As a champion of Maori, Hone Harawira's energy and talent are wasted in Parliament, writes Garth George.
In all the brouhaha surrounding Hone Harawira lately - the criticism, the support, the opprobrium and the politicking - one thing seems to have been overlooked. And that is that Mr Harawira is in the wrong job.
He is not, and never will be, a politician in the sense that defines those who represent parties in Parliament.
He is far too honest, far too outspoken, far too committed to a chosen path and therefore quite unable to come to terms with one of the fundamentals of politics - compromise, and sometimes embarrassing compromise.
That's not surprising. His biography on the Maori Party website tells us that he credits people such as Muhammad Ali, Syd Jackson, Nelson Mandela, Maori Marsden, his mum (the dreaded Titewhai) and his wife, Hilda, "for teaching him the importance of vision and the need for strength, commitment and determination".
Please note that only one of those ever became a politician and Nelson Mandela, a man who could do no wrong in the eyes of his constituents, became a president in a manner that transcended politics.
When I read what Mr Harawira wrote in the Sunday Star-Times a couple of weekends ago, I figured he was in for the high jump.
Sure enough, within days his party whip, the local Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell, had taken the first steps towards getting rid of this turbulent parliamentary presence.
It is ironic, yet telling, that the axe is poised over the man who was instrumental in founding the Maori Party, who in fact led the hikoi which led to its formation. I suppose it was inevitable that, with his huge mana as a kaumatua of the northern Ngati Hau, Ngati Wai, Ngati Hine, Aupouri, Ngapuhi and Ngati Whatua iwi, he would become its MP in Te Tai Tokerau electorate.
And that, I fear, was his big mistake. He would have been far better off to leaving the politicking to someone else while he continued with his activism and tremendous service to the Maori people of the north.
His biography reveals that he is or has been manager, director or CEO of eight Maori business enterprises, and is or has been chairman, founder, leader, director or member of 29 community organisations. And this is where he should still be - making the best use of his almost frightening intelligence, energy and commitment in the front line of Maori efforts to climb out of poverty, to better themselves, to improve their lot.
In his newspaper article, Mr Harawira made some valid suggestions on what the Maori Party should be doing. Among them are: "Be clear about who our constituency is and define our policies and positions on that basis. Stop pretending that we are a mainstream party - we're not.
"Be bold in our positions. When governments say 'Maori need to be realistic' what they're really saying is 'no'. But that shouldn't make us afraid to say what it is our people want.
"Speak out strongly against National's anti-social initiatives. No more of the polite press releases that say nothing.
"Oppose National's Marine and Coastal Areas bill. Just because we were consulted on it doesn't mean we have to support it.
"Develop strategic relationships with the Greens and with Labour.
"Stop trying to make us all be the same. When some of us say one thing and others take another view, learn to celebrate the difference rather than try to crush the dissent."
Now that's laying it on the line and, naturally, it has gone down like a lead balloon with his party leaders and colleagues.
It is, of course, a counsel of perfection and there is no room for perfection in modern-day politics, where politicians always try to make sure that nothing is ever black and white but various shades of grey.
Hone Harawira is a true rangatira of his people but he will never succeed in convincing his colleagues that what he suggests is in the best interests of Maori.
He might have a place in an opposition party, where he could criticise to his heart's content, but in the politics of governing coalitions he is castrated as an effective spokesman and activist for his people.
I have a great deal of respect for the man, even though much of what he says is anathema to me.
There are far too few people of mana, among both Pakeha and Maori, who say what they mean and stick to their guns.
For Maori, the best thing that could happen is for Mr Harawira to be dismissed from the party, to resign from Parliament and to resume what he does best - leading from the front, unfettered by political pandering, in helping his people in their perceived struggle to achieve parity in our multi-ethnic society.
He needs to understand that it is in Parliament that the grassroots, and the tall poppies, get mown down.