Its time for me to eat my words (a little!) because if I’m going to remain transparent to my readership, then I must remain honest at all times.
In the past few months, I’ve written about my disdain for the state, for the constitution and for Westminster politics. I’ve criticised the superficial role that Maori are given in that system and have advocated for a society where power is decentralised and direct democracy is at the forefront of the decision making process.
I remain steadfast in my views but I appreciate that in the meantime we must act to pursue that ideology. So for practicality, it might be necessary to engage in Westminster politics to undo what has been done.
I realised after various discussions that we in NZ are (predominantly) loathe to take direct action in the form of protest or revolution and instead, tend to criticise from the sidelines. I am guilty of this. I’m also skeptical of the ability to revolutionise peacefully, or am yet to see or understand how a peaceful revolution is managed.
The reason I’ve given this explanation is so that you understand why I think that Shane Jones running for Leader of the Labour Party is a positive in practical terms and that the insistent hating overshadows a potentially major historical moment in NZ.
So getting to the point: My view is that the potential for Maori leadership in NZ should not be understated.
I am incredibly proud of the prospect of potentially having a Maori Prime Minister. I understand that Labours chances of winning the next election are not guaranteed and that Shane Jones’ chances of acquiring the leadership role are very small.
But despite his imperfections or his obscene sexism, Shane Jones has done what I initially thought he could not – enchant the public. Perhaps a bold claim, but I am seeing from various social media accounts and mainstream media reports that his popularity is growing despite his flaws, of which the feminist guard in NZ are very vocal about.
I took some time to decide if my sympathy for Jones was me just being contrarian because of the hating I was witnessing (on Twitter especially). However, I have reasoned that my pride does not come from a place where I have unscrupulously glorified Jones; rather I am proud that we in NZ are in a position where the potential (no matter how large or small the likelihood) for an elected Maori PM is actually possible. But sadly, the scale of this moment is overshadowed by the heavy criticism of Jones from both Maori and non-Maori alike.
I do not sympathise with Jones’ sexism but I do admire his pursuit for improving Maori outcomes (despite being very far apart ideologically). However, I am dubious as to whether a Labour led government would work toward this goal given their record with Maori rights, most notably, Foreshore and Seabed and Operation 8.
But, I am a bit smitten with the idea of having a PM who has actually felt the effects of being Maori in NZ and who can speak meaningfully to both Maori and non-Maori audiences.
In comparison to other countries who have or had minority (South Africa/USA) or indigenous (Bolivia) Prime Ministers/Presidents, we are trailing. Notwithstanding that we have a Treaty that should have served as an instrument that lead the world in this regard.
I’m also proud that if Jones did become the leader of the Labour Party, the majority of the parties in the house would have Maori at the helm (5:3). Unprecedented. Only perhaps to be improved by having a Maori Speaker.
To clarify, I have no stake in the Labour Leadership. I am not a member of the Labour Party (although I have given them my vote in the past) and I do not agree with a large proportion of Labour’s policies. So I am not making a judgment about who would be best to lead the ‘Labour Party’, rather I am making a statement about how the potential for Maori leadership, in particular, at the PM level, provides an unprecedented opportunity to take our race relations in NZ forward and that this should not be understated.