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Thursday, 16 February 2017

Elections 2017: It's all about the Rutherfords or why Willie Jackson really went with Labour

While I don't usually get many people in the comments section, anyone planning to fire up here bear with me till the end of this before you do.

Something has been bothering me about Willie Jackson going with Labour and it was not till I read his article in Stuff about why he playing with Little and Labour that I realized what it was.

Now full disclosure, until he surfaced again in the NZ media around Waitangi day I had generally forgotten he existed and only had a vague idea of his background (roastbuster scandal, ex Alliance politician).

But I have become more and more interested in Maori politics since my post on the issue on KP last year and anything which adds another bit of info to the puzzle is info worth knowing so I read his words and tried to put them into context with all the other information about him I could find.

And I admit that the internet is not the best place for info on people below a certain level of fame unless you want to see (or not) their face book page or their other social media droppings.

None the less its amazing what you can find but its always at least one degree removed so trying to draw any definitive conclusions about the actions and motivations of someone who is not fully in the media spotlight is a fraught activity at the best of times.

Even my various friends and associates who either are members of tribes themselves or work in places like Te Puni Kokiri had a variety of opinions on the man including one from an individual who is possibly the most hardcore National party supporter I have ever met* (who I might add, shattered forever any stereotype I might have had about plurality of Maori political affiliations with her picture of John Key proudly hung on her wall) but where most opinions were mild to positive about him and his genuine support for Maori and Maori issues.

So again no real indication of who the man himself is there and I was resigning myself to having to file that nagging doubt about his sudden enthusiasm for Labour in the "too hard" section of my brain and find something else to blog about.

But with his own words in that Stuff article it has been laid bare and while one does have to do a small degree of reading between the lines or textual analysis (for those so inclined) to get what the message it it does not take long to figure out what is really the deal with Jackson going over to the reds.

But first lets get back to what had been bothering me about his sudden decision to join the party.

What had been itching away in the back of my head since I first heard about it was the fact that his decision to join Labour appeared to be a sudden thing and more importantly the burning question of "why now?" was in my mind (much in the vein that I asked the same thing about John Key when he suddenly pulled the plug last year).

Why all of a sudden did Jackson appear at Andrew Littles side on Waitangi day, both of them smiling like cats that have negotiated a lifetimes supply of cream to be delivered to their sun trap every day in little tankers driven by mice wearing bow ties.

And the answer itself it not so difficult to fathom when you realize that Labour intends to retain its hold of six of the seven Maori electorate seats and that if they could not get the Maori King onside then they would swing to the opposite end of the spectrum, Urban Maori, and Willie Jackson.

Because given its current state Labour needs every seat it can get and six seats via the Maori electorate is a handy arrow in its political quiver (one that has been running low as of late).

So from Labours side shoring up potentially volatile seats by getting a well known and generally respected Maori political entity like Jackson is a natural play even if only they came to him as the bridesmaid after their previously more reliable relationship with the Maori King and Ratana had fled the alter when faced with whatever shotgun proposal Labour was proffering.

The next part of the puzzle is the genuine attempt by the Maori and Mana parties to get their acts together and make a clearly unified move for the Maori vote because despite the difficulties they face internally and externally (such as the Maori Party having been a handmaiden for National while in government in a clear break with the previously established mood of the Maori electorate (for which they have paid dearly in their declining vote base and below the margin of error polling) a unified Maori political vehicle (or waka if you will) with all parties pulling in unison and in the same direction has the potential power to be a kingmaker party as much or more than Winston and NZ First.

Thus while we have Labour wooing Jackson to stave off some perceived political threat in the form of the potentially revitalized Maori/Mana party that still does not explain why Jackson signed on, what was in it for him?

The Answer? Rutherfords and lots of them**!

Because Jackson makes no bones about it in his article that Maori are getting the short end of the economic stick and in his role as head of the Maukau Urban Maori Authority (MUMA) he wants Maori to "achieve the same possibilities and outcomes of those in wealthier suburbs of New Zealand" and under National MUMA was "underfunded in every area of Maori development".

And its clear that his position is not the same as the Maori Party (or Mana) because he sees them as "besotted with with the iwi leaders, tribal elite and [the] National Party." while he and MUMA are helping "solo mums and dads, the unemployed, the under educated, former prisoners, the invisible hungry kids who later in life turn on our communities, battered women, victims and even the perpetrators".

So credibility established but leaving aside Labours internal tiff over the process by which Jackson was brought into the Labour party and Andrew Little's dunderhead handling of Jackson's appointment and focusing on the sheer vote metrics of the deal its easy to see that the potential payoff for Jackson and MUMA is more and better funding under a Labour government than a National government or a Maori party more inclined to prop up the BMW driving iwi elite than give a toss about urban Maori***.

Thus more Ruherfords for "first time home buyers, safer and less crime ridden communities and public services" and while some might suggest that Jackson is being mercenary by selling his obvious vote block to the highest bidder I think he has done the right thing.

Not because I think his going with Labour is a natural move, as while the first half of his article clearly sets out the dire situation of urban Maori his sudden shift in tone to boosting for Labour rings dreadfully hollow for a man that has no previously clear links to the Labour and appeared to have just joined out of nowhere while spouting words and phrases that sounds like off-cuts from something Labours spin doctors cooked up on the fly as pre-election propaganda.

"In my view Labour is the only political party wherein real change is possible. I want to be part of that change."

Uh, yeah thanks for that Willie.

It was this line, where the words are almost in perpetual rotation, that I realized that a deal had gone down. because while National has been no friend of Urban Maori Willie either has either recently suffered some form of concussion or started drinking the rough stuff to start believing that Labour is the only way forward in such a diverse political landscape and where Labour is tanking in the polls while almost everyone else is getting ahead.

And if he was not down with the Maori and Mana parties why not NZ First, TOP, The Greens or even National?

Also whats Labour been doing to support Maori of late? Little's plays to the public (apart from insincere looking photos ops with soon to be deportees) has been half baked attemptes to recapture the dwindling middle vote while refusing to acknowledge the decaying albatross that has been hanging round Labours neck for the last 30 years and which now turns off more than it appeals to.

No, it was Jackson's sudden speed with which he converted that gave the game away and made it clear that he had either been headhunted for the role or offered himself (and his supporters) up as a possible coalition partner and spoil to a resurgent Maori/Mana.

And if he and MUMA get better funding and such out of the deal then good for him (and urban Maori) but lets not dress this up in ideological babble which has all the subtlety of go fast stripes and a racing spoiler on some beat up Ford Cortina.

So kudos to Jackson for getting into the game, and even to Little for finding a potential means to nuke the Maori/Mana threat but lets not pretend this is not an election year as surely it did not take Jackson nine years (given his background and political pedigree) to realize that National were never going to be interested in alleviating the plight of urban Maori or that his sudden conversion to Labour now would not cause some questions to be asked.

So while I said in my last post I would stop bagging Little and Labour this is not really a dig at them (or Jackson) but more a request to just try and be honest because no superstar political draftee is going to make any difference come polling day if the public perceives the parties as being dishonest about the deals done to get there (lets call it the Clinton effect).

We still don't know if Jackson was worth it but at least we know the price paid.

*-And if you keep your yap closed and just listen when mixing in various social circles its amazing (and highly disturbing) what you can hear from people who are not only proud of being a member of the National party but will also throw words like "coup", "takeover" and "overthrow" when discussing kiwi politics, but I digress and lets save that for another post.
**- If you wonder where I am getting the title of this post click here although I would loved to have found a way to use this.
***-Because I have it on good authority from more than one person inside more than one tribe that while the tribe gets settlement money more than a few in the tribe get little more than gift baskets once a year as way of payout.


  1. "given its current state Labour needs every seat it can get and six seats via the Maori electorate is a handy arrow in its political quiver"

  2. Hi Toby

    Sorry you will have to give me a little more here. Are you suggesting something in MMP that I missed in my statement or are you saying something else. Sorry its been a long day and I am blaming it on the smoke fumes down here in ChCh.

  3. I think Toby is indicating that winning six Māori electorate seats last time did not help Labour secure "the Treasury benches", because the number of seats parties get is determined by the Party vote, not the Electorate vote. Therefore, retaining those six seats on 23 September will be neither here nor there if Labour's Party vote does not significantly improve this time around.

  4. "I think Toby is indicating that winning six Māori electorate seats last time did not help Labour secure "the Treasury benches", because the number of seats parties get is determined by the Party vote, not the Electorate vote. "

    Ding ding ding

  5. Hi Steve and Toby: Yes good point and I agree but my thinking in that post was more along the lines of Labour desperately trying to retain any seats it can to avoid electoral annihilation rather than just getting into government (given their current position).

    But your right, the key to Labour getting into govt is improving its fortunes overall. unfortunately that seems to still be eluding them.

    Perhaps things will improve after the Mt Albert by-election but since that is supposedly a safe Labour seat (and lets see how that plays out) it may not help.

    I'm keen to see Labour improve its lot in life but so far that has failed to happen.

    Any thoughts on how they could?