnership" in the treaty was a landmark case because it gave a modern grip, handle bars if you like, to an old document that still held relevance but which could not realistically be viewed in its pure contractual terms.
It was a landmark decision because it meant it was less important to spend time and legal fees in front of tribunals and courts arguing about what was meant by what, when the treaty was signed.
We can get on with today.
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