They are being flexible on the foreshore and seabed. They have agreed to Whanau Ora.

They have now gone as far as throwing New Zealand's support behind the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And all in the space of just three weeks.

If anyone was wondering why John Key and his National Party colleagues have been careful not to fritter away the political capital they have accumulated in the months since coming to power, the answer can be found in three simple words: the Maori Party.

Keeping the latter sweet - even if not on the generous scale of recent weeks - means turning traditional National Party thinking on its head.

The consequent topsy-turvy policy-making will sooner or later burn off a segment of National's support in Pakehaland.

Winston Peters and Rodney Hide sit like buzzards on a telephone pole waiting to scoop up their share.

The strain is starting to show. In weighing in behind the UN declaration as a sop to Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, National found itself defending an exposed position to Labour's left.

The declaration was too dicey legally and constitutionally for even Labour to digest when the final draft appeared in 2007. But Labour had a choice in the matter.

Key looked as much at ease as anyone who just been force-fed with the proverbial dead rodent. It was one of the most difficult afternoons he has had in the House as Prime Minister.

Phil Goff ran rings around him as he simultaneously tried to play down the declaration's significance while not belittling the Maori Party by rubbishing it completely.

Under normal circumstances, such a UN declaration is the equivalent of Pluto to Earth in being way outside National's comfort zone.

The document may - as Jim Anderton claimed in Parliament - be an idle collection of words which means absolutely nothing and will have zero impact.

If so, National has still bought into the kind of political correctness with which it used to lacerate Labour.

The declaration may yet turn out - as Hide claimed - to be something really divisive in it seeming to confer special rights on one group of citizens.

Key can give all the assurances he likes that the declaration is "non-binding", "aspirational" and "symbolic".

But many who voted National will be thinking if the Maori Party wanted the declaration so much, there have to be reasons beyond having a nice-sounding charter to hang on the wall - reasons like having another tool with which to winkle out more from the Crown.

That view will have been reinforced by the Maori Party's Hone Harawira saying Government backing for the declaration will help Treaty claims and other matters such as ownership of the foreshore and seabed.

Suspicion that the document is more than just symbolic will also have been deepened by the Government failing to give any advance notification that Sharples was going to the UN in New York to make the announcement about the declaration despite the Cabinet's decision having been made weeks ago.

If the Government was relaxed about the political dangers lurking in the declaration, it would have not kept Sharples' trip a secret.

National simply wanted to paint the reversal as a fait accompli and sweep it under the Beehive carpet as soon as possible before what Jim Bolger used to call National's "heartland" noticed .