Friday, 8 February 2008

Trotter vs Maori

Trotter's latest column (1) is a strange beast. There's the germ of a good argument in it, but the tone is erratic and blethering. I don't agree with Idiot/Savant's assertion that it's "outright racial fear-mongering" (2), but it's a blundering, ill thought, pig of a column.

First of all, the good bit. Key's cosying up to Tame Iti may be a significant misstep. If there is any substance to the terrorism charges, the image of Key pressing noses with a man who facilitated his would-be assasins will become a stark symbol of his naivetey. He can't realistically argue that he was taken by surprise and reacted without thinking, because, first of all, whose instinct is to share a hongi with someone you think may have sought to kill you? And second, if Key is flat-footed enough to be out manouvered by Tame Iti and TVNZ, how will he cope if he's asked to deal with big issues affecting our interests?

Unfortunately, Trotter only spends a few words analysing the possible repucussions of Key's cinch with Iti. Instead, he launches into a tirade about the possibility of National repealing the Foreshore and Seabed act. I really, truly, think this is far-fetched. First of all, because it will expose them to massive political damage - Labour will remind people of the Iwi/Kiwi ads that National ran against them in 2005.

People have just about accepted that the Foreshore & Seabed act didn't empower the local iwi to make off with the sand and shells, inspite of what National's lying campaign suggested. Conservative, white New Zealanders will baulk at an attempt by National to change things back to the way they were, especially if it smells of a seedy deal to grab power. Perhaps the F & S legislation should be repealed, and a better alternative found. But shabby political necessiy will prevent National from doing so.

Even if they were seeking to cobble together some preposterous alliance with the Maori Party and offered up the repeal of the F & S legislation, the deal will surely become unstuck over the issue of the Maori seats. True, National have declared they won't seek to abolish them before treaty claims are settled, and have given a putative date of 2014 - handily, a date likely to fall at the end of National's second term, where they'd hope to be free of any obligation to the Maori Party in coalition and will be able to exploit it as a red-hot election issue (3). But the Maori Party probably wouldn't be impressed by these enticements. National would need to guarantee the Maori seats, because without them the Maori Party risk annihilation. Since National won't do that, I can't see a deal being reached.

Which is why Trotter's column is so disappointing - it has nothing to do with the real world. It explores an eventuality so remote as to belong in some strange fantasyland. A bit like the image of John Key sharinging a hongi with Tame Iti, in fact.
1 - 'Seabed makes odd bedmates,' by Chris Trotter in the Dominion Post, 8th of February, 2008. Reproduced on (
2 - 'Trotter plays the race card,' posted by Idiot / Savant on No Right Turn, 8th of February, 2008. (
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:

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