Jan 24, 2012

Ratana celebrations begin

The poli-scramble at Ratana begins today. Labour leader David Shearer will be welcomed onto the Marae alongside much of his caucus and, symbolically, Metiria Turei and the Green’s Maori caucus. As is tradition, Labour will enter the Marae and meet with the Ratana leadership before National. If my memory serves me correctly the only occasion where National was invited onto the Marae before Labour was in 2010. Mana’s Hone Harawira will also enter the Marae this week with his Ratana Minister, Kereama Pene (unless he already has). The Maori Party’s Pita Sharples will accompany the Prime Minister when he enters the Marae (Tariana Turia is already on the Marae) and Winston Peters will visit tomorrow.

Interestingly, the Greens will accompany Labour onto the Marae. This is, I believe, a first. The decision to invite the Green’s onto the Marae with Labour signals, perhaps, the beginning of Maori acceptance of the Green’s as a party of Maori and for Maori. Prior to the election, the Greens were viewed as an outlier when it came to things Maori. The party often polled sub 5% among Maori despite strong Maori representation within the parliamentary wing, a comprehensive Maori policy statement and a consistently pro-Maori stance. In 2012 this, coupled with the ascension of Metiria Turei and serious Green candidates in the Maori electorates, appears to be contributing to an acceptance of the Greens as a Maori party.

Labour will also hold their caucus meeting on the Marae and the party will look to make maximum use of Rino Tirikatene. Rino and his whanau are well connected to the Ratana movement. David Shearer and Labour’s media team have lost no time in making this known. Louisa Wall, MP for Manurewa, is also connected to the Church.

Despite the pro-Labour mood, we should expect to see some anti-Labour rhetoric. The Marae is a place for debate and dissenting views are always encouraged. In front of the nation’s media some anti-Labour Ratana members may look to make a point.

The mood at the Pa appears, to me at least, far less favourable towards National and the Maori Party. Labour, the Greens and Mana could, if they play it right on the paepae and among the people, reclaim some of the ground lost to National and the Maori Party in previous years.

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