Clouds are gathering as the Maori Party continues to bleed support. The latest Horizon Poll puts Te Mana marginally ahead of the Maori Party and now Marty Mars has announced he will be joining the Mana Party:
I have sent my membership into the Mana Party, and like John Minto I have never joined a political party before, but the time for sitting on the fence is over - now is the time to seize the opportunity and create history.
Marty was one of the only Maori Party supporters in the blogosphere. By my reckoning there are no pro-Maori Party bloggers left. On the other hand Te Mana enjoys the support of my blog, or more accurately my sympathy – I do not support any particular political party at the moment, Mars 2 Earth, some authors at The Standard and Tumeke. The same is true in the mainstream media. Rawiri Taonui, who is perhaps the most prominent Maori political commentator, expressed roundabout support for Te Mana. Willie Jackson, who regularly offers commentary on Maori politics, has also expressed support for Te Mana.
What should be of most concern to the Maori Party is that they have lost their activists as well as their academics. Essentially, there is no structural depth to the Maori Party. Some of the party’s most experienced and talented activists have switched allegiances. Think Annette Sykes, Potaua from TW.com, Tim Selwyn and so on. Maintaining a core of experienced activists would have guaranteed the party’s short term survival at least. But now they must rely on the National Party and a small faction of loyalists to, among other things, run campaigns, draft advice and organise party events. Ultimately the Maori Party does not have the numbers on the ground. The party’s academics have also dropped away, for example Moana Jackson and Margaret Mutu. The Maori Party must now rely on their parliamentary staff to perform extra-parliamentary work, such as policy formulation. Lastly, Electorate branches in Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki are in tatters. The party never created a youth branch, they have no presence on university campuses (where a wealth of talent can be tapped) and membership is declining as former supporters chose not to renew their membership. The prognosis is grim.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that the latest Horizon poll puts the Mana Party slightly ahead of the Maori Party. Whether this becomes part of a trend remains to be seen. Now Bryce Edwards makes the point that the Mana Party can be at 2.3% and not affect the Maori Party at all. This is an excellent point and demonstrates that the Mana Party is pitching to a supplementary base. Yes, Te Mana is aiming for the tino rangatiratanga vote alongside the Maori Party, but Te Mana is also aiming for the far left vote and the non-vote (meaning the vote of people who usually do not vote). The Mana Party does not have to savage the Maori Party vote in order to reach the 3.5% target.
To conclude, things are looking down for the Maori Party. With the budget coming this Thursday things probably won’t be looking any better. The Maori Party copped a fair amount of criticism for their support of budget 2010, mainly due to the unfair tax switch, and it is difficult to see why things would be much different under what will without doubt be an austere budget 2011.