Labour’s leadership change may have dealt a serious blow to National’s ability to form a Government after the election.
Not only is the Maori Party now saying it could work with Labour but Party President, Tukuroirangi Morgan, says the decision which party to support into Government will be made by the party’s whole membership.
And he concedes that the membership as a whole leans towards Labour.
The departure of Andrew Little has opened the doors to Labour and the Maori Party getting closer together.
Morgan was quick to try to re-establish relations with Labour after its leadership change on Tuesday.
Relations had soured in February after Andrew Little described the party as not “kaupapa Maori” and had said Labour regarded the party as the last cab off the rank when it came to forming a Government.
But on Tuesday Morgan offered to make peace.
The presence of Kelvin Davis as Labour’s deputy leader has undoubtedly helped even though Morgan said it had taken Labour 100 years to get a Maori into the job.
“Māori people throughout the country are telling me they want our party to work with Labour if it’s in a position to form a Government after September 23,” he said.
“We’ve always said we’d work with both sides, blue or red, but Andrew Little killed off any hope of that happening when he closed the door on us.
“We’re hoping Jacinda and Kelvin won’t be as closed minded and that they’ll agree to work with kaupapa Māori. “
Morgan told POLITIK yesterday that one of the things the party had had to balance was “our people’s leaning towards Labour and trying to make sure we don’t disregard the soundings of our people.”
Nevertheless, there is apparently a suspicion within Labour that the top of the Maori Party and probably its MPs prefer National.
Te Ururoa Flavell has described Bill English as his favourite politician, and Marama Fox was critical of Jacinda Ardern over the Child, Youth and Families legislation.
Labour list MP, Willie Jackson, has been critical of the Maori Party’s close relationship with the iwi Leaders’ Group which is also close to the Government.
And National Party sources have told POLITIK that National has been assisting the Maori Party with fund raising — possibly steering donations its way — and National has also provided organisational advice to the party.
But Morgan knows that at the party’s so-called flax roots there is a wariness about National.
“I’ve always had to try and find a way of separating us from the Nats because of the kind of stigma that comes out of being too close to the right,” said Morgan.
Morgan said his statements were an indication of a genuine willingness to work with Labour. The party already knew it could work with the Greens, he said.
But the Maori Party and NZ First cannot work together largely because NZ First wants a referendum on the future of the Maori seats – though that would be a problem for Labour also, particularly now that Kelvin Davis is its deputy leader.
Thus what Morgan is signalling to Labour is a Labour, Greens Maori Party government could work.
National has been hoping that the Maori Party would be its insulation against having to form a Government with NZ First.
There has been a hope within National that the Maori Party might get another two or three seats and thus along with Act and United Future give National enough seats to govern.
But Morgan says that the Maori Party will decide on who it will support after the election by going to its membership.
“We’ve always said to our people that the final choice is made by our people.
“We will go out and meet our people in a comprehensive consultation process, and it will be done in very quick time.
“We believe that is unfair to keep the nation waiting.”
Morgan says the party is on track to win more seats. And he will shortly go on the road with Mana Leader and Te Tai Tokerau candidate, Hone Harawira, another move which should draw the party closer to the left.