“My people” and the politics of exclusion – Hide

Dusting off his megaphone, Hone Harawira echoed what has become commonplace for Maori MPs speaking of “Our People” as in, “the rights of Our People are important” and “We must always be guided by [creating a strong, Maori sovereign point of view within Parliament] because that’s what Our People want.”

When referring only to themselves, MPs employ the singular and speak of “My People”.

For example, when in hot water, Harawira declared, “I answer to My People, not to them or to anybody else.”

Bill English would be toast if he deployed the same affectation and spoke of “My People”. The reaction would be short and sharp. We would not tolerate it.

His colleagues would assume he had lost the plot and dump him.

English is prime minister, not some ancient king with royal rights over us.

And nor is Harawira. “His People” don’t belong to him.

Indeed, “His People” voted him out. And when he was an MP, the voters weren’t “His People” but rather he was privileged to be their representative. He was their servant, not the other way around.

Be that as it may, his people weren’t happy he had shacked up with a mischievous rich German who was trying to pretend he’d hang out with your average Maori from up north, because he understood their struggles against the government. ?Hone’s mistake was that he laid bare his naked self-interest and it had nothing to do with “His people”. ?

The concept of “My People” is also deadly divisive. Harawira doesn’t presume to represent others, just “My People”. Such politics never fares well.

It is the politics of insiders and outsiders and the politics of exclusion.

It’s invariably nasty as the definition of who is in and who is out has no reason nor logic. It’s a simple matter of politics. As Harawira’s mum Titewhai demonstrated back in 2011, “I have the right as a kuia of Nga Puhi to say that My People no longer are going to be walked on by [Maori Party co-leaders] Pita Sharples and Tariana [Turia].”

So Sharples and Turia weren’t Her People. We are left wondering who exactly the Harawira’s People are. I suspect it’s a much smaller group than we imagine.

Indeed, the very idea is a fiction. It’s a simple attempt to add weight their words otherwise wouldn’t carry.

Hone’s much more effective and visible on the ground then most people realise. ?It is where Kelvin Davis has been absent for three years, and it is partially why he won’t be voted back in to represent the Maori of Te Tai Tokerau. ? Because at its core, all voters, and Maori perhaps a little more keenly, vote along the WIIFM principle.

What’s In It For Me.

And Hone’s been visible locally making that clear.


– Rodney Hide, NZ Herald