That was embarrassing.

You'd be made of ice not to feel sorry for Jacinda Ardern. Put on the spot like that, asked to recite the articles of the Treaty.

Article One, what does it say? came the question.


"Oh. Article One? On the spot?"

Standing behind her, Māori MP Willie Jackson mumbled "kawanatanga".

"Kawanatanga!" the PM burst out. "Sorry, excuse me."

Article Two?

"Ugh, look …"

Tino rangatiratanga, came the prompt from behind.

"Tino rangatanga!" the PM burst out again, like the losing quiz team that yells out the answer moments after hearing the winning quiz team say it. As if to pretend, we would have got it right if you didn't get it first.

You feel sorry for the PM because you know she's not that unusual. How many of us can recite the three articles of the Treaty?


And yet, the PM should've known. She is the country's leader after all. She is the one who celebrated the launch of the Crown-Māori Relations Portfolio by saying, "My vision is that we as a country realise the promise of the Treaty."

How can you deliver on the promise of the Treaty if you don't know the promise of the Treaty?

And she's also the one using Waitangi Day as a PR opportunity. It looks good to be lauded for quelling years-long divisions at Waitangi and have photos taken BBQing food for ordinary people to eat.

It's not a criticism of the PM. For decades, the country's leaders have headed up to Waitangi to try to look woke around race relations. But, if you are aiming to look woke, you better be woke.

Instead the PM's lack of knowledge was exposed and her credibility on Māori issues took a dent.

It's the GDP thing all over again. That was the time when the PM was asked about GDP in a radio interview. She started her sentence with "GDP numbers" just to confirm she'd heard the question, launched into pretty positive answer, which might be the reason the dollar shot up that day, which led to criticism, before she later claimed she'd made a mistake and wasn't talking about GDP after all. That's a credibility knock.

It's also a substance problem. This is a recurring theme with the Prime Minister. There's a lot of style, especially on the international stage, but questions remain over substance back home.

Back to the Treaty muck up, it's quite an unfortunate one for Ardern.

By contrast, both Kelvin Davis and Willie Jackson knew the answers immediately. That's because those articles are extremely important to some Māori voters.

Māori voters won't abandon Labour because the PM made a boo-boo, but it won't help.

Labour should be in rebuild mode with Māori voters big time, but it seems surprisingly laissez faire.

Remember, this is the party responsible for the Foreshore and Seabed legislation.

After years of punishment, Labour finally won all seven Māori seats back at the last election. Māori voters are clearly expecting a bit of love in return, but Labour hasn't really done much until this week.

There was very little in last year's Budget, which earned a bit of a rebuke at Rātana's 100-year celebrations in November.

Finally this week the Government threw $100 million at developing Māori land. But it feels somewhat cynical, with the announcement just days out from Waitangi Day.

You've got to give it to Māori voters. They don't mind letting the Government know if they're annoyed.

That's why the Māori seats have flipped from Labour to New Zealand First, back to Labour, to the Māori Party and eventually back to Labour again.

It's also why one leader up in Waitangi didn't mind using the Dawn Service to warn the PM, saying "all I ask is by this time next year that we all know the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi".