Kyrie, eleison

There isn't much I can say about Christchurch's pain that we don't all know already. So this is a post about something a lot less important - politics.

What with recent floods in Queensland and Victoria, cyclones in Queensland, bushfires in Western Australia and now a brutal repeat earthquake in Christchurch, those who hew to the concept of an interventionist god might care to explain just what the Antipodes have done to piss him off so much.

Dealing with what we can understand - our human feelings - the only thing to say is that today, in our hearts, we are all citizens of Christchurch. I hope anyone reading this who is from there, or has family and friends there, finds some measure of peace in the days and weeks to come.

But, if I may try to make an uneasy transition from the truly tragic to the more mundane world of political warfare, one place there is unlikely to be much peace in the near future is within the Maori Party.

With somewhat awkward timing, its Disciplinary and Disputes Committee yesterday announced that it would recommend that the Maori Party National Council cancel Hone Harawira's party membership (i.e. expel him from the Party).

I'm not at all surprised by that recommendation. As I noted back when the complaint against Harawira first was made, right from the outset the Party heirarchy looked serious about their intentions to get rid of him. Only a full backdown on his part, along with a promise to pull his head in, looked likely to avert this day's arrival.

But does this recommendation automatically mean that Harawira's future in the Party (or, rather, lack of a future) is set in stone when the National Council meets to decide what to do about it?

(I note that the Council was due to meet on Wednesday morning - I'm not sure whether the Christchurch quake will alter that timetable at all. Carrying on an internal feud whilst the nation rallies in support of its wounded and bereaved risks looking a trifle ... petty.)

Well, maybe. It would be pretty damaging to the Party if the Committee's recommendation weren't followed. And Te Ururoa Flavell obviously thinks it should be: "I think we've had it too long. I think all of us want an end to it and we just want to get on and do the work."

But also maybe not. Because getting a decision from the Party's National Council will be a lot harder than from the Disciplinary and Disputes Committee.

As I posted here, the Maori Party's National Council is required under the Party Constitution to make its decisions "by consensus. (Consensus may be defined as a process of ‘whakawhitiwhiti whakaaro,' To arrive at an outcome at which those present, are accepting')." In other words, every member of the Council has a veto power over that body's decisions.

Furthermore, under the Party Constitution, Hone Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau electorate is entitled to have up to 4 members on the National Council. I still can't find a public list of the Council's membership, but it seems likely that it will have at least one member on it.

So, before the National Council can expel Harawira from the Maori Party (by cancelling his membership), his own electorate representative(s) will have to agree to this move (or, at least, not oppose it). As will every other Council member from every other electorate.

I speak entirely from the outside of this whole event, so I don't know one way or another whether this unanimity can be gained. But I suspect it will be somewhat difficult to acheive.

Which perhaps puts a slightly different spin on the history of the Party heirarchy's dealings with Harawira. The general reading of the Maori Party caucus' earlier decision to suspend Harawira's caucus membership was that it sent a message to the Disciplinary and Disputes Committee that the Party MPs wanted him gone. But was that really who the message was intended for?

Could it instead have been aimed at Hone Harawira and his supporters, telling him that even if they prevent his expulsion from the Party, there is no future for him within it? Such a message might have been hoped to cause Harawira to jump from the waka, rather than stay within it as a passenger without a paddle.

If so, it obviously didn't work. And if Harawira and his supporters decide to fight on, then all it takes is for one of them on the Council to stand up and say "no" when asked whether they wish to adopt the Disciplinary and Disputes Committee's recommendation.

At which point, something else will happen. A something else that really isn't that important when you look at tonight's news.

[Update: The NZ Herald is reporting that:

"Mr Harawira's fate would be decided by the council, including at least two representatives from each Maori electorate except for Mr Harawira's Te Tai Tokerau branch.

Mr Bird said Te Tai Tokerau's views were already clear and they were "conflicted"."

So that is how they'll manage it - simply exclude from the decision-making process anyone you think is going to disagree with the decision. Like I predicted back here. Where I also noted that it's a step that "would be risky - it's the sort of procedural move that a court might get very interested in down the track."]