The Maori King’s comments at the weekend saying he would no longer vote Labour are more evidence that the Maori Party are targeting Labour’s Maori seats.
Not only would the loss of any of the seats make it harder for Labour to get anywhere near enough seats to form a Government but if two or three of the seats went to the Maori Party in a tight election they could give National the choice of either NZ First or the Maori Party as a coalition party in the next Government.
NZ First Leader Winston Peters obviously sensed this and issued a furious denunciation of the King Tuheitia’s comments.
It is regrettable for the Kingitanga movement and the welfare of Maoridom,” he said.
“There’s no way the Maori Queen would ever have done that.
“She knew there were different political views in the Kingitanga movement, and she had to stay above the political ruck.”
Mr Peters said it was clear the comments had come from the King’s former advisor and now president of the Maori Party, Tukoroirangi Morgan.
Morgan was one of the original NZ First MPs but broke with Peters when he walked out of the Shipley Government.
“Tuku Morgan’s track record is not a great one.
“Anyone who had the idea that Tuku’s new position in the Maori Party is going to help them just found out how bad the appointment was.”
But given that the Maori Party have been steadfast in their determination to hold the balance of power, Mr Morgan’s strategy makes a lot of sense.
However the King’s comments are a potential embarrassment for Labour’s Hauraki-Waikato MP, Nanaia Mahuta whose father, Sir Robert Mahuta, was the adopted brother of the late Queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu.
She was demoted in Labour’s reshuffle last year, and Kelvin Davis was made lead spokesperson on Maori Affairs.
Since then little has been heard from her and some of her colleagues complain that she doesn’t seem committed to her role.
But speculation that she could join the Maori Party may be wide of the mark.
She has clashed with Morgan in the past over the governance of Tainui, and there is said to be personal antipathy between the two of them.
Though Morgan sometimes seems closer to the Mana Party regarding his own personal politics he has enjoyed good relations with the National Government, particularly the Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson.
But what will please National is that is increasingly looking likely that the Maori Party might give them an option which would mean they could exclude Peters and NZ First.
While there is support for Peters from several senior National MPs, they all recognise that the antipathy between him and the Prime Minister could make reaching a post-election deal with him extremely difficult.
The danger for the Government is that any suggestion that there is a plot to deprive him of the balance of power could drive him closer to Labour.
He may well address these challenges at his party’s annual conference in a fortnight.
One month of free, no-obligation access to POLITIK plus the daily POLITIKToday email. CLICK HERE