Rahui Katene’s account of the Maori Party’s 2008 election campaign is a rather insubstantial and slight chapter in the new post-election book Key to Victory: The New Zealand General Election of 2008 edited by Stephen Levine and Nigel S. Roberts. At only four pages long it’s the shortest in the book. And, sadly it’s not necessarily a case of ‘quality over quantity’ either – there’s little of interest or insight in Katene’s story. Instead of meaningfulness, there’s lots of vagueness, platitudes and wooly talk from the new MP. For example, she talks about how ‘The concept was that the Maori Party is the voice of the people, the face of the future. We listen to people’ (p.96). [Read more below]
Our campaign launch, in the Frankton Markets in Hamilton, was unashamedly called “Taking it to the Streets”. Not for us the American presidential-style celebrity events – the crowded hall, the spotlight on the leader, the party faithful. Our launch reminded us all that we emerged from the passion of the people; the priorities and concerns of all people are our reason for being. Our policy launches, similarly, conveyed the message that our commitments must reach the constituency and be born of the constituency; not a head office project in Wellington. We launched our whanau ora and economic policies in the midst of Flaxmere, while launching our Treaty policies in Victoria Park in Christchurch expressed the principle that the Treaty belongs to everyone (p.97).
Finally, I want to end with perhaps the most exciting feature of our whole campaign – flying the flag of justice. Whether it was our Maori Party banner flown overhead at the Warriors and All Black games in Mount Smart and Eden Park stadiums, or whether it was the enthusiasm of party members standing on an intersection in downtown Murupara or Aranui, the flag campaign was a real hit. There is nothing quite as exciting as travelling in convoy – what we call a kaakoi – with the Maori Party CDs playing and the Maori Party flags flying (pp.97-98).
It wasn’t all about old-fashioned campaign techniques – the Maori Party also used the modern trend of relying on so-called celebrities to sell the political product. (The Greens were the masters of this – see my blog post on Green Party celebrity politics). Katene says: ‘Our campaign brought the voices of the people to the fore: our celebrities – Rob Hewitt, Amster Reedy, Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, and Robyn Kahukiwa – as well as a young mother, three little girls and whanau’ (p.96).
In the 2008 campaign the Maori Party received significant attention due to their expected ‘king maker’ role in determining which of the major parties could govern. Katene mentions this, and provides us with a reminder of the party’s rather trite attempts to wriggle out of dealing with the electorate’s demands for an elaboration on the party’s post-election intentions: ‘Throughout Maori media, the most frequent question asked of us during the campaign was: who were we going to go with? Our standard response was that the question should actually be: who will go with us?’ (p.97).
Despite its shortcomings, Rahui Katene’s chapter is a welcome addition to what is a very slim literature about the Maori Party. For another attempt at examining the Maori Party’s 2008 campaign, see also my own blog post on the subject.
Table of contents
Preface - Stephen Levine and Nigel S. Roberts
Overview of the Election
2008: Key to victory - Stephen Levine and Nigel S. Roberts
2008: The last baby-boomer election - Colin James
2008: Leadership during transition - Jon Johansson
Political Party Perspectives
National - Steven Joyce
Labour - Grant Robertson
The Greens - Catherine Delahunty
ACT - John Boscawen
The Maori Party - Rahui Katene
The Progressives - John Pagani
United Future - Rob Eaddy
New Zealand First - Damian Edwards
New Zealand’s party system: a multi-party mirage? - Jennifer Curtin and Raymond Miller
2008: Images of political leadership in the campaign - Claire Robinson
2008: Media coverage of the election - Babak Bahador
2008: The international media and the election - Aljoscha Kertesz
2008: The campaign in cyberspace - Nicola Kean
2008: The YouTube campaign - Rob Salmond
2008: Voting behaviour and the keys to victory - Stephen Levine and Nigel S. Roberts
2008: The impact of the Electoral Finance Act - Bryce Edwards
2008: Opinion polls and prediction markets in New Zealand - Shaun McGirr and Rob Salmond
2008: National’s winning strategy - Therese Arseneau
Key to Victory: The New Zealand General Election of 2008
Levine, Stephen (ed)
Roberts, Nigel (ed)
Victory is the
story of the New Zealand general election of 2008, in which the experienced and
long-serving prime minister, Helen Clark, was ousted by a political newcomer –
National’s John Key.
Veteran academic commentators Colin James, Jon Johansson, and Therese Arseneau offer perspectives on what New Zealanders were voting for when endorsing John Key and National, and what they were voting against. Several MPs elected for the first time in 2008 provide first-hand accounts of their parties’ campaigns, including Labour’s Grant Robertson; the Greens’ Catherine Delahunty; the Maori Party’s Rahui Katene; ACT’s John Boscawen; and the director of National’s winning campaign, Steven Joyce, appointed to Cabinet following National’s victory. New Zealand First’s doomed campaign is described by its campaign director, Damian Edwards, while party strategists John Pagani and Rob Eaddy provide accounts of the Progressive and United Future campaigns.
Key to Victory also investigates the important issues of the 2008 election, such as the impact of the Electoral Finance Act, and the likely future of New Zealand’s remaining small parties.
During the 2008 campaign political parties started getting to grips with websites, blogs, Facebook and YouTube, and ‘prediction markets’ competed with traditional polls in forecasting the election results. The book describes these developments and provides insights into the use of the media by John Key and Helen Clark in their rival campaigns for leadership. International reaction to the New Zealand campaign and the country’s vote for change is also highlighted.
Key to Victory includes a special DVD with excerpts from key campaign events including the televised leaders’ debates, the leaders’ opening night campaign addresses, parties’ TV ads and campaign billboards.