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Chris Ford: John Key at Waitangi - he wasn't chased off as media allege

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 I have viewed footage on the NZ Herald website of John Key's visit to Te Tii Marae this morning. Above the footage, I read the headline "John Key chased from Waitangi."

It was a very misleading headline. The reality is that he couldn't confront or answer the protesters charges that he was selling out Aotearoa through his plan to review section nine of the State Owned Enterprises Act. No doubt the protest was the most vigorous seen in years at Waitangi. Also, while it was not the first protest that Key has ever come face-to-face with, today's has been the closest he has been to for a while.

Within much of Pakehadom, Key will be viewed as having been maligned by those supposedly "bloody Maoris" again. This will no doubt bolster his image with non-Maori voters as his government comes under fire from all quarters over asset sales and other issues. Within Maoridom though, Key is being increasingly viewed with disdain. Opinion polls taken before the election showed that even amongst Maoridom, the PM enjoyed a high level of support - something very unusual for a Tory leader. Like the rest of the country, Maoridom suspended its belief that the Nats were only troublesome right wingers out to do wrong. The Maori Party made it okay for the Tangata Whenua to take a second look at National and its bright, shiny new leader.

And as for the Maori Party, they appear to be increasingly on the outer within Maoridom as protesters today also turned their ire towards Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia. While I take strong issue with protesters using the 'n' word to describe them both, they could have expressed their sentiments more appropriately. Perhaps a better turn of phrase for the protesters to have used against them might have been 'Quisling'. Nevertheless, the two co-leaders are clearly under pressure following the party's poor showing in November's election when Maoridom turned towards Mana, Labour and the Greens. Therefore, it's no surprise that Labour and Green party representatives enjoyed more peaceful and respectful arrivals at Te Tii than Key and his Maori Party ministers did today.

While Pakeha commentary will inevitably tut, tut the protesters actions, it must be remembered that last week saw the announcement by government of two actions that rankled Maoridom. The first was the review of section nine of the SOE Act. The second was the plan to downsize Te Puni Kokiri, the Maori Development Ministry. Therefore, John Key and his Maori ministers, whether by deliberate intention or blunder, produced the conditions that led to today's protests. 

Tomorrow, I expect that the protests will be smaller. But if Key had stayed he could have projected a defiant image as even Sharples and Turia have reportedly not left the area yet. However, he chose to run off like a chicken. Perhaps radical Maoridom have pointed out another of Key's achilles heels - that when challenged directly he doesn't like it. He chooses to hide rather than confront the fact that both Maori and Pakeha are opposed to asset or land sales of any description.




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