Only one parliamentary party lacks a Māori leader. Here’s how they fix it

“Parliamentary party leader” is probably the only decent demographic where Māori make up a majority.

I mean, Ngāti Maniapoto’s Simon Bridges leads National. New Zealand First can point to its chief, Ngāti Wai’s Winston Peters, and his little chief, Te Arawa’s Fletcher Tabuteau. Hokianga queen Marama Davidson co-leads the Greens. Even Act’s David Seymour can trace his whakapapa to a Treaty signatory. Labour is literally parliament’s last hold-out. Is that weird that the most popular party among Māori is the only one without a Māori leader?

I struggle to reconcile it. If you knew no New Zealand history, and you could only rely on the values and policies of its current political parties, I suspect most people would pick the pattern running in reverse. Labour leading the race, electing Māori leaders early and often, and National and the others fighting over a second-place finish. Yet the pattern is almost entirely in reverse. The highest ranking rangatira in early New Zealand politics – Sir James Carroll in 1887 and Sir Āpirana Ngata in 1905 – were conservative men in what we’d recognise today as conservative parties. It took Labour decades to catch up with their own ranking man, Eruera Tirikatene, in 1932…

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