NZ Election 2020: Don Brash 'dead keen' for Māori Party to 'die'

Brash and Tamihere.
Brash and Tamihere. Photo credit: File/Newshub Nation

Former National and ACT Party leader Don Brash is "dead keen" for the Māori Party to "die", despite his personal admiration for co-leader John Tamihere.

The Māori Party is fighting to get back into Parliament after being bundled out at the 2017 election. Part of its strategy is getting high-profile former Labour MP Tamihere on board. He is running in Tāmaki Makaurau against Labour's Peeni Henare and the Greens' co-leader Marama Davidson.

"Peeni's already in, and Marama's already in, so we can get three for the price of one up in Auckland," Tamihere told Stuff last week. 

Dr Brash, who is also a member of controversial lobby group Hobson's Pledge, told Magic Talk's Road to the Election on Sunday he voted for Tamihere - whom he called 'JT' - in last year's mayoral election.

"I have quite a high regard for him individually. When he had a billboard saying 'I'll sack the AT board' I said yep, he's got my vote for sure. Auckland Transport is an abomination. 

"Having said that, I'm someone who regards the Māori Party as a most unfortunate anachronism... if the Māori Party dies and never comes back, I'd be a very happy person. Nothing against JT."

He said most Kiwis don't want "race-based parties" in Parliament.

"They're polling 1 or 2 percent. Most people don't want race-based parties in New Zealand, in my view, and I'd be dead keen for them to die."

But unfortunately for Dr Brash, he thinks Tamihere has a chance.

"I think he's got a better chance than perhaps current polling suggests. Name recognition is huge in this kind of electoral politics, and he's got name recognition in spades."

Appearing on Magic Talk was Neale Jones, a former senior adviser to the Labour Party. He said it's unlikely the Māori Party will have much luck this election because of their previous association with National - supporting Sir John Key's centre-right Government over three terms. 

"Māori voters overwhelmingly support the Labour Party, and the Maori Party spent nine years in Government with National...and had very little to show for it." 

He said there was a "long way" to go for Tamihere's crew.

"They need to wait until there's a few more cracks in Labour... I think his chances are pretty slim. Peeni Henare is pretty well-established in that seat. He's a minister now, he seems like a bit of a rising star in the caucus, and I understand Labour's internal polling has him well-clear of Tamihere. 

"His only hope would be for Marama Davidson to split the vote. But if you saw that interview with JT recently with Stuff, he basically said it's not the Maori Party's year and he sounded like he'd basically given up."

Elsewhere in the interview Dr Brash said he didn't envy Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's position right now, having to decide what to do to fight the coronavirus outbreak as well as keep the economy afloat.

"If they go to level 2 tomorrow and these clusters continue to expand - they'll be blamed for letting it loose. If they clamp down and remain at level 3 in Auckland for another week or 10 days, Auckland may well explode. 

"It doesn't affect me directly at all fortunately, but there are lots and lots of people who are in a desperate situation and hanging on by the skin of their teeth. I don't envy the Government."

He expressed disappointment at people ignoring advice to follow physical distancing guidelines and wear masks.

"Masks clearly do restrict the spread of the virus, and it's obviously clear many people are ignoring the recommendation."

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said earlier there were no plans to extend Auckland's level 3 lockdown.