Saturday, September 24, 2005

A hard place and a wall for Turia and Sharples

Tariana Turia confirmed on Eye to Eye this morning that repeal of Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed legislation is a bottom line for the Maori Party. This is as it should be, especially given that the legislation stripped all New Zealanders of the opportunity to prove ownership rights over foreshore and seabed in accordance with common law, and that the law’s passing was the proximate cause of the Maori Party’s formation. (Accordingly, I’ve added a vote to my Site Poll on her behalf.)

That seems to confirm the view that getting into bed with the Red Team would be a difficult call for them. But sitting down with the Blue Team is equally difficult, not least because abolition of the very seats on which the Maori Party are sitting was flagship National policy at this election. "Lead us not into temptation," is advice Turia said she was following -- advice she will need to remember as she navigates her party faithful between parliament's Scylla and Charybdis.

The indication from both Sharples and Turia this morning is that they and their party are there for the long haul, and they're aware that compromise this early is death to any long-term chances they might have. As Sharples said, they know that holding firm to their principles is their best chance of being re-elected in three years time, and so, potentially, changing the face of New Zealand politics.

They're aware too that the parties of the Blue Team did not get where they are today by holding on to their principles. The one-law-for-all policy was flagship National policy -- as Lindsay Perigo argued here, the one bright light in a sea of capitulation to marshmallow middle-grounders -- but the most junior member of the Blue Team has already tested the waters for a sell-out. And as we've learnt over many years, the Nats' one firm principle has always been a firm commitment to selling out their own mothers in pursuit of political power.

So, will the Maori Party allow themselves to be tempted? And from which Team, Red or Blue, will the temptation come? Will talking to their 21,000 members harden Sharples' and Turia's resolve, or offer them a way to sell a back-down as a response to that consultation?

We live in interesting times.

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