Not often that I find my self agreeing with Matt McCarten and Fran O’Sullivan at the same time. They have written from different perspectives but come to the same conclusion :- Hone Harawira has a right and possibly even a responsibility to criticise the leadership of the Maori Party for the direction they are taking.
Political maturity means accepting MPs will have different opinions.
A party having a considered discussion about itself is democratic and can make it more popular.
Trying to crush alternative perspectives will have the opposite effect.
Backbench MPs are not subject to Cabinet collective responsibility. They should be able to articulate their views on major issues and challenge the powers that be. Trouble is, far too many of today’s crop leave any pretence to owning an independent brain outside the door when they enter Parliament.
Harawira is made of sterner stuff. But there has also been a sea change, which I put down to the journalistic tendency to quickly put any backbench MP on to the “must be dumped from caucus’ slipway” when they call their own party to account.
Instead of greasing the ramp, why don’t journalists simply challenge the leadership to respond to the valid points Harawira has made?
Publicly opposing the leadership of your party is never easy. But there are plenty of precedents, more from Westminster than here but can and should still be done.
The process is pretty clear. One resigns from portfolios and shifts to the backbench. One talks it through with the leader and then caucus. And one is honest and straightforward – not the Carter approach.
We don’t have a real tradition of this sort of approach – Muldoon, Minogue, Waring, Anderton, Upton, Lee. Being a small Parliament doesn’t help. And the increased power that has gone to the party and the leadership with MMP hasn’t helped either.
But I do agree with McCarten and O’Sullivan that it is an important part of a democracy that, in the end, MPs have the right to go public with their concerns.
Lots of colleagues disagree. I refer readers to the box at the top right.
And to make it clear to trolls again – I believe Phil Goff is the only person in our caucus who can lead a government this year – and that this post is about MPs right to express their views – nothing wider.