As a Pākehā feminist I don’t think I have a lot that’s new to add to the discussion around Shane Jones. My feelings on the topic are pretty predictable.
But fortunately there’s a big ol’ world of Kiwi bloggers out there who bring different – and importantly, Māori – perspectives to the table.Perspectives that don’t tend to get a lot of play in the mainstream discourse.
I disagreed with much of what he said, sure, but I recognised a commanding Maori leader.
Here was a man – and I’m deliberately using gendered language, but more on that later – who understood the Maori experience and the Maori condition: our idiosyncrasies, language, literature, history, philosophies, spiritualism and our politics.
And that’s what set Jones apart. In that respect, he was above the Maori leaders of his generation.
He goes on to talk about Jones’ strengths and weaknesses, especially in the context of specifically-Māori political history and aspirations. He asks,
… I’m mourning what he represented and what appears to be, for now, a loss of meaning in Maori politics. Who carries the tohu of the likes of Carroll now? Is that political line broken? After all, Parekura has gone. Tariana is leaving. But who is coming through?
Jones’ announcement brings us to the end of Parliament time for five high profile Māori politicians over the past year. On 29 April it will be one year since the passing of Parekura Horomia, Labour MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti. Last year Māori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples signalled they would retire from Parliament after the 2014 elections. Two weeks ago Tau Henare National MP also declared he will be stepping down come September.
Whatever our political colours this combined exit represents nearly 70 years of Māori Parliamentary experience. There is no denying that they are political icons in the Māori world. Some commentators have noted their departure as an alarming exodus. I think it is merely a reminder for us all to support more Māori to step up.
There’s certainly a gap to fill – from this Pākehā’s perspective, Shane Jones has always been, possibly unfortunately at times, the face of the Labour Party on all things Māori. (The way our media treat Māori or any other minority group as a monolith is another huge topic to think about.) Who’s going to be the media go-to now? (If Kelvin Davis is going to carry on in this vein I definitely want to hear more from him!)
If you’ve seen any other good writing on the topic, drop a link in the comments!