If the Labour Government was hoping for a reset over the summer break, they must be sorely disappointed.
Last year was politically rough for the government, and it looks like they’ve started this year off facing pretty much the same hostile environment.
And the troubling thing is, it could hit them right where it hurts: with Māori voters.
That broadside from Dame Tariana Turia in the last couple of days was damaging. She accused the government of stuffing up the Whanau Ora model that she herself set up, and then she made it personal, saying Jacinda Ardern is out of her depth.
Tariana Turia has a lot of mana in the Māori world. And she wasn’t alone, she was backed up four other kuia, who each carry huge mana. For example, one of them is Dame Naida Glavish, the former telephone toll operator who risked getting the sack for saying Kia Ora on the phone in the 1980s
When people like that speak, I’d wager that Māori voters listen.
You can’t underestimate the problem that is this for the labour party. Māori issues were bubbling all of last year - Oranga Tamariki, Ihumātao, a slightly rebellious Māori caucus.
And now we’re in an election year, and the last thing the Labour Party would’ve wanted was going to the two biggest Māori events in the political calendar and getting a public telling off.
And that’s a real risk. Two days from now, we’ve got Rātana. That’s Dame Tariana country, that’s where she’s from. Labour should be bracing themselves for the potential that that gets frosty in the wake of her comments about Whanau Ora.
And then you’ve got Waitangi in two weeks. Watch what happens there because if Māori are truly getting annoyed at Labour, that’s where they’ll hear about it.
Labour knows this. That’s why the government is trying to make it look as if there’s been some sort of resolution at Ihumātao. Nothing’s been signed off, but they want it to look like things are heading in the right direction. And right now, they’re turning up to Rātana in two days without solving it.
It’s going to be hard for labour to pitch themselves as the party that looks after the underdog if they get a hostile reception from of the most disadvantaged groups in new Zealand –Māori voters.