- A front page story
- Two articles, by two different journalists, on page A2
- No less than seven letters in the "Readers' Forum"
- Brian Rudman's weekly opinion column
A: They're all about New Zealand's latest penitent, Hone Harawira.
Haven't we got anything better to talk about? The front page story, "Pressure still on leaders over Hone", begins:
Hone Harawira's apology has done little to relieve pressure on the Maori Party leadership to take a strong stance against him when it meets the MP for the first time tomorrow.Really? Where's this pressure coming from? Harawira, a man apparently very popular among Maori, is the electorate MP for Te Tai Tokerau. The Maori Party itself is voted for, as I understand it, almost entirely by Maori. So is this pressure coming from Maori? Not according to this article; it seems to be coming from John Key and, worse, Phil Goff - the man who, a year into his job, still lags behind Helen Clark in preferred PM ratings.
Oh yes, I'm sure you were extremely offended. People who make it to the highest levels of politics, via a process not unlike Tim Robbins in the Shawshank Redemption crawling through hundreds of metres of shit, are well-known for being thin-skinned enough to be offended by a combination of blue language and what more-or-less amounts to an NCEA history class in a nutshell.
However, Mr Harawira's apology left Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff underwhelmed.
Mr Goff said it was "phoney" and it was time for the Maori Party leadership and the Prime Minister to take the matter more seriously.
Mr Key said it was an "apology of sorts" but he would leave New Zealanders to decide on its merits.
Article continues below
"I think everybody's getting a bit sick of the Hone Harawira sideshow."
He usually ignored Mr Harawira's outbursts, he said, but had found this one offensive. However, it was not up to him to discipline the MP.
Mr Goff dismissed Mr Harawira's comments as "silly" but said it was time the Maori Party and Mr Key showed they were taking the matter seriously. "He has still not apologised for ripping off the taxpayer - in fact he's bragging about it - and nor has he apologised for making obscene and racist remarks. I don't think somebody that behaves in that way and shows no contrition for it has any place in Parliament at all."It's time to show they're "taking the matter seriously"? Or what - you won't vote for them? As for the last sentence, I think you'll find there are only two major criteria for having "any place in Parliament at all": being on the Electoral Roll, and being voted in, in this case by the people of Te Tai Tokerau. Perhaps Mr Goff harks back to a more civilised, more Victorian age where MPs were gentlemen who doffed their hats to each other and said "please", "thank you" and "pip-pip, tally-ho", rather than "white motherfuckers". Good thing he's the leader of the Labour Party.
Moving on, the page 2 article "A sorry, sorry, sorry state of affairs" rather smugly looks at Harawira's 'apology' at the University of Auckland marae:
Funnily enough, that sounds to me like exactly the kind of person who should be in parliament.
But don't give an inch for calls to apologise to Phil Goff who he'd called a "bastard" earlier and who he reckoned should be lined up and shot with the rest of the Labour Party for passage of the Foreshore and Seabed law.
"I think it's important to realise that while I'm prepared to acknowledge the things I've done wrong, I'm not prepared to sit down and shut up and take that kind of rubbish from another politician."
At the back of the marae, a supporter called out that he wanted to hear about Paris. It was "great", Mr Harawira reckoned, but it's a city and an issue you can bet co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples can't wait to see the back of.Again, this claim that it has been a serious setback for the Maori Party. But the same paragraph gives some evidence, however anecdotal, of the opposite: that the people who, for the most part, actually matter to the Maori Party - Maori voters - are actually in significant support of Harawira.
I'll ignore the Readers' Forum - a rule-of-thumb I can't recommend strongly enough. But the normally reliable Brian Rudman made me yawn with his meta-diatribe, "Hypocritical Harawira let us all down". I've read the article twice, and I can't really work out where the "hypocritical" bit comes from, apart from the fact that Harawira visited Paris, "one of the centres of the imperial nastiness he's been fighting all his life". Presumably he should stick to holidaying in Parihaka.
Except, of course, Harawira didn't apologise for his views - he apologised for the way he conducted his trip and for the language in that private email. So that was a waste of three paragraphs. Also, I can't help noting the fact that everyone is going round quoting Dover Samuels, the paragon of virtue known mainly for three things: constantly wearing a hat; alleged sexual impropriety; and urinating in a corridor of the Heritage Hotel.
If Parliament is a true House of Representatives, then pressuring Hone Harawira to apologise for spouting off in an email views he's been shouting from the rooftops all his life seems a tad counter-productive.
On this I'm with Dover Samuels, the former Labour MP for the Te Tai Tokerau seat Mr Harawira holds.
"Any apology from Hone would be absolute hypocrisy. He's advocating what he really believes in. He's done that for many, many years before going into Parliament," Mr Samuels told Radio New Zealand. He added any apology would "be artificial, superficial and he actually doesn't believe it".
An informal 1979 CV, quoted more recently, quotes him writing, we "beat the shit out of some smart arse Pakeha students at Auckland for ridiculing Maori culture".Well of course it sounds bad if you put it like that. Actually, the event in question is a key part of Auckland University folklore. There was a tradition in the engineering school of (white, male, middle-class) engineering students drawing moko on their bodies with lipstick, wearing grass skirts and performing a derisory haka. After several years of complaints and no action, a group of activists gave them a hiding. No one was killed or seriously injured, a disgusting and unfunny practice stopped, and a bunch of 'casual' racists got their comeuppance. Sounds all right to me.
And on goes the list of his 'radical' actions and statements over the years, all leading to the 'hypocrisy' of going to Paris - sacre bleu! Come on Brian, you can do better than this.
As a time-to-time listener to American rappers of this generation, I can assure him that the 'mofo word' is still very much in current use.
Even the expression "white motherf***ers" hardly has much shock value these days when you can walk down Queen St and hear the "F" word trilling from the lips of teenage girls.
What is a little quaint about the email exchange is to hear a 54-year-old grandfather of two still using the angry slang of American rappers of a past generation.
I suppose we can expect more of the same tomorrow - a quick search on the Herald website shows 24 articles starring or co-starring Harawira in the last five days. His crimes, as far as I can see them, are as follows:
- He pulled a sickie at work to go sightseeing, and apparently paid for it himself.
- He used naughty, naughty language in a private email to a person he knew.
- He holds controversial but - let's face it - not completely unfounded views on race relations in New Zealand.