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Hone And His Date With Destiny - The Left Debates It's Stance Towards Mana

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 Last weekend Hone Harawira alongside other politicians Tau Henare (National), Pita Sharples (Maori), and Shane Jones (Labour) addressed addressed Destiny Church's annual conference under the gaze of Bishop Brian Tamaki.

I don't personally have a problem with politicians of any party addressing a fundamentalist church gathering. It's up to them what they choose to do strategically. Disappointingly though, for some on the Left (myself included) Hone in choosing to speak with the Destiny Church is fast shutting off any chance of dialogue with other left parties like the Alliance. It has become apparent within the last day or so on Facebook that there has been an intense debate (that I started) about the warm fuzzies being generated between some elements of the Mana Party and the Destiny Church. This followed a report on Maori radio station Radio Waatea this week that the head of Destiny's social services arm George Ngatai has suggested that his church should back the Mana Party.

Why would Destiny be looking at the Mana Party? A further report on Waatea this week provides a possible clue as it quoted Harawira as stating that the success of the Maori Party's Whanau Ora programme had been oversold as it got only 0.7 percent of the welfare budget compared to other welfare programmes. And then around Wednesday Destiny's Ngatai also made the claim that the church had been 'discriminated against' in terms of receiving government funding. This is a strange comment coming from Ngatai given that Destiny has reportedly received $860,000 in government funding over the last two years for community youth programmes (a subject that I previously blogged on).

What I can discern from all this is that Destiny is looking to back Mana as a tactical ploy to get more money. Am I right there Mana supporters? I feel that they want to play hard ball with government over this and my best guess is that they might be prepared to risk backing what some people would see as a left-wing party to achieve this. Harawira, being a politician of course, would also welcome support from wherever it came in terms of potential cash donations and votes. It would be a win-win situation for both Destiny and Mana if this were to happen.

But if Mana wants to be seen as a credible left-wing party, it should shy away from any dialogue with Destiny. I honestly don't know how its prominent left wing members like Sue Bradford, Mike Treen, and Robert Reid feel about this but privately they must be very uncomfortable. Also, I wonder what tactical advice Matt McCarten has given Hone, if any, on this issue. Next time I talk to Matt (for whom I have a lot of respect), I will be asking this question of him.  

For regular readers of this blog, you will know that I was enthusiastic about the launch of Mana, given that Hone made some good, left-leaning statements. Now, I am becoming more sceptical. I am beginning to think of Hone as being similar to another socially conservative, left-leaning figure - Jim Anderton. The NewLabour and the early Alliance built their party images around Anderton's all powerful political personage. But when the will of the leader ran up against the will of the party, as it did many times, the level of tension grew to the extent that the Alliance split in 2001/2002. Therefore, I am having deja vu thoughts about Hone as the Maori Anderton and the Mana Party as the early NewLabour and Alliance parties. I say to my left-wing comrades who have joined Mana that history could be about to repeat itself - and the challenge is for you to stop that!  I say to you my former Alliance comrades that you must be painfully aware of what the outcome of that history has been not only for the party to which I still belong but for the entire Left!

I say this because I sense there is a fundamental clash about to emerge between those who believe in the social justice kaupapa of the Mana Party and those who believe in its sovereigntist kaupapa. It is true that the two can be linked together but there no doubt will be some members of the Mana Party who do not link cultural oppression and the denial of land rights with class-based oppression at all. I hope that its left leaning members can steer any internal debate towards a firm recognition of this fact and, in doing so, prevent the party from lurching to the right. Through Hone's date with Destiny, he has put Mana at risk of tipping to the right. If anyone wants any proof as to how right wing Destiny is, then people should remember that its political arm (the Destiny Party) ran on a very free market economic and social policy platform at the 2005 election. And free market political platforms are antithetical to the interests of working class people.

I say to my left wing comrades, stop, think and korero with Hone in order to challenge him. No deals with Destiny! Or if Mana chooses to deal with Destiny and anyone regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum, then forget dialogue with the Alliance or anyone else on the Left! That would be the saddest outcome of all but if that is the case, it would be preferable to dancing with the Right. That I will never abide!





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