Alf had been tempted to toss his hat in the ring and run for the job of Speaker.
But he did his sums and calculated – as did Tau Henare – that it would help to muster support from some of the other parties in Parliament.
In particular, he probably would be required to chat up someone in the Maori Party.
And if that someone in the Maori Party had agreed to endorse Alf’s candidacy … well, then it would have been a matter of waiting to see how long it would take for them to repudiate the deal.
That’s what Tau encountered, even though – by the sound of it – he had some sort of a deal in writing.
But the Maori Party seemed anxious yesterday not to give a hint they had reneged.
Reneged with one of “our people” (as they describe all Maori, no matter their party leanings) what’s more.
Last night while listening to Radio NZ, Alf is sure he heard Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia tell inquisitive press gallery hacks she would not be discussing the matter because she didn’t have to and, anyway, it was none of their business.
That’s a neat cop-out.
Just stand there and say: that’s none of your business.
And because she refused to discuss it or explain the Maori Party’s position, we all got an impression of what happened that obviously was contrary to the impression she would like us to have been given.
And so today – guess what?
Yep. She put out a statement (here) headed –
Turia corrects record regarding contest for Speaker
And in this statement, she said she was speaking up “to correct some of the loose comments being widely shared by National List MP, Tau Henare.”
More to the point, she admitted that when Tau first approached the Maori Party many months ago, “we supported him to put his hand up”.
“The Speaker of the House is an extremely significant role, which demands the gravitas and decorum appropriate to the status of that position. A good Speaker earns the respect of other parties right across the House”.
“The convention is that the Government approaches other parties with the names of preferred candidates. We were told, unequivocally, that there was no support for Mr Henare from his colleagues in the National Party. We were also told that there was uncertainty from other parties. Under these circumstances, we felt it was unlikely that Mr Henare’s bid for the Speaker role would be successful and it was appropriate to let him know this.
“Mr Henare is right – when he first approached us many months ago, we supported him to put his hand up. He is a seasoned politician, with a very proud political whakapapa, and we will always support Māori to take up leadership positions in every sphere of influence.
“But as we all know, politics is about the numbers. It just doesn’t make sense for Mr Henare to blame our three votes, or sheet home all responsibility to our three MPs. You would think the first place to look, would be amongst his 58 colleagues before he decides to make our party the prime reason for his failure to garner support”.
So there we have it.
When push comes to shove, the Maori Party goes with those who have the numbers.
Mind you, Turia has a point – up to a point.
When Henare said (here) he had dumped plans to seek nomination as Speaker, he blamed the Maori Party for not having “the balls” to stick with an agreement to back him.
He said he had a written assurance from Maori Party whip Te Ururoa Flavell that the party’s three votes would be for him.
“I don’t think they have the courage or to put it quite bluntly the balls to follow up on their agreement with people, and that disturbs me.”
He thought their own fear, that they were going against the Government, got to them.
Maybe it did.
But if Tau had come to Alf and furthermore if he promised to buy Alf a few bottles of Scotch for Christmas – well, who knows.
He would have had a fair chance of mustering at least one National vote.